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JLMoran

Royal vs NCL -- I'm feeling tempted

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So this was interesting. I took some time today to do as @melski94 suggested and worked out the prices on a "per person per day" basis -- and NCL won for every cabin class comparison on both of those itineraries.

First, the Anthem 11-night sailing (which currently has a flash sale with a $200 discount on all staterooms I checked):

  • $139.27 pp/pd ($148.36 without the flash sale) for a 3D or 4D deck 7 mid-ship OV Balcony room
    • If I go with deck 9 or higher, that adds $40 pp/pd
    • If I go fore or aft, it's $80.50 less pp/pd
  • $226.27 pp/pd ($235.36 without the flash sale) for a J4 Junior Suite on the deck 7 bump (I'm still considering this since there is one of these and a 4D Balcony right next to it)

Now here's NCL's 14-night Western Caribbean (which is the one I'm leaning more towards; partly because it's a bit less, partly because the first week is New Year's week so the at least my college kid should still be out of school, partly because it's 100% new ports with a sea day after the first couple port days). All prices are with the current "Free at Sea" promo, which ends tomorrow; I expect these prices will change on Tuesday unless they re-up the "Free at Sea" offer and just eliminate the current reduced deposit of $100 pp:

  • $135.64 pp/pd for a regular Balcony room
  • $149.93 pp/pd for a mid-ship Mini-Suite
    • I agree this room category is equivalent to one of Royal's regular OV Balcony rooms, or at most a spacious OV Balcony
    • Using that as the comparison point, this NCL room is $10 more per person per day than the 4D RCI Balcony room
    • Without the current flash sale, the mini-suite is only $1.57 more per day than the RCI 4D balcony
  • $174.21 pp/pd for a Spa Balcony (same as regular balcony for size, but gives cruise-long access to the ship's thermal suite)
  • $184.21 pp/pd for a Spa Mini-Suite (also gives cruise-long access to the thermal spa)

The 14-night Southern (Eastern) Caribbean itinerary on Bliss is $7 - $8 more per person per day than the Western itinerary for the equivalent stateroom.

A key point with these rates -- Since this includes the "Free at Sea" offer, I'm coming out ahead by a pretty decent amount. Assuming I took the drink package and 4-night dining options on one room, and dining with excursion credit on the other room (since the kids would still both be minors and I'd get some lower-end wifi package for them), I'm coming out ahead by $1,456 vs. having to buy a deluxe beverage package for myself, 3 Refreshment Packages for wife and kids, and a 4-night dining package for the four of us on Royal; that ain't chump change! But I do have to get that Free at Sea offer or I'll be buying all beverages a la carte and keeping a close eye on the total tab.

I also should note that unlike Royal's Deluxe or Refreshment packages, none of the drink packages on NCL are described as including specialty coffees, so there's an expense we'd still have to add; and the soda-only package is like Royal's soda-only package, so no mocktails for the kids or my wife without paying.

In addition, Royal comes out somewhere between decently and far ahead on Internet costs -- $561 for a 4-device VOOM Surf and Stream package using the current $51/day rate I see on Anthem, vs paying a minimum of $700 for four of the lowest-end "Social Media" internet packages (which are presumably closer to Surf than Surf and Stream, although that could be enough since we would mostly be using it for messaging, and don't really need to be able to access Netflix or YouTube).

So far the pricing on NCL is definitely competitive for this sailing, including the initial deposit ($1,000 instead of $1,800 for the Anthem trip). If the prices don't go up too much over the next couple of months and they offer another Free at Sea promo when I'm available to book, I may well snag this one on a refundable rate if Matt hasn't posted anything about 2020 group cruises yet. I'd prefer if I could get another reduced deposit promo as well, so I could just put down $400 instead of $1,000, but even $1,000 is still a lot better than Royal's required $1,800. I know Royal has also offered reduced deposits once or twice a year for certain bookings, but I'm not going to wait on either one once I have the window to book.

