Cruises are a great way to see the world, stopping at multiple destinations within a matter of weeks or even days. Plus, since the fare typically includes accommodation, transportation, and meals, they can often end up costing you less than land holidays.
With so many cruise lines to choose from, finding the one that’s perfect for what you’re looking for can sometimes be an overwhelming experience. If you prefer to plan your own cruise instead of working with a cruise travel agent, we’ve taken two popular cruise lines, Norwegian and Princess, and pitted them against each other to help you narrow down your choices.
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Norwegian Cruiseline Overview
‘Freestyle cruising’ is the hallmark of Norwegian cruise lines. Like most major cruise lines, Norwegian cruises sail to destinations all around the world and, apart from regular stops, there are no set schedules or itineraries. As a Norwegian cruise passenger, you’re free to enjoy the activities and amenities that are available onboard without the constraints of a schedule.
Norwegian cruises are modern and lively, attracting laid-back folks who want their cruise experience to be relaxing yet fun. There are several dining options inboard, stylish accommodations with contemporary furnishings, and live entertainment like Broadway shows and musicals. There are also plenty of activities to entertain kids of all ages, even teenagers.
Princess Cruiseline Overview
Princess Cruises is one of the most widely recognized names in the cruise industry. Despite the name, Princess cruises aren’t overly fancy. The ships are also a bit smaller than those of other big-name cruise lines, so they tend to feel less crowded than some other cruise lines. They have ports around the world, including Alaska, a feature that sets them apart from other major cruise lines.
Princess cruises adhere to long-established cruise traditions, such as set dining times, and they tend to attract passengers who want that classic cruise experience. Princess cruise lines also have a reputation for offering romantic cruise experiences like their Sweetheart’s Package or setting up staterooms with anniversary decorations, an element that tends to draw honeymooners or couples getting away for a romantic vacation.
Norwegian vs. Princess – Which Costs More?
When it comes to cost, Norwegian’s prices tend to be a bit lower than the industry average, but since the fare doesn’t include quite a bit of what’s available on board, you probably won’t be saving as much as you think.
Many ‘free’ restaurants (meaning there is no cover charge) feature a la carte menu items, so passengers have to pay for whatever they order. Alcoholic beverages and meals in specialty restaurants also are not included in your fare. Additionally, most activities and entertainment options are only available for an extra cost.
All that being said, you can find good deals on Norwegian’s older, smaller ships, and they often offer promotional deals for add-ons like food and drink packages.
Princess cruises are premium cruises that offer more luxurious cruise packages, so the price tag is obviously going to be a bit higher. Whereas on a Norwegian cruise, you’re paying for the cruise, Princess cruises offer a luxury cruise experience, meaning that everything from food to furniture tends to be more high-end. On top of that, some amenities and activities, like specialty restaurants and shore excursions, carry an additional cost.
Norwegian vs. Princess Fleet
Princess’s fleet consists of 18 ships, most of which have been constructed within the last 20 years or so. Their smallest vessel can hold 672 passengers, while its three largest ships can accommodate between 3500 and 3600 passengers.
Norwegian cruise lines have a total of 17 ships in their fleet that can hold significantly more passengers. Its smallest ship, the Norwegian Sun, can carry almost 2000 passengers and its largest can hold over 4000.
Norwegian vs. Princess – Food & Drink
Each Norwegian cruise ship offers a maximum of 3 gourmet restaurants serving up anything from seafood to chargrilled burgers. They offer flexible dining times, including a 24-hour restaurant, so passengers never need to worry about missing the dinner bell, although reservations are recommended during popular dining times.
Select buffet restaurants are included in the cost of your fare. Specialized restaurants are an additional cost. Alcoholic drinks are not included in your fare, but food and drink packages can be purchased before you set sail.
Princess cruises have many more dining options than Norwegian cruises, and meals are included in the cost of your fare, including meals in specialty restaurants. Drink packages can be purchased separately.
A relatively new addition to Princess cruises is their Dine My Way and OceanNow programs, which let you customize your dinner reservations to suit your schedule and taste or even order food directly to where ever you are.
Norwegian vs. Princess Itineraries
Both Norwegian and Princess cruises travel to destinations around the world including Alaska, Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Africa, the California coast up to the Pacific Northwest, the East Coast of Canada and New England, and the Caribbean. European cruises take passengers throughout the Mediterranean, the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Baltics, and Iceland. South Pacific cruises sail around French Polynesia and some South American cruises include sailings around Antarctica.
Princess cruise lengths vary from short 3-6 day getaways to world cruises that can last up to 111 days! Norwegian cruises do not have quite as much variation with cruises varying from 2-21 days.
Norwegian vs. Princess – What To Do Onboard?
You never have to worry about running out of things to do onboard a cruise ship. Norwegian cruises offer entertainment every night of the week. Choose from hot musicals, Broadway plays, fun deck parties or a comedy show. Onboard casinos also feature slot machines, table games, and the occasional specialty night.
Family cruises include plenty of onboard entertainment for kids of all ages, including youth clubs, arts and crafts, game rooms, and special party rooms just for teenagers.
Norwegian’s Thrillplex activity zone will keep adults and children entertained with its rope courses, racetrack, VR laser tag and gaming center that includes bowling alleys and rock climbing walls. Their aqua park features swimming pools, water slides and hot tubs. Adults can sweat it out in a fitness class and then spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying a rejuvenating treatment in the spa.
Norwegian cruises also offer Land and Sea packages that give passengers the opportunity to head ashore and explore port cities. The packages include accommodation and some tour options.
Princess cruise passengers can learn more about their environment through its Discovery at SEA program, which strives to educate guests through activities like stargazing, tours and engaging presentations led by naturalists. You’ll learn about the traditions of the destination you’re visiting during Festivals of the World celebrations.
Many of the activities available to passengers vary depending on the type of cruise you’re on. There are casinos, art galleries, shops, and dance classes for adults, plus a minigolf course, swimming pools, games, movie nights, and other family-friendly entertainment options onboard Princess family cruises. Nightly entertainment includes musicals, plays and magic shows, and all ships include a wellness centre with a gym and full-service spa.
Typical Clientele Onboard Norwegian vs. Princess
Princess cruise lines tend to attract travelers who are looking to enjoy a relaxing, upscale holiday. Their clientele mostly consists of older couples, but they offer specialty-type cruises that are geared toward couples and families as well.
You’ll find passengers of all ages and demographics onboard Princess cruise lines, depending on what you’re looking for.
Norwegian cruises are not luxury cruises, and they tend to attract younger crowds, some of whom are taking their first cruise. Some of Norwegian’s vessels feature studio rooms that are perfect for solo travellers, and the laid-back environment is conducive to socializing and making new friends.
He is an expert travel advisor and enthusiast. He has traveled extensively in the USA, Central American, South America and Europe. He has visited every Sandals Resort and is one of a select few Diamond Elite members of the Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.
Dan graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. Later he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on people and culture.