Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): 10 main differences between the lines (2023)

When it comes to cruises, two of the biggest players are Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. If you're planning to set sail, there's a good chance you'll be looking at at least one of these lines.

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): 10 main differences between the lines (1)

Of course, if you're about to set sail, or if you're just planning your next vacation, you might be wondering what exactly is the difference between the two. After all, at first glance, both seem to offer a similar experience with huge ships sailing to exotic ports of call with thousands of passengers.

The truth is that there are many similar things between Royal Caribbean and NCL. For the most part, taking a cruise on either line will feel similar. But that doesn't mean they are exactly the same. Each line has unique things in its service that can captivate passengers and potentially be what you are looking for.

Below we cover some of the biggest differences between Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. This should give you a better idea of ​​what to expect on each cruise line and whether it's the right one for you.

In addition, we also cover the differences betweenNorwegian and Carnival hereand differences betweenRoyal Caribbean and Carnival here.


One of the main reasons many people choose a specific cruise is the price. While cruise lines may offer a similar experience, what you pay for can vary wildly. This is one of the differences between Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

Both are generally more expensive than lines like Carnival and MSC, but we found that Norwegian Cruise Line is often (though not always) more expensive than Royal Caribbean.

For example, take a July 2022 voyage aboard Norwegian Sky from Miami to the Bahamas. The 4-day cruise offers four sailing dates during the month, starting at $608 per person for an interior room when we search.

Royal Caribbean offers a similar voyage, also sailing from Miami to the Bahamas aboard Freedom of the Seas. Your four sailing dates during July 2022 start at $519 per person. That's about $100 less per person.

And a 7-day cruise from New York on Norwegian Joy in July 2022 started at $1,112 per person for the cheapest stateroom when we searched. Royal Caribbean offers a 7-day cruise from New Jersey during the same month aboard Oasis of the Seas, starting at $988.

This is not to say that Norwegian Cruise Line is always more expensive. However, in our experience, you'll often find both lines are in the same ballpark, but with the slightly higher NCL price.

fleet size

Why should you care about the size of a cruise line's fleet? After all, you can only sail one ship at a time.

The size of the fleet gives you more options. That means more sailings, more itineraries, and more options for choosing a ship for your cruise. Bigger fleets mean more likely to find the cruise that fits exactly what you want.

On that front, Royal Caribbean has a larger line of ships. In all, the cruise line currently offers voyages on 25 different ships with a new ship planned each year until at least 2026.

Norwegian Cruise Line isn't far behind, but the fleet numbers 17 ships, roughly two-thirds that of Royal Caribbean. With that being said, NCL also has new ships scheduled every year through 2027.

In short, if you want the most choice, Royal Caribbean offers the most extensive hours.

(Video) Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): 9 Major Differences Between the Two Lines

expenses on board

We've covered cruise fares above, but savvy cruise passengers know that's not all you'll spend on a cruise. There are also expenses on board. This category includes all the money you spend on things on the ship, including drinks, special dinners, Wi-Fi, and more.

In that case, average Norwegian passengers can expect to spend more compared to Royal Caribbean.

In 2019, Royal Caribbean Group, parent of Royal Caribbean and other lines, reported "shipboard and other revenue" totaling $3.1 billion, according to financial reports. expenses on board.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. -- NCL's parent company -- reported shipboard revenue of $1.9 billion, or about $94 per person per day depending on the number of people carried.

Please note that we do not have data for each individual cruise line, only for the parent companies🇧🇷 Still, quick checks often show higher prices for many things on NCL. For example, the cruise line's beverage package costs $99 per day, while Royal Caribbean's starts at around $65-70 per day.

the shelter

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): 10 main differences between the lines (3)

Looking for a more luxurious cruise? You can try sailing on smaller, more luxurious ships and cruise lines. However, this can be a very different experience than the fun of sailing on a larger ship. For example, if you have kids, they'll want a big boat with things like go-karts and kiddie areas, rather than a fancy boat for adults.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a solution. Their ships have an area called The Haven. This is a luxury "resort within a resort" featuring a small number of luxury staterooms along with numerous private amenities such as pools, lounges, bar and restaurant. Regular passengers do not have access to these areas.

In short, if you want a more exclusive experience and still get the benefit of a larger ship, NCL has you covered.

Offer Free at Sea

Tired of being nickel and dim? One big difference you'll find with Norwegian and Royal Caribbean isOferta “Free at Sea” de NCL.