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I have been on Norwegian to Alaska six times. I like NCL. The food is excellent. NCL was one of the first to bring sushi to their buffet. I went to the chocolate buffet, it was amazing. They have a lot of specialty restaurants. I have been on Cunard, Princess, Holland, Carnival, Royal and Greek cruise lines. It is always good to be able to compare cruise lines for yourself.

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My experience echoes your pricing exercise, I typically see slightly cheaper but generally comparable fares on NCL , but then you throw in the Free at Sea promos and you have a pretty substantial savings.

In regards to dining, if you are a sit down at 5.30 every night and get to know your waitstaff then you will be disappointed with NCL. If you aren't worried about that you wont have any issues. Our first NCL (Escape) we just winged it, ended up in a mix of MDR and O'Sheehans for the most part, both with minimal wait times and decent food. I think we paid to do the steakhouse one night (only because we had a steakhouse junky with us and she needed a fix). The second time (Getaway) we (I) planned much more and made reservations ahead of time since we had the free specialty dining option along with the free beverage option. We did the Steakhouse, Seafood , Brazilian Steakhouse and the Dinner and a Show Cirque du Soleil type show. MDR for thanksgiving itself and free options/buffets to fill in the rest. 

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I’ve personally never cruised with them before, however my parents who have been on 30+ cruises with various companies say as others have said above - tiny balcony and bathroom plus poor food compared to others. My brother and his family have also gone with NCL, but many years back and prefers RCI. I am tempted with the new ship Bliss, but I keep thinking about the cruise credits I’d miss out on which would take me to Diamond.

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This really has been interesting to read.  I truly am wanting to try something new ships but the royal ships seem to be following me (2x freedom, 2 times vision after next summer)!  I'm slowly reaching the conclusion, though, that my road to diamond free drinks shouldn't be only with that goal in mind.  If another line seems good, I will go for it because I will likely never cruise enough for diamond plus etc.   Right now though, I'm not really tempted except for someday I will try Disney in hurricane season so I can afford it.  Itinerary is going to be the huge deciding factor though, since that is the most important to my husband.  I would love to see a 2020 group cruise at the end of July so we could go!!!  Anyway none of this really helps you Joe, just letting you know that whatever you decide, you will have a great trip!  50 is a great milestone (my husband will celebrate his this year on our France Viking River Cruise)! 

   I feel the family time crunch too... Last year my 2 college kids had 2 different spring break, while we at home had a 3rd.  We finally decided that the college kids were out of luck and we crossed without them.  It was weird, and we missed them, but not enough to stay home!  Jane

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9 hours ago, mom2mybugs said:

 Right now though, I'm not really tempted except for someday I will try Disney in hurricane season so I can afford it.  Itinerary is going to be the huge deciding factor though, since that is the most important to my husband.  

Jane, I know you are a huge Disney fan, but the Disney cruises are really over-rated and overpriced.  Even at hurricane season!  We cruise them 3 times. Twice at the end of August (hurricane season) and once at the beginning of December.  The price was crazy all three times!  The two times we cruise them in August, I could have probably sailed in a CLS with RC for the same price.  The time in December was equivalent to the price of a GS.  All three times we were in a standard balcony in DCL.

Even activity wise, unless you are a kid, it is not the same as going to Disney world.

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Hurricane season isn't any cheaper.  June, July and August are peak because school is out and its the summer.  In September and October there is often a dip in price but it isn't because of hurricane season, it's because school is back in after Labor Day which lowers demand.  Same for a few weeks between US Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's often cheaper because demand is lower with everyone focused on the holidays coming up.  

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5 minutes ago, twangster said:

Hurricane season isn't any cheaper.

