Cruise Ship Suggestions. Carnival or Norweigen?

Updated on October 21, 2011
ღ.. asks from Detroit, MI
17 answers


I am planning a surprise cruise for my husbands 30th birthday next summer. I know its early, but the earlier you book the cheaper it is. Im not looking to spend a ton, the Carnival and the Norweigen are in my price range, but I havent always heard good things about the Carnival. We are thinking Bahamas. Where have you been and how was it?

We also have never been on a cruise so any tips or info you can give is much appreciated. Does anyone know if you can buy liquior when you port and bring it back on the ship? Im trying to get around the huge bar bill too. ;)

My husband better not see this, or I will shave your legs while your sleeping!!!

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answers from Dallas on

I prefer Carnival over Norwegian. Just my opinion, I have travel more with Norwegian and every time I sail with Carnival I like their service more. Like Meals, Entertainments, etc.

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answers from Houston on

I just got back from my first cruise. We sailed out of Galveston with Carnival. As we were boarding I saw people with cases of soda and bottled water boarding the ship too without a problem. I took a bottle of wine aboard and the travel agent left us a bottle of champaign.

If you buy liquior when you port you have to declare it and Carnival took the liquior as we boarded. Carnival stored the liquior until the last night of the cruise.

Good luck and happy sailing!

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answers from Houston on

I did not enjoy my Carnival cruise. It was my first cruise, so I also didn't know what to expect and felt really "taken." EVERYTHING is extra. EVERYTHING. (Except meals. Drinks with meals including soda? EXTRA.)

For the alcohol, I'm going to recommend something that isn't exactly "kosher" but it's the only way to get around the bill:
1. No, you cannot buy alcohol in port and bring it back on the ship. They make you check it.
2. To get alcohol on the ship, pack it in your checked baggage. On Carnival, they don't go through the checked baggage, but they do scan the carry-ons. If you're not sure if they'll check, I know some people have really cleaned out shampoo/conditioner bottles and filled them with their liquor of choice.

Now, back to the Carnival - the people were incredible. The service was outstanding. The ship was old, cheesy (think tacky Vegas), without enough to do that you didn't have to pay for.

Now, to be fair, we were given a 7-day cruise to replace a 5-day cruise we had booked. It was just as the swine flu broke out and they canceled the cruises to Mexico. Instead, we got a 7-day cruise to Jamaca (would never never go back) and Grand Caman (can I live there, please?!).

However, that meant 7 days on a ship designed for 5-day sailings. That also meant a long time at sea because we departed from Galveston.

Maybe I just wouldn't like any cruise, but again, I did not enjoy ours on Carnival. I wonder, though, if I had picked a cruise line that doesn't bank on it's family-friendliness (kids everywhere) if we would have enjoyed it more.

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answers from Norfolk on

I went on the 4 day Carnival to the Bahamas. It was nice. It was my first cruise. It was definitely fun but if I had to do it again I'd go with a different cruise line. If you think of a cruise company in relation to hotels a Carnival is like the Holiday Inn. It's nice, it's clean, but the condition might not be excellent and the food isn't as great as a Marriott or Hyatt. My biggest complaint was the other passengers. It's just people who don't travel much so they do stupid things like a group of 12 of them will block a hallway, or stand in front of the restaurant entrance so others can't get by or complain about what's not included in the price of the cruise even though it's clearly stated. The boat we went on had FABULOUS service and we had a good time. It was just those minor things that bugged us. Next time we'll choose another line.

I'm not sure about the liquor. We had a decent bar bill but we didn't care. lol

You're smart to be booking early. If you're a BJ's member check their website for GREAT deals! We paid less than half for our cruise than the other people at our dinner table did by going through BJ's. Even if you don't have a membership, the $50 for the membership is worth the expense for what you'll save. There are lots of cruise websites that can give you tips and tricks specific to the boat you'll be on so google those once you have some boats narrowed down. Have fun!

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answers from Washington DC on

I've always heard that Disney has cruises for all ages.