In a nutshell, Free at Sea is Norwegian's regular sale, where guests can choose from benefits to get free on their voyage. Options include everything from free drinks on the boat to free specialty meals, free Wi-Fi, and even free airfare. (The amount of free benefits generally depends on the type of room you book.) Sure, there are some terms and conditions, but in general, the sale may offer up to five or six different items for free.

One thing to know is that staterooms with this benefit are more expensive than reservations without. Still, if you don't like the extra charges on the boat, this deal might be for you.

shipless state

Check Royal Caribbean's message boards and you'll likely hear a lot about Platinum, Diamond and Pinnacle status with the Crown and Anchor Society. These are the cruise line's loyalty program levels, indicating how many days you've sailed with them. Interestingly, we found that the status is displayed much more on Royal Caribbean than on Norwegian.

This is not to say that lack of status is being held against you; the truth is, no one really cares if it's their first cruise or their 100th cruise. We just noticed that there are a lot more high-end cards showing up on Royal Caribbean ships (most often on a lanyard). .

On Norwegian cruises, we see very few people with high status key cards and fewer people overall wearing lanyards that display the status of their cards.

outside connection

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): 10 main differences between the lines (4)

You would think that when you are at sea, it is a way to spend a lot of time outdoors and connect with the ocean. Admittedly, most ships offer pool decks, but apparently there isn't much more outdoor space.

Norwegian Cruise Line, however, focuses more on being outdoors while cruising than Royal Caribbean.

For example, many NCL ships feature an open-air walkway that juts out from the ship, giving you a place to soak up the sun and get some fresh air away from the pool deck. But where the biggest difference seems to be is in al fresco dining.

(Video) Royal Caribbean vs Norwegian Cruise line: Battle of the cruise lines

It seems obvious that if you're at sea, al fresco dining will come with the territory. The truth is that the wind and the sun can be a big problem. A five mile per hour breeze across the ship's face can become 25 miles per hour when the ship is moving. This means that everything on your table will be destroyed. And if you dine during the day, the tropical sun can make dining al fresco uncomfortable.

In other words, a cruise line needs to put a lot of thought into how to prepare outdoor dining so that it is a comfortable and relaxing experience, not a cranky disaster.

Norwegian seems to focus more on al fresco dining, with several places on their ships where you can sit and eat al fresco without having to worry about the wind ruining your dinner or the sun beating you down.

Boat size and things to do

When it comes to the biggest ships with the most features, there's no question that Royal Caribbean is the gold standard.

Its Oasis-class ships are the largest cruise ships in the world, measuring over 1,000 feet and 225,000 tons. The ships are also known for having unique things to do like ice skating, FlowRider standing waves, massive multi-story slides, and much more. If you want a ship with maximum sea activities, Royal Caribbean is probably your choice.

Norwegian is making great strides in this area, however as a whole the fleet is still not quite there. Its Breakaway-Plus class of ships is the largest in the cruise line. These ships measure around 165,000 tons. On board, you'll find plenty of unique things to do, including go-carts(!), laser tag, and even water slides that take you right to the edge of the ship.

To be fair, we think these newer ships are comparable to Royal Caribbean, it's just that, on average, Royal Caribbean offers bigger ships with more things to do.

private islands

These days, all the major cruise lines offer a private island. Norwegian offers two:Harvest Caye near BelizemiBig Stirrup Keyin the Bahamas royal caribbean dealsCayo Cocoin the bahamas

We love going to these private islands. They have beautiful beaches and are tailor-made for cruise passengers. If you just want to hang out by the pool or sunbathe, you can do it, without worrying about transportation or paying fees like in other ports.

So what is the difference? Royal Caribbean has transformedCayo Cocomuch more than just an island where you can sit and relax on the beach. The island now includesExciting water park with more than a dozen slides, a wave pool, 1,600 feet of zip lines, overwater bungalows, and the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean. Like Royal Caribbean's ships, the company has gone "big" with its private island.

By comparison, the Norwegian island is a bit quieter. They still offer plenty to do (zip-line, pool, water sports) and enjoy, but it's not the massive scale you'll find at CocoCay.

future developments

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL): 10 main differences between the lines (6)

There is no question that Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line now offer many similarities and often attract the same passenger groups. It is a question of whether this will be the case in the future.