To expand on this...for DCL at least, this is 100% correct.  From September 2017-August 2018, our cruising calendar was wide open for the first time ever.  We knew we wanted to do a large family cruise on DCL.  As soon as schedules were released, my sisters and I combed through every single sailing for that time period and the lowest rate we found was actually the first week of December.  I was slightly surprised at the time as I had long thought that September/October was going to be our best bet.  After booking for early December (we booked a year and a half out when schedules were first released), I continued to monitor prices and September/October rates never dropped below our December rate.

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19 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Jane, I know you are a huge Disney fan, but the Disney cruises are really over-rated and overpriced.  Even at hurricane season!  We cruise them 3 times. Twice at the end of August (hurricane season) and once at the beginning of December.  The price was crazy all three times!  The two times we cruise them in August, I could have probably sailed in a CLS with RC for the same price.  The time in December was equivalent to the price of a GS.  All three times we were in a standard balcony in DCL.

Even activity wise, unless you are a kid, it is not the same as going to Disney world.

I know...it would have to be the off season and a very rich relative would have to leave me a ton of money lol!  It really would have to be a tremendous deal.  Right now with Europe planned for next summer (vision) and the river cruise this summer we are really going budget.  I think the oasis for 2020 just turned into rhapsody... It was literally almost half the price and I will just wait on the oasis class for a couple years until my youngest is in college and we aren't paying for her too!  Jane

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Note: BEWARE as NCL's "Free at Sea" offer for free wifi is for 250 mins ONLY!!  PLEASE read the fine print and if it does not say "unlimited wifi", then after the free 250 mins, you are going to pay a per minute rate. Do not get caught out there like so many do.

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33 minutes ago, princevaliantus said:

Note: BEWARE as NCL's "Free at Sea" offer for free wifi is for 250 mins ONLY!!  PLEASE read the fine print and if it does not say "unlimited wifi", then after the free 250 mins, you are going to pay a per minute rate. Do not get caught out there like so many do.

Since I am in the 'stay connected while cruising' camp, this was a major factor in my decision to stay loyal with Royal.  I used to buy the minute plans on Carnival before they offered whole voyage plans and it is such a PITA.  You can go through your bucket of minutes pretty quickly and you have to be diligent about signing out or before you know it you've emptied your bucket.  In the line at guest services there was always someone who was arguing they DID sign out but all their minutes were gone.

I'll add to this that on some NCL ships this is painfully slow internet, like worse than dial up slow.  When it takes 1 - 2 minutes to load a single web page you can burn through your allotted minutes very quickly.  It may be "free" but you get what you pay for. 

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2 hours ago, princevaliantus said:

Note: BEWARE as NCL's "Free at Sea" offer for free wifi is for 250 mins ONLY!!  PLEASE read the fine print and if it does not say "unlimited wifi", then after the free 250 mins, you are going to pay a per minute rate. Do not get caught out there like so many do.

Yes, saw that and already figured if I went with that I would do the beverage and dining package options. Their wifi packages for full-trip ain't cheap, at least for their fastest speed options that allow access to any site (which would be needed for live blogging here), but as noted above when I did a cost breakdown, the savings on drink and dining package vs royal along with the near-equal base fare works out well enough that buying the Internet package isn't as painful as it might otherwise be.

The real question for me, after thinking about it some more, would be how much excursions on a total of eight ports would run me. I always forget to include this when I'm thinking about initial budgets, and that's definitely something I need to keep in mind before I pull any triggers on either of these options.

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4 hours ago, twangster said:

Since I am in the 'stay connected while cruising' camp, this was a major factor in my decision to stay loyal with Royal.

Since I am right along in this camp as well, I can also add in that this is a huge draw for me with Royal.  IMO, Royal trumps all the others (even if VOOM isn't the greatest on some ships) for Internet simply because it is unlimited once purchased.  Hopefully that doesn't not change.  Even with MSC, which we just purchased Wi-Fi for yesterday, their package is generous but we will still have to keep an eye on our usage and turn off background refresh etc.  I hate to having to watch usage while on vacation so this is where RC has everyone else beat (for now).

