I have never cruised NCL, but am looking ahead to something different next year.....I have been on the Freedom, Glory and will be on the Victory in March. I am looking for feedback and how NCL compares to carnival and what ship would be best in comparison to the ones I have been on with Carnival......thanks in advance
We went on the NCL Star five years ago for our honeymoon in Hawaii. Beautiful ship, very good entertainment, an outstanding chocolate extravaganza but horrible service. Since then we have been on the Glory, Triumph, Freedom, Destiny, Imagination and the Legend coming up in May. We haven't had a bad Carnival cruise. I will do NCL again if the itinerary is right, but, my expectations on service will be very low. I hope this helps you out a little.
I guess it will depend on what ships are comparing.
I have been on the NCL Spirit and Gem and the Norway. I was on the Conquest from Jan 11-18/09.
Granted, the Conquest was off to drydock, and needed just about everything new. Hopefully carpets, beds, curtains, tiles, decking and everything were done. It was in rough shape. No one cleaning and polishing constantly like on NCL - their ships are much cleaner.
The NCL Spirit and Gem were much nicer looking ships and have much nicer decor. The monet dining room on the Conquest was butt ugly. Horrible chairs and ugly pink table cloths. Hands down the decor on NCL is nicer. The Gem has a real Monet at the pursers desk!
I thought and had been lead to believe the cabins on carnival were larger than average. Not true. The 8E balcony cabin was the same size as the balcony cabin on the NCL Spirit. Only the bathrooms on NCL are fantastic. It was an ugly green colour on the Conquest and the shower had a crappy shower curtain.
As for service, it was fine on the Conquest, good steward (Melvin - really nice!), and the waiters were good. The pursers desk staff were STARS!! Long story - but I will have to do a write up on that - dealing with the world's worst TA and how the pursers desk came to the rescue.
The service on the NCL Spirit was equal to and in some areas a little better than on the Conquest (dining rooms in particular). But on the Gem the service was OUTSTANDING. The worst service I have encountered BTW was on the Zaadam.
I really like freestyle dining. On the Conquest, my table mates all drifted in from 8:15 to 8:45, which drove the waiters crazy I am sure. They did handle it well though. I was bored going to the same dining room, I like the different restaurants.
The uniforms of the staff are the best on NCL. Carnival, they were ok, but not 'whipsmart' like NCL staffers. Not like HAL in which all staffers seemed to be wearing their taller, fatter brothers old uniforms (pretty disgraceful actually).
Officers were on walkabout daily on NCL, which showed in how well run things overall. I didn't see any of the officers on walkabout on the Conquest. Perhaps because it was right off to drydock and things were not running normally, I don't know.
I would say look at the itinerary and the ship. On the Conquest I was actually on course for the three sea days, so it wasn't a total vacation for me.
The biggest difference in the ships were that the Conquest (I am not sure about how many of the other ships are the same layout) didn't have the forward lounge area surrounded by glass as they do on NCL & HAL - a very big disappointment. Also, the NCL ships have a covered promenade deck - which I really enjoy.
Would I gone on a Carnival ship again? Maybe. I would look carefully at the layout and the age of the ship. Also, from a different port than Galveston. The crowd shall we say, was a bit hmmm (one of my colleagues said it was like a "bus" or the "hill billy express" - sorry his words). If I hear "I've got friends in low places" one more time I hurl!
On the NCL Spirit and Gem, both times I left from NYC, so a very different crowd. Both times during March break, so a huge percentage were us Canadians. A little more in my comfort zone perhaps?
I had a great time on the Conquest, but NCL is a little different experience.
I've done RCCL, Carnival and just did NCL - was on NCL Spirit.
I felt it lacked "fun", one thing we noticed right away btween the hrs of 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. the lounge chairs around the swimming pool were picked up and there were no activities on that deck after that time.
The staff was friendly but at the same time some were a bit more standoffish than others - like they really didn't want to interact with the passengers.
Didn't realize or see that they had a "mascot" until the sailway pics were posted for folks to buy -
also, had a hard time hearing any announcements which were made - if in the stateroom, had to open the door to hear the announcement and when out on deck it was very difficult to hear them as well.
I guess I've just been on Carnival too many times - in fact going back to them in Jan 2010.
I wasn't really impressed with the dining - the food was ok but I thought service was lacking at times -
and finally, I think NCL nickels and dimes you to death with different things, such as buy roses in the dining room - the extra costs for tastings, and viewings of the galley
remember this is just my opinion but I hope what I've said helps you with your decision.