I'm looking for some insight on NCL from a Holland fan point of view. My wife and I are in our early 30s and we've done over a dozen cruises on Holland, Celebrity, Princess, RCL but never NCL. I am also looking for some food for thought between 2 very different cruise and the logistics between the 2 cruises.
Our last 2 cruises were on the Nordam and Eurodam. We fell in love with Holland. The quality of food, service and toned down decor (Eurodam) just makes Holland our favorite cruise line so far (followed by Celebrity's Millennium class). We are not into large ships. We tried the Ruby Princess and the Crown Princess. The ships were very nice but service and food were nothing special.
Now here's the kicker.
I am looking to book a cruise with my newborn and my parents (this will be their first cruise). I will be booking 2 Ocean View staterooms (I'm picking up the tab for my folks) for a 10 to 15 day cruise.
I am torn between 2 very different cruises.
Here are the 2 cruises I am cross shopping.
NCL Gem departing from NY (10 days)
Feb 1 New York (Manhattan), NY
Feb 2 At Sea
Feb 3 At Sea
Feb 4 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Feb 5 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Feb 6 Antigua
Feb 7 St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Feb 8 Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Feb 9 At Sea
Feb 10 At Sea
Feb 11 New York (Manhattan), NY
Holland Nieuw Amsterdam (15 days)
Feb 27 Fort Lauderdale, FL
Feb 28 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Mar 1 Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands
Mar 2 At Sea
Mar 3 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Mar 4 Costa Maya, Mexico
Mar 5 At Sea
Mar 6 Fort Lauderdale, FL
Mar 7 At Sea
Mar 8 Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands
Mar 9 San Juan, Puerto Rico Noon
Mar 10 St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Mar 11 At Sea
Mar 12 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Mar 13 Fort Lauderdale, FL
The 2 cruise are very different. I understand I may be cross shopping two very different cruises. Here are some thoughts I have at the moment. This should give an idea where I’m coming from…
1) Transportation (Driving VS flying): Advantage NCL
I am located in Montreal, Canada, so leaving from New York (NCL) is something really interesting as I will be able to drive for 5 hours and board the same day. On the other hand, flying to Fort Lauderdale is always tricky in the winter. I will be mostly forced to book our flights a day before to ensure if there are flight delays, we will still be able to make the ship boarding in time. Also I don’t feel that flying 4 hours with a 6 month old infant is a fun activity.
2) Personal bias towards Holland Experience: Advantage Holland
As mentioned above, we love the Holland experience. Some people say Holland is for an older folks but we’re fine with it. It can’t bean a transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Century (which we were fine with anyway). The service and food far outweighs the crowd age.
3) Ports of calls: Not sure where I stand on this one
Looking at the Holland cruise above shows that there are two stops at Grand Turk (could do without this port of call entirely), Half Moon Cay (beautiful place but kind of boring if the weather is cold) and returns to FLL in the middle of the cruise to pick more passengers (could we consider this a wasted port of call?).
4) Money: Advantage NCL
Ok the money topic… The total vacation cost will be 55%-60% higher on Holland ($9K vs 4.5K). For the Holland cruise, after adding one night in FLL (I would be flying in the day prior to boarding) and the flight for 4 people, I could save a minimum of $4,500 by choosing NCL. I cannot only take the cruise fare into consideration as logistics around the 2 cruise are very different. I am ready to spend the additional money but 4.5K could buy me another later this year.
5) The Infant factor: Advantage NCL
Travelling with a baby is easier by car than by plane. Also, it is probably less taxing for an infant to drive 5 hours vs wait 2 hours in an airport then fly 4 hours…
I'm pretty sure NCL will probably feel a class below compared to Holland's experience. Additionally, this is the first cruise for my parents. I don’t want them to have a bad experience on their first cruise. I am also planning on taking them to other cruise over the next few years. NCL could be a first good step and move up to Holland next year.
Any advice will be appreciated. And thanks a million for those who did read the whole post!