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answers from Orlando on

I just got back from a Disney cruise yesterday :) LOVED IT! It was just me and my 9 year old daughter ... but they have TONS of adult only stuff! I was kinda bummed I couldn't enjoy all the bars and live music and adults only areas. Our room was very big for a cruise line. It had like a living room and bedroom area. I went on Carnival last year (both were 3 night cruises to the Bahamas) Carnival was nice.. but Disney was just so much better. The rooms were bigger, the service was SO much better. Sodas are included for free with Disney. The only "extra" thing was alcohol. I would go back with just my grown up friends on Disney :)

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answers from Detroit on

I highly recommend Royal Carribbean/Celebrity. But they are a little more expensive than Carnival. At every shore excursion, people from Carnival would see us getting off the ship and say they wished they could trade with us because they didn't like their ship. We NEVER cruised on one of the expensive mega RCCL ships. In fact, we started before the mega ships were built. And we still loved RCCL. So don't think you have to choose a mega ship to get the RCCL quality.

When I went on my first cruise, I found a lot of great websites with cruising tips. You should definitely look for some of them.

My advice...

Don't know about liquor, but we ALWAYS take our own soda (or POP in Michaganese) on board.

Take dramamine whether you have motion sicknesses or not. There is less drowsy kind that really doesn't phase me as far as sleepy goes. The deal is, if there are rough seas, EVERYONE feels yucky (it's obvious by the almost empty dining room), and if you wait until you feel the sickness, it's too late to take anything. Dramamine works much better as prevention than as a cure.

Check out the prices in the gift shop/jewelry shop on the ship before buying any expensive items on shore. I bought a beautiful $200 ring in Cozumel (that I bargained down from $800) only to find a larger selection of the exact same rings on the ship for $200 without bargaining and WITH a guarantee! The cashier said this is quite common.

Be prepared for evil grumpy lounge-chair-hording people on the pool deck. They are there, they are evil, and there is no way around them. So just be prepared so they don't ruin your day. They same goes with the line to leave the ship for the shore, tenders, buses, etc. If you know to expect these horrible people, they will affect you less. You would be amazed how rude and grumpy cruisers can be.

Eat at a table with other groups (don't ask for a private table). I know I said there are a lot of grumps, but your table mates won't be, and you can always ask to be moved if it turns out bad. My husband and I were in our late 20's, and we thought the best part of our cruises was dinner with our 40, 50, 60, and even 80-yr. old table mates. Serious fun and so much fun to share your day's stories with each other.

Research where you go before you choose the Bahamas. Think about what activities you like the best. Nassau Bahamas is pretty boring. If you like bar hopping (which I don't), their is NO BETTER PLACE than Key West, Florida. Snorkeling is best in St. Thomas, Sting Rays in Cayman, adventure in Belize, Cozumel, Ocho Rios, and so on. So make sure you look at the shore excursion choices before you choose your destination.

Have fun. Wish I was going!

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answers from Los Angeles on

My wife and I love cruising. We will be going on our 18th cruise in January.

I like Carnival better than NCL. NCL is the motel 6 of the cruise industry (compared to Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess,) and they always have the light on. Carnival has a lot of "extras" you pay for. But you don't have to. Carnival has their cruises on sale this week as do most other cruise lines. The cruise lines are hurting for passengers because of Obama's economy so they are discounting cruises like never before. My son and his wife are going on Carnival out of Flordia in September. I would recommend get the late seating for dinner. That way you have time to rest a little after any shore excursions before dinner. The food is just fantastic.

Each cruise line has their plusses and minuses. Of the fairly inexpensive cruise lines, I like Princess Cruise lines the best. But Princess is about 30% more than Carnival.

I just received an e-mail from Carnival. It gives you some ideas as to what is available. BTW, Carnival has a great kids program.

