Comparing Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line

In the world of cruising, two big names stand out: Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line. This article aims to compare these two popular cruise lines in various categories such as ships, activities, entertainment, dining, and value for money. Royal Caribbean boasts a fleet of 25 ships, while Norwegian Cruise Line has 16. Each line has its own unique features, including Royal Caribbean’s innovative Central Park and Boardwalk areas and Norwegian’s Waterfront area. Both lines offer excellent options for families, with Norwegian having cabins that can accommodate 5 or 6 people and adjoining rooms, while Royal Caribbean provides virtual balconies in most of their new ships. The entertainment options are similar, with both lines offering Broadway shows and game shows, but Norwegian has additional shows like the Cirque show, which may require an extra cost. When it comes to dining, Royal Caribbean offers freestyle and flexible time options, while Norwegian Cruise Line provides more specialty restaurants and better options for around-the-clock dining. Ultimately, the choice between the two lines depends on personal preferences and priorities, whether it be the all-inclusive “Free at Sea” program offered by Norwegian or the wide range of onboard activities provided by Royal Caribbean.


Number of ships

Norwegian Cruise Line has a fleet of 16 ships, while Royal Caribbean boasts an impressive fleet of 25 ships. The larger fleet of Royal Caribbean allows for more diverse itineraries and destinations.

Design and layout

When it comes to ship design and layout, Royal Caribbean tends to focus on creating spaces that look inwards, such as the Central Park and Boardwalk areas. These areas feature live plants and a variety of shops and dining options. On the other hand, Norwegian Cruise Line designs its ships to look outwards, with the Waterfront area being a highlight. The Waterfront is a promenade deck that wraps around the ship, offering bars and restaurants with ocean views.

Royal Caribbean’s Central Park and Boardwalk areas are unique features that provide a beautiful and immersive experience. With live plants and themed entertainment, these areas create a calm and inviting atmosphere. However, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Waterfront area offers an opportunity to enjoy the ocean views and fresh air while dining and indulging in beverages.


Kids clubs

Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer kids clubs that cater to younger travelers. However, Royal Caribbean may have better facilities for kids overall. The kids clubs on Royal Caribbean ships are designed to engage and entertain children of all ages, with activities ranging from arts and crafts to interactive games.

Solo travelers

Norwegian Cruise Line excels in catering to solo travelers with their dedicated solo cabins and solo lounge. These spaces provide an opportunity for solo travelers to connect with each other and partake in various activities and events. Royal Caribbean also offers accommodations for solo travelers, but Norwegian Cruise Line goes the extra mile to create a community for solo cruisers.

Suites for families

Norwegian Cruise Line offers more options for families with cabins that can accommodate 5 or 6 people, as well as adjoining rooms. This makes it easier for families to stay together and enjoy their cruise experience. Royal Caribbean also provides family-friendly accommodations, but Norwegian Cruise Line has a greater variety of options for larger families.

Comparing Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line


Broadway shows

Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer Broadway shows as part of their entertainment options. Norwegian Cruise Line showcases shows such as “Rock of Ages,” “Kinky Boots,” “Jersey Boys,” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” Royal Caribbean presents Broadway shows like “Mamma Mia,” “Cats,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Grease.” Both cruise lines provide high-quality, professional performances for guests to enjoy.

Additional shows

While both cruise lines offer a variety of additional shows, Norwegian Cruise Line goes the extra mile with shows like the Cirque show. However, it’s important to note that these additional shows on Norwegian Cruise Line may come at an extra cost.


Royal Caribbean stands out with its two theaters on newer ships, including the aqua theater and the 270 theater. The aqua theater showcases spectacular water shows with aerialists and performers diving into a pool, while the 270 theater offers immersive entertainment experiences with its large robotic screens. These theaters add a unique and thrilling element to the cruise experience.


Specialty dining options

Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer specialty dining options for guests looking for a unique culinary experience. Royal Caribbean tends to have a larger choice of specialty dining options on their bigger and newer ships. However, it’s important to note that reservations are always required for specialty dining on both cruise lines.

Around-the-clock dining

Norwegian Cruise Line excels in providing options for around-the-clock dining. With a variety of restaurants and snack bars available at all hours, guests can satisfy their cravings at any time of the day or night. Royal Caribbean also provides 24/7 dining options but may not have the same level of variety and convenience.

Unique dining features

Norwegian Cruise Line offers unique dining features such as alfresco dining options on the Waterfront. This allows guests to enjoy their meals while taking in the scenic ocean views. Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, focuses on creating immersive dining experiences within their themed areas such as the Central Park or Boardwalk.

Value for Money

Free at Sea program

Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Free at Sea” program allows guests to choose two or three complimentary items, such as a drinks package, dining package, Wi-Fi, or onboard credit. This program adds value to the cruise experience and provides guests with additional perks at no extra cost.

Price comparison

Royal Caribbean may have lower base prices initially, but Norwegian Cruise Line’s inclusion of the “Free at Sea” charge can make them appear more expensive at first. However, when considering the value of the complimentary items and the overall experience, the pricing differences may balance out.

Entertainment inclusivity

Royal Caribbean includes more entertainment options in the price of the cruise compared to Norwegian. These included entertainment options add value for money and ensure that guests have a wide range of activities to enjoy during their cruise.

Personal Preferences

Drinks package vs onboard activities

Choosing between a drinks package and onboard activities depends on personal preferences. If you value having unlimited beverages throughout your cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line’s drinks package may be more appealing. However, if you prefer a variety of innovative onboard activities, Royal Caribbean’s offerings such as RipCord by iFLY and FlowRider may be more enticing.

Discounts and extra offers

Norwegian Cruise Line tends to have more discounts and extra offers for bookings. These deals can include reduced fares, onboard credit, or special promotions. Royal Caribbean occasionally offers discounts of up to 30% off pre-cruise purchases, particularly in Europe. Consider your priorities and preferences when choosing between these additional offers.


Tie overall

Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have their own advantages and disadvantages. With Norwegian Cruise Line’s emphasis on solo travelers and family suites, as well as their “Free at Sea” program, they offer a unique and value-packed experience. Royal Caribbean excels in ship design and innovation, especially with their Central Park and Boardwalk areas, as well as their dedicated theaters and onboard activities. It ultimately comes down to personal preferences and priorities.

Imagining a combined cruise ship

Considering the best features of both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, it’s easy to imagine a combined cruise ship that offers the best of both worlds. Imagine a ship with the innovative features and themed areas of Royal Caribbean, along with the solo traveler accommodations and family-friendly options of Norwegian Cruise Line. Such a ship would provide an unparalleled experience for all types of cruisers.

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