You're right... two very different cruises!
I was just on the Nieuw Amsterdam (the review I wrote for CruiseMates is up in our reviews area). As you said, the HAL ships are quite beautiful and sophisticated, and I can't blame you at all for liking HAL.
However, the last couple of years I've become a big fan of NCL's newer ships. You'd find the decor on NCL much "louder" than HAL, but the thing that I really liked about NCL was all the dining choices. The alternate restaurants on NCL are great. I like having totally different restaurants to choose from... you can do the French and classy La Bistro one night, Cagney's Steak House the next, and for a change of pace have Chinese Food one night, or try the Teppanyaki (Japanese). Then there's the Italian restaurant, or the 24 hr comfort food restaurant. Some carry an extra charge, but calculate an extra $100 per week per person, and you can dine anywhere you choose.
And if you enjoy a bit more nightlife, NCL will provide that as well.
The long cruise on NCL will probably sail with a very similar demographic to HAL.
I have to start by saying I like NCL. The main thing I like is the Freestyle Dining concept.
If you are more used to traditional cruising it may take some getting used to the coordination of your dining.
I STRONGLY suggest that you add a few hundred dollars to your cruise budget in order to dine at the alternative restaurants. I believe if you try Cagney's, Le Bistro, Tepanyaki and the Italian restaurants you will have some very enjoyable dining experiences.
NCL has a very good kids program but your baby may be a bit too young for that.
NCL entertainment will be as good or better than Holland America.
With Holland America you are basically doing a Back to Back cruise and one day will be a turnaround day in Fort Lauderdale.
You really have to ask yourself if your bias toward HAL and Celebrity will make the Freestyle, open seating, concept a bit hard for you.
I think you will find the regular restaurants and buffet fine on NCL. NCL's decor will be a bit more wild but nothing like a Carnival ship.
If it was me I would do NCL and then do another cruise later in the year.
The choice is yours.
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Free style dining will probably feel like our regular day to day dining. Eating out in different restaurants every night. With a more traditionnal cruise dining (especially with the staff I got on Holland) you get more attention to detail... Having the same same waiter and maitre D. as its perks. for example, I love when a waiter notices I only eat the grissini bread sticks in the bread basket and the next days, the basket contains double the grissini sticks. this is only a small example but many little attention as such make a dining experience that much better and out of the ordinary.
Other things like silent disembarkation is golden. Disembarking can be stressfull but HAL seemed to have find the right recipe.
I am always willing to try a new cruise line. On the other hand, I have to make sure my folks enjoy their first cruise. On a different perspective, casual cruising may be more accessible for first time cruisers.
We've been on several cruises of both lines and I have to say, I loved them all! It really comes down to itinerary for me and price, of course, matters as well. If it is a huge price differential going on HAL, then, that would make that choice easy!
Have fun, whatever you decide.
We have been on too many cruises to list, out of all of them Holland is the best in our opinion.
We took our son and daughter-in-law on NCL,we had booked on the Norway because of its antique qualities,m however it had an explosion 3 days before we were to go and they put us on another NCL ship. This was thier first cruise, we wanted to show them how wonderful it was, the open dining was like eating at a local restaurant, the service was bad as the waiters were busy talking with each other. We never had the same waiter so we never felt like we were being pampered. One evening a family showed up in thier PJ's kids were ready for bed in the dining room, sad to say this cruise was so bad it ruined our son's view of cruising.....they never got to enjoy the real luxury of having breakfast in thier cabin, which is one thing we love to do, on Holland we have ever ordered off the menu and they always fill out order or the classy dress up evenings.
There is a big difference in the class of the two lines, if you like to dress up and feel like you are being catered to, go HAL if you like to go to the dining room in Levis go with NCL.
The older generation is really a nice group of people to sail with, we prefer this to the many young kids running all over the place. The pools are not crowded with tiny tots and one can actually sit on the deck and relax.
Just my opinion!