If you want ways to save money on a cruise, e-mail me. The cruise lines make a lot of money off liquor sales, so they won't let you BYOB on board. If you stop at a port and buy liquor, they will hold it for you until you get off.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from Las Vegas on Has ALL the answers to your cruising questions. Especially at the boards where you can posts questions. I was addicted to this website before my first two cruises. I have never sailed on Norwegian or Carnival but from what I have heard Carnival has more of a party feel and there will be a younger crowd. It also seems to be the cheapest of cruise lines when I compare prices and I have heard some of their services are cutback compared to other cruise lines. I don't know much about Norwegian but I think you will find a older crowd. I sailed RCCL to the Caribbean twice and really enjoyed it. Hope you find that website just as helpful. I also like the bigger boats- Especially if you are going on a cruise for 7 days.

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answers from Sacramento on

I've been on one Carnival cruise and two on Norwegian. I honestly liked all of them. Cruising is what you make of it.

The big difference is that with Norwegian it's more relaxed, informal. For instance, no assigned dinner time or table. You eat where you want, when you want. Food and entertainment were good on both lines.

The age of the travelers was the same. I wouldn't let that be a deciding factor.

I second the recommendation of Extremely helpful boards for deciding which cruise line, shore excursions, etc.

ETA: In no way is Norwegian like Motel 6. I'm a Hyatt Regency kind of person and I did fine with Norwegian. If they were like Motel 6, no one would choose to cruise with them. All of the mainstream (not high end) lines are very similar these days, so I wouldn't worry too much. If you go in with a positive attitude, you'll have a great time on any line.

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answers from Tulsa on

I haven't sailed on Carnival because of what I heard. I have done NCL and Princess. I found out I can get half off via and I never look at travel agents anymore. The important thing to me is my husband HATES dressing up. We needed a ship with flexible dining, not assigned. If you get assigned seating, make sure you get the one you want(6:30 or 8:30). We once got late seating and were starving. Also, I hate eating with strangers. I want to sit with just us, whether 2 or 20. I like Princess for accomodating all my requests and not acting all put out.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I did a Western Caribbean on Norwegian for our honeymoon and had fun but felt there were a lot of older people (we were in our 20's). I have probably done 5 Carnival cruises out of California and had a super time each time. It would be ideal to be able to use the liquor brought aboard but I have seen on Carnival that they are "kind enough" to hold it for you when you get back on board and give it to you at the end of the cruise. It's just the cost of cruising. Not sure if Norwegian is like this now as well. Have fun! I am a sucker for the portraits and the pictures takes in ports by them...pace yourself! Have fun!

**To follow off Amanda, yes EVERYTHING is extra (even the unlimited soda card) but I knew what I was getting into. Sometimes you can book the shore excursions by yourself but often the ships had priority. We ran it trying to book parasailing by ourselves but the ship had taken all the spots. Yes, Jamaica wasn't a place I would want to go back to.

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answers from Saginaw on

I would go with Carnival. One of my friends and I just went on a carnival cruise to the Bahamas. It was a great time. We also didn't want a huge bill, so we looked into sneaking booze onboard. Both of us purchased Rum Runners to put our booze in. They worked wonderfully! I even let my mother-in-law use them two weeks after we did and they didn't have any issues either. With Carnival you are also able to take on board a 12x12x12 cooler in which you can put coke or juice that you want to mix your booze with. Hope this helps!



answers from Saginaw on

the difference is those 2 cruise lines is simply this.....Carnival "FUN" ship...and they mean it...they want you to party! Norwegian...usually an older crowd. as far as getting around the huge bar bill,, you cannot get liquor on the ship from ports or when you board...but...let me tell you some secrets that just worked for us on a cruise in April. They allow each of you to take a 12 pack of something non alcoholic (water, pop, etc) so...we took a 12 pack of has a plastic "shrink wrap" around it....but if you VERY CAREFULLY jimmy one bottle of water out of it, the rest come out easily. a fifth of liquor fits in 2 bottles. (has to be clear liquor, but luckily most are) take out the couple of bottles in the middle, dump out the water, put in the liquor, put all the bottles back in. carefully...but it works.

