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Norwegian Cruise Line vs Celebrity Cruises

Compare ships, pricing, destinations, onboard facilities and shore excursions between Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Celebrity Cruises
Where do they cruise?
What type of ships do they have? Large & Mega Cruise Ships Large, Mega and Expedition Ships
How many passengers are on board? 1936 - 4266 Classic: 2,107 - 3046 / Expedition: 48 - 100
What type of cruise line are they? Contemporary Premium
What are they known for?
  • Freestyle Cruising, no fixed dining times
  • Award-Winning Entertainment
  • Top Deck Innovation, including racetracks at sea
  • The first cruise line to have a ½ acre real lawn at sea
  • Dining curated by Michelin-starred Chefs
  • The largest and rarest wine collection at sea
  • The Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge & Celebrity Apex
What is the average cost per day?
  • Interior: $200
  • Oceanview: $253
  • Balcony: $339
  • Suite: $646
  • Interior: $235
  • Oceanview: $268
  • Balcony: $343
  • Suite: $979
Are fares all inclusive? No No
Are gratuities included? No. Guests can elect to pre-pay or pay on board. For AU & NZ guests on departures sailing from AU & NZ ports departing from October 2020, service charges will be included in cruise fare Yes
Are there any additional gratuities payable on board? Yes. 20% gratuity added for spa and salon services, beverage purchases, specialty restaurant dining and entertainment-based dining Yes. 18% gratuity added for beverage purchases, mini bar items, spa and salon services
Can I get any reciprocal loyalty club benefits? No. Latitudes Only Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and Azamara offer reciprocal benefits to members enrolled in their loyalty programs.
What is the onboard currency? USD USD
What language is spoken on board? English English
Who cruises with them?
  • Couples, solos and families
  • Freestyle cruisers who like to holiday on their own schedule
  • Primarily couples & solos
  • Food and wine connoisseurs
  • Travellers who enjoy modern luxury settings
What is the average passenger age? Primary age group is 45+. Multi-generational facilities make for a widespread demographic. On shorter cruises and during school holiday periods, expect more families on board Primarily 40+
Are they good for families? Children are accepted from 6+ months (12+ months on select cruises) and there are dedicated programs and facilities available for children Children are accepted from 6+ months (12+ months on select cruises) and there are dedicated programs and facilities available for children
Are there children’s programs? Yes. Complimentary. Onboard youth programs offer activities for age groups from six months to 17 years of age. Camp at Sea is Celebrity’s children’s program. There are activities for four different age groups supervised by experienced youth staff members. The program changes regularly keeping it fresh. Celebrity Equinox also offers STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) & art classes. Celebrity also offers a program for children on the autism spectrum. Services are not available on Expedition ships
Is there childcare and/or babysitting? Group sitting services are available for a fee. Guppies Nursery available on Norwegian Escape only. Charges apply Yes. Group babysitting is available on the contemporary ships through the Celebrity Youth Program for ages 3-12 years including afternoon parties on port days and late night slumber parties in the evening. Children must be toilet trained. Private baby sitting at cost is available for suite level guests only. Services are not available on expedition ships
What are the accommodation options? Interior, Oceanview, Balcony & Suites. Studios available for solo travellers. Interior, Oceanview, Balcony & Suites. Studios available for solo travellers.
Are there accessible staterooms? Yes Yes
Are shore excursions included? No
  • Classic Cruises: No
  • Expedition Cruises: Yes
What types of onboard activities are available for free? Guests can enjoy activities such as sports court games, use of outdoor pools and hot tubs, select onboard presentations, the ropes course and ziplining free of charge Enrichment programs such as guest lectures and some onboard classes. Art classes and technologies classes are available on select ships
Are there any onboard activities that I need to pay for? Yes. Activities such as specialty onboard seminars, go-kart sessions on the racetracks, laser tag, games in the video arcade and the bowling alley incur additional charges Yes. Charges apply for a range of activities such as glass blowing and mixology classes
Is there free evening entertainment? Yes Yes
Is there any paid evening entertainment? Yes. Dinner and lunch theatre entertainment incur additional charges. Paid experiences include Cirque Dreams and Dinner shows as well as Wine Lovers the Musical which includes wine tasting Yes. Occasionally special entertainment may incur additional charges
Are there complimentary dining options? Yes Yes
Are there specialty restaurants? Yes. Charges Apply. However, a Specialty Dining Package is currently an option with NCL’s Free at Sea Promotion, so if eligible, guests may choose to have this included in their booking Yes. Charges apply
Are there dining packages for purchase? Yes Yes
Are non-alcoholic beverages included? Yes. Iced tea, some juices, regular coffee, tea and ice water (specialty coffee, soft drinks & some other beverage options are at additional cost) Yes. Juice, water, tea, and coffee are available at stations across the ship and select soft drinks at meals.
Are alcoholic beverages included? No. However, a Beverage Package is currently an option with NCL’s Free at Sea Promotion, so if eligible, guests may choose to have this included in their booking
  • Classic Cruises: No
  • Expedition Cruises: Yes
Can I purchase a beverage package? Yes Yes. A range of drinks packages are available to purchase, and a Classic beverage package can be chosen as a perk in the Sail Your Way promotion
Is there room service? Yes. 24/7. Convenience charge may apply Yes. Available 24/7. A late night fee applies
Is there Wi-Fi on board? Yes. Charges apply. However, a Wi-Fi Package is currently an option with NCL’s Free at Sea Promotion, so if eligible, guests may choose to have this included in their booking Yes. Charges apply unless it is selected as a perk in the Celebrity Sail Your Way promotion
Can I purchase Wi-Fi packages? Yes Yes
Is there a Spa? Yes Yes. Expedition ships offer smaller spa facilities
Are spa and salon services available? Yes. Charges Apply Yes. Charges Apply
Is there a gym? Yes Yes. Expedition ships will have smaller fitness rooms
Are there group fitness classes? Yes. Charges apply Yes. Included complimentary. Some specialised training programs may incur additional charges
Is there personal training available? Yes. Charges Apply Yes, on classic cruise ships. Charges apply
Is there a self-service laundry? No No
Is a laundry service available? Yes. Charges Apply Yes. Charges Apply
Is there a casino on board? Yes. Except on Pride of America Yes. Except on expedition ships