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Also beware on NCL that "Free at Sea" still will add several hundreds of dollars to your cruise fare if you choose drink package and specialty dining.  It may still come out even because you have to get the drink package on Royal but I just wanted to point it out.

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20 minutes ago, jaullram said:

Also beware on NCL that "Free at Sea" still will add several hundreds of dollars to your cruise fare if you choose drink package and specialty dining.  It may still come out even because you have to get the drink package on Royal but I just wanted to point it out.

I'm guessing you mean the gratuities that I just saw are not included when you choose those packages? Yup, that would definitely add a pretty penny at $17.80 pp/pd for two Ultimate Packages, plus another $1.59 pp/pd for the kids' soda packages (which they'd get as minors), plus $16.80 pp (not per night!) for the four specialty dining packages. $338.66 isn't chump change, but it's still a lot less than the $1,456 I had calculated out on Royal.

Speaking of which -- I just realized that calculation did not include the 18% gratuities -- actual cost is $1,850 after adding grats and switching to four 4-night dining packages instead of two. Yikes! Still a $1,500+ savings over Royal (before wifi packages) if I went with NCL.

C'mon @Matt, announce those 2020 group cruises already! I got decisions to make here! 😂

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Yes, that is what I was referring to.  I know from experience it adds a bit.  I am surprised it is still less expensive...it usually nets out when I compare the two lines.  I haven't been on that particular NCL ship so I can't comment specifically but look at the deck plans as I find there are very few (small) pools on NCL which was a big downside for us.  I look forward to hearing what you choose!

 

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Well, this sucks. I just checked the calendar for my older daughter's college and younger daughter's high school. ZERO alignment for winter break or anything else!

Older daughter, depending on what classes she chooses to take her Sophomore year, may not even have a winter break! They follow a "4-1-4" pattern, with fall semester going September through late December, then a 1-month "Winter Session" from two days after Fall semester ends until mid-January, and then the Spring semester from two days after that ends until May. Doubtful she'd do the "Summer Session" that follows from May to early August, but who knows.

Younger daughter's high school is same as middle school -- they get from Christmas through New Years Day, and are back in school the day after that.

So at this point I'm going to be in the situation of only being able to book cruises between June and September if I want to do it with the whole family, or else it'll just be the wife and me doing those trips unless the kids can get away with being out of school for a week or two. And for something like a 50th birthday celebration, I'd kind of like it to be my whole family! 😒

So I'm kind of back to waiting until November for the remaining 2020 deployments and whatever announcement Matt makes for group cruises.

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20 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Well, this sucks. I just checked the calendar for my older daughter's college and younger daughter's high school. ZERO alignment for winter break or anything else!

Older daughter, depending on what classes she chooses to take her Sophomore year, may not even have a winter break! They follow a "4-1-4" pattern, with fall semester going September through late December, then a 1-month "Winter Session" from two days after Fall semester ends until mid-January, and then the Spring semester from two days after that ends until May. Doubtful she'd do the "Summer Session" that follows from May to early August, but who knows.

Younger daughter's high school is same as middle school -- they get from Christmas through New Years Day, and are back in school the day after that.

So at this point I'm going to be in the situation of only being able to book cruises between June and September if I want to do it with the whole family, or else it'll just be the wife and me doing those trips unless the kids can get away with being out of school for a week or two. And for something like a 50th birthday celebration, I'd kind of like it to be my whole family! 😒

So I'm kind of back to waiting until November for the remaining 2020 deployments and whatever announcement Matt makes for group cruises.

Welcome to many of our worlds.  It's easy when they are young, but gets more complex when they are older.   Once they all leave the nest?  Well, that's a story for another day... 

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34 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Well, this sucks. I just checked the calendar for my older daughter's college and younger daughter's high school. ZERO alignment for winter break or anything else!