I also bought a boxed margarita (like boxed wine) gift wrapped it, and put it in the center of my suitcase. make sure you bring a more than one suitcase, put the margarita or wine in the one with only clothes. they scan all bags...they pay more attention to the bags with metal in them. so if you put an all plastic bag and paper item into a suitcase with all clothes, it should get through.

oh...and the bahamas are SSSSSSOOOOOOOOO expensive! so don't plan much on the island itself

if for some reason you get busted though....all they do is confiscate, and dump out anything that wasn't in the proper container, and put a note in your suitcase that you have to go get scolded in the naughty room! hahah


answers from Detroit on

HI Molly! We LOVE cruising…best bang for your buck and you can see multiple places on one vacation. Couple thoughts on Cruise Lines (as it all depends what you are looking for), Carnival is very laid back and "fun" where some of the others are a little more high class. Most of the Norwegian boats now have restaurants and bars that require a "nominal" fee to eat at….hmmm, you have 100% paid for your trip (minus drinks), why should you have to pay extra for food? We found Celebrity to be way too old for us (I am 35 and my hubby is in his 40's). They literally had quiet time on the deck from 1-3 and people in their 80's were napping with walkers by their sides. GREAT that they are vacationing at that age, but not what we were looking for.

Tips: Get a Balcony…no you are not in the cabin much, but it's soooo nice to have the door open while you sleep (it's totally safe if you are taking kids), nice to stand out there while you are pulling gint or out of port and just to wake up and step out side.

We ALWAYS sneak drinks on, you just have to be a little smart about it and know there are no guarantees it won't be confiscated. You can each take on a bottle of wine-we each walk right on the boat with it in our carry on or in our hands. In our bags we will sneak additional wine or liquor in pop bottles. We put white wine in Mt. Dew bottles (green bottle with tinted liquid), we have put vodka in water bottles and so on. Just don't put it all in the same bag…a bottle here and a bottle there. Most ships serve OJ in the am and Lemon aide for lunch and dinner plus they have 24 hour free room service, so you have mixers. As for beer…that's a little trickier. We have filled up a rolling cooler (64 beers or so) several cruises, given it to the porter with a tip, and presto it showed up in our room! SCORE! Last November my parents had their whole cooler confiscated (you get it back on the last night), so they were bummed, but ours made it on the ship. You can buy a case of beer when you get down there and but 6 beers in each bag or something as well. A bucket of 4 beers will cost you $25, so ANYTHING you can sneak on helps!

Hit or miss getting stuff on the boat from an island. We have had them say to go and check it so they can keep it and we walk right on by and just keep moving. Other times you HAVE to leave it and you get it on the last day.

Bahamas are a little boring…not much to do. Places like Key West and Cozumel are FUN, FUN….especially for a 30th b-day!!

If you are taking kids and need some tips send me a personal message.



answers from Detroit on

We have been on a number of cruises and the Bahamas was NOT the favorite. At the time, Nassau was dirty and not safe. Another we went on went to Jamaica...not safe again...and Mexico...not safe again. Our best cruise trips were to Bermuda. You can cruise there, the ship docks right downtown. It is safe and they speak regular English. If you like beaches, golf, sun and riding a scooter around, Bermuda is a great spot! Then there is the Eastern Caribbean...have not been there. I have heard great things about all the "St" Islands. Read up about the destinations before you go. Not sure about the liquor thing, but I do't think they let you BYOB.



answers from Oklahoma City on

The rooms on Carnival and Disney are smaller than any other line. But just how much time do you plan on sleeping???? The ships that offer the most in the way of what you want is the one you should go with. Disney...lots and lots and lots of kids eating and being where ever you are. Carnival...lots of people say the staff ruined their vacation.

I truly want to say that I ice skated on the ocean and climbed to the top of a rock wall on the ocean so next time we are going on Royal Caribbean.

I also suggest you ask about theme cruises. Sometimes the one going on at the same time as the week you want to go is not what you want to be around. I would have a hard time taking the kids on a cruise that was hosting an S&M theme or a gay/lesbian theme just because I would not want the kids to be constantly asking questions instead of playing and having fun. On the other hand if it were just me and hubby then I would not mind any of those, but if it were country and western week on the ship hubby would be overboard in about 30 seconds.
Here is a link to some searches for Royal Caribbean and the different options they have. They truly have wonderful ships with nice rooms and staff.

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