Please Note: There may be additional inclusions and privileges for select stateroom and suite guests or select loyalty member tiers. Activities and entertainment vary by ship, itinerary and departure and are a guide only.

The Verdict

Which ships will suit me best?

Celebrity Cruises offers a premium cruise experience aboard a 13 ship fleet of primarily large ships, furnished with modern sophisticated décor. The line prides itself on its unique and innovative social spaces, boasts sophisticated onboard dining, places an emphasis on service (with a generous 2:1 passenger to staff ratio), and adds elements of modern luxury to the cruise experience.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s contemporary fleet is larger than Celebrity’s, with more ships, and seven of its 17 strong fleet tipping the scales into the mega ship category. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is known for its ‘Freestyle Cruising’ experience with no set dining times on any sailing, has a reputation for excelling in their onboard entertainment, and boasts big ticket amenities such as a go kart racetrack and laser tag on a few of their flagship vessels.

Cruising with NCL tends to be a little more laid back, with the flexibility of freestyle dining and no evenings where formal attire is required. Guests are welcome to cruise casually or dress up if they prefer – you’ll find most passengers dress in casual or smart casual attire, with jeans as welcome in the dining rooms as a little black dress, (except those that are torn or overly faded!).

Life on board Celebrity ships is a little more refined, with smart casual attire the dress code every night except for those that feature ‘Evening Chic’. Designed to be dressier than smart casual, but not as dressy as formal attire, guests can expect one ‘Evening Chic’ on every voyage (two on journeys of seven days or longer) in the main dining room. If you prefer, you can dine elsewhere in smart casual dress, or order in with room service.

Both lines have different ship classes within their fleet, and each offers a different experience with varied amenities and facilities. You’ll notice more bells and whistles on NCL’s Breakaway Plus and Breakaway Class ships, Celebrity’s Solstice Class has some extra touches not found on her Millennium cousins, and the Edge Class ships boast the most cutting-edge innovations and luxury in the Celebrity fleet.

Onboard Facilities & Innovation

When it comes to the onboard experience, both lines are constantly evolving their offering to bring something new to the market, and to their guests.

Standout innovations of the Celebrity line include the Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass on the top deck of Solstice Class ships where guests can relax, play bocce ball, or enjoy a refreshing drink in a park style setting. Edge Class ships have the creative Magic Carpet, a floating platform that is not just a gateway for tendering, but also transforms into an open-air restaurant, bar, or extension of the pool area as it moves between decks. With The Celebrity Revolution overhauling the fleet, their offering is continuing to evolve.

