Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian: Side by Side Comparison

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are two of the most popular cruise lines to consider for a honeymoon, romantic getaway, couples trip, or family vacation. Is Norwegian or Royal Caribbean better for you? It depends on what you’re looking for.

This article will help you decide which is the best cruise line for your particular needs. We’ll share the key differences between Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cruise Line so you can plan your perfect cruise vacation.

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Overviews

There are several factors to consider when deciding which cruise line is best for a honeymoon or vacation. From pricing and packages to cabin accommodations, dining experiences, and entertainment options, each cruise line offers unique features that may or may not suit your needs.

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Royal Caribbean Overview

Royal Caribbean is one of the best cruise lines for people who like to get their hearts pumping and have plenty of options. With ships that feature the tallest slide at sea, giant surf pools, skydive simulators, zip lining, and rock-climbing walls, Royal Caribbean has plenty of activities that will excite adrenaline junkies. 

It also has a variety of onboard amenities and entertainment, including top Broadway musicals. And if you want to mix in some relaxation, you can enjoy a spa treatment, fine dining, and plenty of lounges and bars. 

While Royal Caribbean does have smaller ships, their larger ships (some of the biggest in the world) have so much to offer that you may not be able to experience everything during your cruise.

The largest Royal Caribbean ships are the Oasis-class ships, and they are some of the top-rated cruise ships in the industry. In fact, the Royal Caribbean ship Symphony of the Seas won Travel Weekly’s Reader’s Choice Award for the best overall ship of 2021 and 2022.

Norwegian Cruise Line Overview

Norwegian Cruise Line takes a freestyle approach to cruising. This makes them a great choice for couples who like to do their own thing and want to avoid being tethered to a schedule.

If you want to just sit back and relax onboard Norwegian cruise ships, you can. But if you want to enjoy fine dining followed by award-winning Broadway-style shows, you can do that too. 

There are plenty of activities for couples and families to enjoy. You can release your inner race car driver on the biggest race track at sea or test your luck at the casinos and gaming centers. You can also cool off at the aqua park or just take a dip in one of the many pools.

Norwegian Cruise Lines also serves a wide variety of cuisines, whether you are feeling like fancy seafood pasta or a classic cheeseburger from the grill. No need to sign up for specific dining slots, because Norwegian Cruise Line offers open seating at flexible times. However, reservations for specialty restaurants are recommended.

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cost

Cost is a big deciding factor when deciding what cruise line is the best fit. In general, Royal Caribbean tends to be a bit less than Norwegian Cruise Line, but their packages often include fewer amenities and activities. Norwegian seems to always have a promotion that includes a food and drinks package and other addons for free.

Royal Caribbean may be the best choice for you if you are looking for a budget-friendly option. It’s not to say you can’t find budget deals with Norwegian Cruise Line, but they will be on their older and smaller ships.

Norwegian vs. Royal Caribbean Itineraries

When it comes to cruise itineraries, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean sail to similar destinations, offering trips to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, Africa, and more.

Both cruise lines also have a variety of length in their itineraries, from short 3- and 5-night cruises to longer trips of 7, 9, 11, 12, and 15+ nights (including the Ultimate World Cruises by Royal Caribbean, which feature 4 segments of 60+ nights each.)

It’s hard to choose one over the other for itineraries, as they sail to many of the same destinations. Your best bet is to compare the costs and departure dates for the itinerary you want.

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Cabins

Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise ships are comparable in the quality and type of cabins available. They offer a range of cabin sizes, from basic inside cabins to luxurious suites with balconies.

Royal Caribbean tends to have more amenities in their staterooms, such as virtual balconies, while Norwegian has more suite options with better views. (Virtual balconies are high-definition screens inside interior staterooms that show exterior views in real-time.) However, when it comes to cabin variety, Royal Caribbean may be the better choice if you want more options.

Norwegian offers accommodations for solo travelers, couples, and families. For honeymooners, Norwegian’s luxury The Haven suites are perfect for a romantic getaway. These exclusive suites are spacious and offer large balconies; some even have separate living areas and spa-like bathrooms with separate tubs. They also include access to a private pool, restaurant, lounge, and 24-hour butler service.

Both cruise lines offer cabins for minimalists and luxury seekers alike. But if you are looking for a room that will put the cherry on top of your vacation, The Haven by Norwegian is far and away the most luxurious option.

Norwegian vs. Royal Caribbean Food and Drink

While neither cruise line offers an all-inclusive dining experience, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian offer various restaurants, bars, and cafes you can enjoy while onboard. 

Norwegian has a “freestyle” dining experience that is quite different from Royal Caribbean’s traditional cruise dining experience.

While it can be great to choose your own schedule, the freestyle approach has its pitfalls. You can experience a long wait if you want to eat at the more popular restaurants. The other downfall is that you will have a different server every night and won’t get to know the staff as well.

If you want a romantic dinner, you can make dinner reservations in advance. You can also ask to be seated in a specific server section if you have had a good experience with them before.

Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, is a hybrid of traditional and freestyle dining. This is possible because there are so many restaurants on the larger ships.

Like Norwegian, you can find fine dining steakhouses, Italian cuisine, sushi bars, and more. Typically, these restaurants have a dress code and require reservations.

If you’re just hanging out at the pool, you can grab a quick bite at the poolside pizzeria or doughnut shop. You can also enjoy one of the many buffets if you aren’t looking to dress up for dinner.

Norwegian vs. Royal Caribbean Entertainment

You won’t have a problem finding something to do on either cruise line. Both outfits offer plenty of onboard entertainment and activities plus onshore excursions.

Norwegian sets the stage (literally) with its Broadway shows and entertainment, where you can enjoy performances like Six and Footloose, as well as comedy shows, live music, and more.

If shows aren’t your thing, you will find several water activities such as “walk the plank,” rope swings, and waterparks. You will also find mini-golf courses, rock climbing, and one of the largest race tracks at sea in the ThrillPlex activity zone.

In addition to rock climbing walls, mini golf courses, and surf simulators, Royal Caribbean goes to another level with unique offerings like the largest slide at sea, ziplining, and skydive simulators.

Royal Caribbean also features Broadway shows, casino games, and fitness centers. What sets Royal Caribbean apart is that most of the popular activities are free to enjoy.

Royal Caribbean vs. Norwegian Atmosphere

The atmosphere on a cruise ship can vary widely depending on the passengers and the route. 

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a more laid-back, relaxed atmosphere. People are here to enjoy the cruise and don’t expect much beyond that. The crowd is mostly families and older couples, but you will also find younger people onboard.

Royal Caribbean has a more upbeat atmosphere, with its larger ships carrying more passengers than Norwegian. This makes the Royal Caribbean atmosphere more social, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs to mingle at. It also offers more activities for kids and teens, so has plenty of families on board.

Still trying to decide which cruise line to go with? Check out our articles on Carnival Cruise vs. Royal Caribbean and 10 Best Honeymoon Cruises & Cruise Lines for more information!

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