NCL has already invested more in luxury cruises with The Haven on its ships. But future ships appear to be even more focused on providing a top-notch experience. cruise lineNorwegian Prima is the first of six new shipsin its new Prima class, scheduled to debut in 2022. These ships have a different look and design than the rest of the fleet.

With modern design, world-class dining options, infinity pools and more, the new ships give the sense that Norwegian is focusing on a more luxurious experience compared to Royal Caribbean, or indeed other ships in its fleet.

Have more questions about sailing on Royal Caribbean or Norwegian? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also see the differences betweenRoyal Caribbean y Carnaval, or the differences betweencarnival and norwegian.

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What is the difference between Royal Caribbean and Norwegian? ›

Bottom line. Either of these cruise lines is a good choice for a first-time cruiser. Go with Royal Caribbean if you are looking for a slightly more upscale, traditional cruise ship atmosphere, and Norwegian if you are looking for a contemporary take on casual cruising.

Is Royal Caribbean more expensive than NCL? ›

That's one of the differences between Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. Both are generally more expensive than lines like Carnival and MSC, but we've found Norwegian Cruise Line is often (though not always) pricier than Royal Caribbean. For instance, take a July 2022 trip aboard Norwegian Sky from Miami to The Bahamas.

What is the advantage of NCL over its competitors? ›

Norwegian's low valuation and higher earnings growth is likely to lead the stock to outperform its peers. The company's differentiating factors such as a young fleet, its freestyle cruising concept, and unique itineraries is likely to drive Norwegian's growth to remain higher than its competitors.

What makes Norwegian Cruise Line unique? ›

Norwegian Cruise Line has been the premier innovator in the cruise line industry for over 54 years. We were the first to eliminate set dining times and provide guests with the freedom to cruise on their schedule to over 450 incredible destinations around the world.

Which cruise line is better? ›

The best cruise lines in the world 2022
  • Norwegian Cruise Line. Score 78.98. MSC Cruises. ...
  • Royal Caribbean International. Score 72.49. Carnival Cruise Line. ...
  • P&O Cruises. Score 76.61. Azamara. ...
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Score 76.63. Star Clippers. ...
  • Grand Circle Cruise Line. Score 89.47. ...
  • Atlas Ocean Voyages. Score 88.78.
Oct 4, 2022

What is Royal Caribbean cruise line known for? ›

About Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International is known for driving innovation at sea and has been continuously redefining cruise vacationing since our launch in 1969. Each successive class of ships is an architectural marvel, pushing the envelope of what is possible for a cruise ship.

Is NCL a luxury cruise line? ›

Norwegian Cruise Line upped its game among luxury cruise competitors with The Haven, which doesn't consist of just better staterooms, but a fully upgraded end-to-end experience from boarding to disembarking. The Norwegian Prima is the first of six Prima Class ships to be delivered from 2022 through 2027.

Is Norwegian Cruise Line luxurious? ›

Norwegian is also a mass-market brand, not a luxury cruise operator. Still, as we'll explain below, it offers a wide range of accommodations, some of which fall squarely in the luxury segment.

What is the most luxurious cruise ship today? ›

The world's most luxurious cruise ships
  1. Azamara Quest, Azamara. Best for vegetarians and vegans. ...
  2. Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn. ...
  3. Silver Muse, Silversea. ...
  4. Regent Seven Seas Voyager, Regent Seven Seas Cruises. ...
  5. Queen Elizabeth, Cunard. ...
  6. Silver Spirit, Silversea. ...
  7. Queen Mary 2, Cunard. ...
  8. Royal Clipper, Star Clippers.
Jan 13, 2023

What is the most affordable Cruise Line? ›

10 Most Affordable Cruises For 2022, Ranked By Cost
  1. 1 Celebrity Cruises - Celebrity Solstice.
  2. 2 Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Jade. ...
  3. 3 Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Sky. ...
  4. 4 Royal Caribbean - Oasis of the Seas. ...
  5. 5 Royal Caribbean - Mariner of the Seas. ...
  6. 6 Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Spirit. ...
Sep 29, 2022

Is Norwegian nicer than Carnival? ›

As a first-time cruiser you can't go wrong with either line. Pick Norwegian Cruise Line if you are looking for innovative onboard attractions and a contemporary take on casual cruising. Choose Carnival if you want great food and a “Fun Ship” experience in a casual environment and at a very affordable price.