Aside from the aforementioned concept of Freestyle Cruising by Norwegian Cruise Line, another first that you will find on the top deck of Norwegian Bliss, Joy and Encore is their standout go kart racetrack, while on Breakaway and Breakaway Plus Class ships you can take a stroll along The Waterfront, an oceanside promenade lined with restaurants and bars. Other facilities across the fleet include a rock climbing wall and a ropes course complete with a zipline.

There are family friendly amenities and activities across both lines, and both provide children’s programs with dedicated venues and spaces designed with specific age groups in mind. While neither is as family centric as Royal Caribbean, which leads the pack in this space, there are plenty of options for families on Celebrity or when cruising on NCL with kids. Overall, while NCL considers themselves more family friendly than family specialists, they tend to take the edge over Celebrity in family cruising. If your family is into large-scale thrills and spills, then Norwegian’s mega ships will have more bells and whistles for you.

If you are cruising child free, then you can enjoy adult only spaces on board both lines. Celebrity tends to be tailored a little more to their primary demographic of solos and couples, with pool areas designed more for lounging than splashing and relaxing outdoor spaces to kick back and relax with a book or a cocktail in hand.

Celebrity Prides Itself on Sophisticated Dining

Onboard dining is a hallmark of the Celebrity cruise experience, with menus curated by Michelin-starred chefs as well as boasting the largest and rarest collection of wine at sea. There are complimentary and specialty venues (surcharges apply) from casual eats to elegant dining, and guests can choose from either set dining times or the flexibility of dining when they choose. Plus, if you are cruising in Suite or Aqua Class with Celebrity, you also gain exclusive access to an additional dining venue – Luminae or Blu respectively.

Norwegian has a handful more dining venues to choose from on most ships, where guests can dine whenever they wish. Options range from casual cafes and grills to Japanese Teppanyaki and gourmet French fare. There is no shortage of options, either complimentary or for-fee specialty restaurants, however they don’t emphasise the epicurean journey as much as Celebrity.

Norwegian Excels in Entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line has a reputation for top notch entertainment, from full scale Broadway productions and combined dinner and theatre shows to live music and comedy clubs. The offering varies depending on the ship, but the line ups are consistently impressive. There are also plenty of bars and lounges to enjoy each evening, often accompanied by live music, and venues to dance the night away.

Guests cruising with Celebrity can enjoy bespoke stage shows, concert style performances, presentations from destination speakers, and entertainment from cabaret to ballet, through their unique partnership with the American Ballet. The line up will vary by ship and sailing, and while there is plenty to fill every evening on board your Celebrity cruise, NCL perhaps has the edge with their rave reviews and are known as one of the leading entertainment providers at sea.

Who provides the best value - Celebrity Cruises or NCL?

Both Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Line have similar inclusions, and there isn’t usually a big difference in cost for comparable cruises. It really comes down to the experience you want to pay for, and the deals available that offer you the best price.

Each brand runs regular promotions which may see discounted rates and value adds, so the best value fares generally depend on the offers available at the time of booking. Both lines tend to have tiered fares – the best priced option with standard inclusions, or an upgraded fare with additional perks.

For example, Celebrity’s Sail Your Way promotion allows you to choose an entry level fare without any extra benefits, or upgrade to include a number of bonuses which may add on a beverage package, onboard credit, or Wi-Fi. Similarly, Norwegian’s ongoing Free At Sea program allows guests to get up to five free offers (such as open bar, specialty dining, shore excursion credit, Wi-Fi, or complimentary cruise fares for additional guests) depending on stateroom category selected, or forgo these for a discounted fare.

To get the best value for you, it’s worth weighing up which offer will add the most benefit to the cruising experience you are seeking.

Who has the right itinerary for me?

Thanks to their large fleets, both Celebrity and NCL offer a comprehensive collection of itineraries around the globe. Celebrity has a particularly strong offering in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Norwegian also offers a lot of itineraries in these popular regions, but it is their round trip cruises of Hawaii that set their offering apart, not only from Celebrity, but from all lines.

They are the only operator that offers a round trip itinerary starting and finishing in Honolulu, rather than visiting Hawaii while sailing to or from another destination. With 17 ships cruising all over the world, there are hundreds of NCL cruises to choose from.

For Celebrity, it is not just where they visit that they pride themselves on, but how they do it. Celebrity focusses on immersive experiences and linger longer to showcase destinations in more depth. Their collection features over 200 overnight stays, as well as roughly 30 double overnights. In a departure from their classic cruises, Celebrity also has a handful of dedicated expeditions ships designed to island hop the Galapagos (Celebrity Flora and Xpedition) – a completely different experience to that onboard their classic cruise ships.