My cruise history is Carnival, Carnival, NCL, NCL, Princess, Carnival, Carnival
Let me say I have NEVER had a bad cruise. I had one issue with Carnival over trying to switch out guests, angrily posted about it, got blasted about it, but I digress. My issue was misinformation, we had a great cruise despite the mess.
Our one Princess cruise was on the Crown Princess out of Brooklyn, 9 days I believe. Our itinerary was Grand Turk, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Bermuda. We chose Princess for the itinerary. This cruise was in 2007 and the balcony cabin cost us $1,300 a piece. They were UNBELIEVABLE in how they move passengers. We got there about 10:30 and were boarded within 15 minutes. Getting off was just as fast.
To give price comparison, our CCL cruise the following year we got for $882 a piece for 8 day (hubby got military discount), our friends cabin (balconies on both of us) $1003 a piece. We did Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Grand Turk. Carnival's embark and debark at the Manhattan pier is a NIGHTMARE. Does that stop me from sailing them? No.
Here's my apple to apple comparison between the two:
Crew---- Equal, both outstanding
Decor---Carnival, Vegas style (for lack of a better word) maybe on the gaudy side; Princess - very classy
Food-- I give a one-up to Princess. Why? For me it was the seafood choices. Captain's dinner night, hubby and I said we'll eat at the buffet, don't feel like dressing up. I walk through the buffet first to see what's there, I think I died and went to seafood heaven!!! Lobster, littleneck clams, steamed mussels, king crab, etc. Rest of the days there was always quite a variety of fish available as well as sushi (not counting you could purchase at the wine and seafood bar). This is my tastebud opinion. There is NOTHING wrong with Carnival's food, it too is very good, I just gave Princess the edge with the Lobster, King crab.
Entertainment in the theater -- my one up actually goes to NCL, but to compare our subject matter I give it to Carnival. I just like their shows a lot better than Princess. To compare theaters themselves - we have sailed Carnival's Spirit class ships. Their theater is designed with what I would call couches with small tables in front of them with room also to walk without disturbing fellow guests. The Crown Princess has what I would call an auditorium type seating. I'm no size 6 but I'm not a two ton tessie either but I felt the seating was tight. Very hard to share elbow room and the trays that folded up to hold drinks were squishing my belly. Maybe I'm just claustrophobic and don't know it
If there were open seats in your row everyone had to get up to let people pass and very often you wound up stepping on each others feet.
Cabins - we had basic balcony cabins on both. Princess balcony felt a bit bigger but I'm not really sure if it was. Ample room in both cabins, no real difference.
Alcohol choices --- here in New York, the light beer drinker is drinking Coors Light - Princess didn't have it, period. Carnival runs out on the last sea day they sell so much of it. Bartenders on Carnival told us they always run low going out of New York, not so much other piers. I would say prices generally the same, except at the time, Princess was selling Martinis for $6.50 a big bargain when Carnival is now getting 9 something and our 2006 trip on NCL an apple martini was $10.75
Both offer bucket type pricing, but I can't recall the exact prices. Princess offered 16oz aluminum cans, Carnival 12 oz cans so you'd have to do a per ounce pricing.
Pools - Carnival's always busy hard for folks to find lounge chairs (I'm not a sun worshiper) Always activities around the pool, contests, etc. Did not see that on Princess. I recall pool on Crown Princess being very large by most ship standards. Pool depth started at 5 feet and went to 7.5 or 8 feet. I liked swimming laps in there in the morning. The depth of the pool seemed to keep a lot of folks out of it.
Other tidbits -- Crown Princess you paid for ice cream, Carnival no. Princess had better taste, it was $1.50 or $1.75 for small portion, not bad in my opinion. Their pizza station was right next to the ice cream station. I don't recall if you had to pay for the pizza or not, someone can chime in on that one. Carnival's pizza is supposed to be open 24 hours, but I didn't have any 2 in the morning pizza cravings
so I don't know if that was the case.
Casino-- hated them both, they took my money, how dare they
I would do any of the lines again, as I said I have never had a bad cruise (isn't bad cruise an oxymoron?). I'm booked NCL this year - reason? New ship to try, price was right and the timing was right for us. Down the road I'd like to try RCL, Celebrity and Holland, but for us price is usually the deciding factor. When I can spring the extra bucks is when we'll try the other lines as Carnival is generally the best bang for the buck
No matter which line you book I truly do not believe you will be disappointed.