What room on cruise is best for seasickness? ›

To reduce motion sickness, choose a stateroom in the middle of the ship on a lower deck. You will feel any sway of the ship less in this section. Although it may seem counterintuitive, if you're worried about seasickness on a cruise, book a stateroom with a window or a veranda.

Can I carry my luggage on Norwegian Cruise? ›

Luggage. Each guest is allowed two pieces of checked luggage with a 50-pound maximum each, same as airlines. Luggage should be clearly labeled with your name, address and contact number. Bring an Additional Small Bag: It may take a few hours after embarkation for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.

What's the difference between balcony and spa balcony on NCL? ›

On select Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus class ships, the Spa Balcony category staterooms are typically closer to the spa and come with unlimited complimentary access to the ship's thermal suite onboard. The room layout and size is the same as a standard balcony stateroom, the only difference is the thermal suite pass.

What is the difference between premium and premium plus on NCL? ›

Only Premium Plus includes fountain soda, freshly squeezed juice, bottled water (flat and sparkling), energy drinks, non-alcoholic beer, wine dispensers, and specialty coffee.

What is the number 1 cruise ship? ›

Wonder of the Seas

What is the #1 cruise line in the world? ›

Princess is the world's leading international cruise line and tour company operating a fleet of modern cruise ships, renowned for the innovative design and wide array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities.

Who is the No 1 cruise line in the world? ›

1. Large Ship Line: Norwegian Cruise Line.

Why is Royal Caribbean unique? ›

Royal Caribbean International is known for driving innovation at sea and has continuously redefined cruise vacationing since its launch in 1969. Each successive class of ships is an architectural marvel and pushes the envelope of what is possible on a cruise ship.

Is Royal Caribbean a luxury cruise line? ›

When it comes to luxury cruises, nobody does lavish like Royal Caribbean. Unforgettable adventures call for an unforgettable oasis where you can rest and recharge in between thrills.

Why do you choose Royal Caribbean? ›

No one does the WOW factor better than Royal Caribbean. Not only do they have the largest cruise ships in the world as part of their fleet, but they also have private islands, award winning entertainment, mouth-watering cuisine, and endless itineraries to choose from.

Which are 5 star cruise lines? ›

What Is the Highest Rated Luxury Cruise Line?
  • Viking Ocean Cruises. One of the best designed cruise lines is also one the most well-respected. ...
  • Seabourn Cruise Line. ...
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises. ...
  • Azamara. ...
  • Silversea Cruises. ...
  • Oceania Cruises.
6 days ago

Are NCL cruises All Inclusive? ›

Premium All InclusiveTerms & Conditions. Premium All Inclusive is valid for all stateroom categories (except guarantee cabin categories) on board Norwegian Cruise Line ships. Fares include certain premium branded alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and water – exceptions apply.

Is NCL Coke or Pepsi? ›

Norwegian Cruise Line has switched from Pepsi to Coca-Cola soft drinks. The Norwegian Prima, which is sailing its maiden cruise this week, is the first ship in NCL's fleet to carry Coca-Cola products.

Is Norwegian a budget Cruise Line? ›

Norwegian gets high marks for being a fun, laid-back cruise line that won't break the bank. It's a top choice for both families and budget-friendly travelers.

Is Norwegian free at Sea worth it? ›

For many people, selecting the “Free at Sea” offer is a no-brainer, and they will end up saving money. But remember that you'll pay more for the cabin if you book the sale. Fares can be hundreds of dollars cheaper without the sale.

What is the best time of year to do a Norwegian cruise? ›

June through August is the best time for a Norway cruise, but voyages begin in May and run into September. In general, Norway weather is the best in the summer months, with temperatures that are warm (and occasionally hot).

Where is the smoothest ride on a cruise ship? ›

The lower and more central you are in a ship, the less roll and sway you will feel. Even if you choose a balcony room, choose a low level and a room closest to the ship's center. The higher decks and cabins at the front (forward) or back (aft) of the ship will rock and roll the most.

What is the most recent cruise ship to sink? ›

Costa Concordia disaster
Aground with rigid lifeboats in foreground and inflatables hanging from the side of the ship
Date13 January 2012
CaptainFrancesco Schettino
OperatorCosta Crociere
SalvageFuel and oil extraction: March 2012 Righting: September 2013 Refloated and towed: July 2014 Scrapping finished in July 2017
8 more rows

What age is a senior discount for cruises? ›

Exclusive savings for Seniors, age 55 and older — check the calendar below to find Carnival's best Senior fares, by date, for any stateroom type, departure port or destination. Then select the date for the day's top sailings.