Older daughter, depending on what classes she chooses to take her Sophomore year, may not even have a winter break! They follow a "4-1-4" pattern, with fall semester going September through late December, then a 1-month "Winter Session" from two days after Fall semester ends until mid-January, and then the Spring semester from two days after that ends until May. Doubtful she'd do the "Summer Session" that follows from May to early August, but who knows.

Younger daughter's high school is same as middle school -- they get from Christmas through New Years Day, and are back in school the day after that.

So at this point I'm going to be in the situation of only being able to book cruises between June and September if I want to do it with the whole family, or else it'll just be the wife and me doing those trips unless the kids can get away with being out of school for a week or two. And for something like a 50th birthday celebration, I'd kind of like it to be my whole family! 😒

So I'm kind of back to waiting until November for the remaining 2020 deployments and whatever announcement Matt makes for group cruises.

Well, there is always the week of Christmas & New Years and Spring Break !!  Woo-hoo!!  😎😎

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49 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Well, this sucks. I just checked the calendar for my older daughter's college and younger daughter's high school. ZERO alignment for winter break or anything else!

Older daughter, depending on what classes she chooses to take her Sophomore year, may not even have a winter break! They follow a "4-1-4" pattern, with fall semester going September through late December, then a 1-month "Winter Session" from two days after Fall semester ends until mid-January, and then the Spring semester from two days after that ends until May. Doubtful she'd do the "Summer Session" that follows from May to early August, but who knows.

Younger daughter's high school is same as middle school -- they get from Christmas through New Years Day, and are back in school the day after that.

So at this point I'm going to be in the situation of only being able to book cruises between June and September if I want to do it with the whole family, or else it'll just be the wife and me doing those trips unless the kids can get away with being out of school for a week or two. And for something like a 50th birthday celebration, I'd kind of like it to be my whole family! 😒

So I'm kind of back to waiting until November for the remaining 2020 deployments and whatever announcement Matt makes for group cruises.

Ok @Matt...see my petition in the FB group...

@JLMoran would you go for a Canada/NE GC July 1st 2020 or after?? I am rounding up supporters lol

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Before my daughter hit school age, we were able to take advantage of off peak prices.  Now we are forced to go peak season- June -August.  It definitely changes the costs of cruising.  And we enjoy the newer, bigger ships so that doesn’t help with the costs.  Luckily, we are fortunate to be able to still go but definitely stings a bit.   

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On 6/27/2018 at 6:40 PM, WAAAYTOOO said:

Joe, I like NCL. Frankly, I find the 2 lines more similar than dissimilar and I would say that if you find a cruise that fits your schedule and budget, go for it.  If it weren’t for the casino benefits related to Royal, I could just as easily be a loyal Norwegian customer as I am loyal to Royal.  

I’m not quite as fond of the MDR concept on NCL as I am with RC but NCL was the originator of specialty dining so they’ve de-emphasized the MDR for some time.  

On the newer ships even the entertainment has improved vastly.  If there’s a reason, I say give NCL a try.

I enjoy NCL as well. They do have the “Haven” which is pretty spectacular. I’m in the same boat (npi) as WAAAYTOOO where the RC casino program is basically the only reason I don’t just make the switch over to NCL. The newer ships are more similar then they are different as they all have the same basic premise which is to pack as much stuff as possible onto a ship. Royal has an ice rink and NCL has a go cart track. I would give NCL a try, especially if you can get a really good deal on a Haven Suite! 

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39 minutes ago, tonyfsu21 said:

I enjoy NCL as well. They do have the “Haven” which is pretty spectacular. I’m in the same boat (npi) as WAAAYTOOO where the RC casino program is basically the only reason I don’t just make the switch over to NCL. The newer ships are more similar then they are different as they all have the same basic premise which is to pack as much stuff as possible onto a ship. Royal has an ice rink and NCL has a go cart track. I would give NCL a try, especially if you can get a really good deal on a Haven Suite! 

If you have Harrah's Total Rewards card, they give discounts depending on tier level. 

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