What is the cheapest month to book a cruise? ›

The best time of year to book a cruise is often January through March. During this period — also known as wave season — industry-wide sales occur and the price of that cruise you've been dreaming of may drop significantly.

Do cruises get cheaper closer to departure? ›

Cruise prices do not get cheaper closer to the sailing date in all cases. Cruise prices are usually the cheapest furthest from the sailing date when first launched or 60-90 days before the cruise sets sail. The prices of some cruises will decrease last minute but this doesn't always happen.

Is Norwegian Cruise Line a party boat? ›

However, Norwegian is perhaps most famous for its themed party nights. These include Latin Night, '70s and '80s nights, and the Glow Party — where black lights, club music, and neon are guaranteed to make the night memorable.

Which cruise ship has the most fun activities? ›

Wonder of the Seas

It is, quite simply, the ultimate floating fun zone. At 235,600 tons, Wonder of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship ever built, and it's packed with every sort of amusement you could imagine, including a trio of monster waterslides, two surfing simulators, two rock climbing walls and a zip line.

Is Norwegian a Fun ship? ›

Norwegian Cruise Line has a lot to offer regarding onboard activities. Not only are their ships packed with fun cruise activities like water slides, go-karts, arcade games, and laser tag, but they also have competitions, trivia, games like Deal or No Deal, and Bingo.

What is the best sea sick medicine? ›

These medications may help:
  • Scopolamine (Transderm Scop). Most commonly prescribed medication for motion sickness. ...
  • Promethazine (Phenergan). Administered 2 hours before travel. ...
  • Cyclizine (Marezine). Works best when taken at least 30 minutes before travel. ...
  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). ...
  • Meclizine (Bonine).

What sickness spreads on cruise ships? ›

Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis).

How much money should I bring on a Norwegian cruise? ›

As a general rule, plan to have $50 to $100 each day in the local currency. Also, you may want to bring an extra $20 a day for tipping crew members. Make sure to include smaller bills for tips. Fifty to a hundred dollars a day should be enough to cover small purchases, tips and snacks at each port.

Is bottled water free on Norwegian cruise? ›

The short answer is no. Bottled water is not included with the NCL Premium Beverage Package. Be aware there are conflicting reports as NCL temporarily included 6 1L water bottles (delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day) with the Free at Sea NCL Premium Beverage Package.

Does Norwegian check carry-on weight? ›

Each bag must not exceed 32kg or be lighter than 2kg in weight. Each bag must not exceed 250 x 79 x 112 cm (L x H x W) with a maximum circumference of 300cm. Your total amount of checked bags cannot exceed 64kg.
Norwegian Airlines Checked Baggage.
LowFareNo bags included
Flex, Premium and PremiumFlex2 x 23 kg
1 more row

What deck is best for balcony on a cruise ship? ›

Rear-facing balcony cabins are among the best balcony cabins on any ship. Often, their balconies are bigger than balconies on side-facing cabins and they also feel quiet. There are far fewer balcony cabins at the back of a ship than on the sides of a ship, so you don't hear a lot of noise from your neighbors.

What is the difference between a balcony cabin and a club balcony cabin on NCL? ›

One of the biggest differences between the balcony and the club balcony suite, in regards to the room, is the size of the bathroom. The club balcony suite has two sinks and a larger shower, as seen in the photo below.

Is Norwegian Cruise Line considered luxury? ›

Norwegian is also a mass-market brand, not a luxury cruise operator. Still, as we'll explain below, it offers a wide range of accommodations, some of which fall squarely in the luxury segment.

Is Norwegian a high end cruise? ›

Norwegian Cruise Line upped its game among luxury cruise competitors with The Haven, which doesn't consist of just better staterooms, but a fully upgraded end-to-end experience from boarding to disembarking. The Norwegian Prima is the first of six Prima Class ships to be delivered from 2022 through 2027.

Is Royal Caribbean or Norwegian better for kids? ›

Our Pick: Royal Caribbean — Both lines have highly-rated youth programs and an array of amenities around the ship that appeal to kids and their families, but Royal Caribbean edges Norwegian out with the sheer variety of activities that are available.

Is Royal Caribbean a luxury line? ›

When it comes to luxury cruises, nobody does lavish like Royal Caribbean. Unforgettable adventures call for an unforgettable oasis where you can rest and recharge in between thrills.


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