Help needed please, NCL or Carnival (Caribbean)?



Hello all, Happy New Year,

Advice greatly welcome for this cruise virgin couple. We are in our early 30's, cruising with a 2 1/2 year old and trying to decide between a February; NCL 7 day Eastern Caribbean (balcony room, Norwegian Dawn), 9 day eastern Caribbean (ocean view, Norwegian Jewel) or 8 day eastern Caribbean Carnival (ocean view, Carnival Freedom). We are thinking NAC or Carnival over the rest because they seem to have the best program for under three year olds....yes, better than Disney. We also love the fact that NCL's programs tend to have a better time ashore than at sea ratio than most others. We think it will be seeing the new places that is the real holiday but are eager to hear if we are being naive, are the port visits really just tourist traps (we are well seasoned travellers, but newbies in North America)?
Here is the kicker, we are getting a bit put off by what we are reading on customer reviews on various websites. They seem to be fairly negative, especially on NCL (and the Dawn in particular). We are not especially particular people so we can deal with overworked service staff who don't overly pamper us. I guess the major questions we would love some help with before throwing down the cash are;

1. With a young one, our love of partying with is now well tempered with a preference for ensuring the right things by our two year old. Some people say Carnival is the cruise for boozed up 20-somethings (us 5 years ago), other say that is rubbish and they have moved on. From what I can see they seem fairly family friendly, the truth lies somewhere in between?

2. The floor plan of the Norwegian Jewel Ocean view room seems to fit in a double and nothing else. Does anyone know what they plan for us to do with the 2 year old? The other rooms all seem to have a couch that turns into a bed. The NCL Jewel ocean view rooms don't seem to - I will call and ask the cruise line, but I'm sure they are going to say "no, its perfect for the three of you". From what I can see by small website photos it looks like the carnival rooms are a bit bigger, is that fair? I wonder if a NCL Balcony room is bigger then a Carnival Ocean view?

3. Could any cruiser with a 2-3 year old say what they found was a good cruise length?

4. What should one budget as a per day additional cost to your cruise?

General advice about Carnival vs NCL and indeed, cruising the Caribbean in general will be very much welcomed!



Hope this comes to you in a timely maner. First of all It's fair to say most of our experience between the two cruise lines is with Carnival however we are looking at NCL Nov. 29,09. After reasearching NCL I think I can safely say that with a 2 1/2 yr old with you Carnival may be the better choice given the cabins, Carnival's are significantly larger. Now I am sure NCL has some sort of day camp for young ones as Carnival does what you need to do is call the cruise lines and see what the minimum age is. It's nice that they provide a full days entrtainment while you guys get a break to enjoy yourselves (reinvigerate the romance). Cruising vacations are wonderful family (best bang for the buck) vacations. Both cruise lines are fairly informal given to a more relaxed time.

As I said at the outset I think cabin size may be a significant factor for you. I also may be just a wee bit wary with a balcony and a two year old. The ocean view may be a better choice.


I have a different feeling than the posting above: first let me say, the lines are more alike than different and yes, Carnival does have slightly larger cabins which may be important, but NCL was recently voted the best line for new curisers. This in itself is something to think about. Add to it, NCL will allow you to use the kids club for 2 year olds if they are potty trained or almost. They will ask you to carry a beeper in case the little one needs changing. Carnival also has a great kids program but unless it has been recently changed the kids have to be 3 to use it.

The big difference in my mind, freestyle dining with little ones. You can choose to eat when your toddler wants to eat, not when the ship says you can eat. Traditional dining means either you eat at 6:15 or 8:15 or you have all your meals in the buffet. Freestyle means you can choose to eat at 5:30, 6:00, 9pm or whenever. You also have more dining choices, both free and sur charge. BTW, the Jewel is an awesome ship.


Call each cruise line and ask them the square footage of the room, then compare. We have had the best experience with RCL., compared to NCL and Carnival.


As already mentioned by a couple of us, Carnival does have the largest cabins. RCI and NCL has similar sizes to each other. However I don' think you are considering RCI so it is a moot point.

Good luck and let us know what you decide.



Hi My husband and I have been cruising for several years. We have taken daughter (now 11) on several of those cruises. She went on her first cruise at age 3 on Carnival Paradise. It was a 11 day out of Miami. She loved it everyday. She enjoyed sleeping in the same room as us and and got to swim everyday. She went to camp carnival quite a bit. She loved that also. The cabins are very roomy. We took a Royal Caribbean cruise one time with her. The room was a bit smaller. Not enough to matter to us.( I know it is not NCL, but someone mentioned the rooms were about the same size). I have seen a few cabin pictures from NCL Spirit, it looks as though the beds fold down from the wall. Every room may be different though. Carnival has fold down beds. My kids love them.

My son (now 5) has been on 2 cruises, both with Carnival. So, there were 4 of us in a room. No, problem there either. We are considering a cruise on NCL Spirit in March. I am also concerned about the size of the cabin and having only one pool. I see that there is a small children's pool adjacent to the kid's camp. I am not sure if we can just freely use that pool. That is one of my main concerns. My kids love to swim and it keeps them very occupied on "sea days". I think that as long as you bring a few new toys to occupy her on "sea days" she should be fine. I think you should plan, just in case she cannot or will not go to the kids camp. The counselors will not take a child that is screaming and crying. Every child is different. My son does not like going to camp. My daughter is more social- but I think that is the "girl" in her.

Good luck with you decision. I know it can be difficult to decide. We all know money does not grow on trees. We want a great vacation! Just keep a positive attitude about everything. The hardest part for me is that we share the ship with a lot of people. Sometimes it is those people who can spoil your fun. Not the ship. We paid for a balcony one time (Carnival Conquest). We could not enjoy our balcony. We are not smokers. Everyone around us smoked and partied on their balconies all night. Not fun when you want your kids to sleep. I think everyone wants to have fun on their trip. Everyone's idea of fun is different. We as a family can have a lot of fun even if the cabin is a bit small. Just decide what is most important. A large cabin, the ports-of-call, the ship size, the swimming pools, ect.. Hey, I think I may have just helped myself make a decision..:lol. The balcony can be a bit scary with a small child in the room. Our balcony door had a lock which was placed really high and was kinda difficult to open. The balcony also had a glass/plastic type wall. Not railings like around the ship.

Hope I did not ramble too much. Happy decision making!!!


just to let you know, you are going to find the cabins on the Spirit very small after sailing Carnival. This is not to discourage you as we love the Spirit and we know kids who were on it with us (some of my clients) a few months ago. The kids said it was the best cruise they had ever taken. Like your kids they were cruise vets, but I did want you to know this before you actually book. You will love the itinerary, the freestyle (especially with kids) and the layout of the ship...

hope this helps a little



Did you decide yet?
My husband and I are in the late 20s, early 30s age range and though we have no kids, we are NOT party-people so we were hesitant about Carnival. We threw caution to the wind and booked an Eastern Caribbean Itinerary and LOVED it! I can't speak to the children's programs, but we liked the atmosphere on the cruise and found the food very good (better than Royal Caribbean, in our opinion).
I have cruised NCL to Bermuda and in Hawaii and wasn't impressed. I didn't like freestyle, though some people love it. Cabins on Carnival are bigger than NCL and Royal Caribbean.
Just my two cents!


The restrooms on NCL Dawn have large showers. This can be a big plus with a 2 1/2 year old. Look at the floor plans, you will understand what I mean.


yes whatever NCL is lacking in, the bathrooms are not one of them. They have te nicest at sea..

I will add one thing, because this thread is 2 months old< I am sure the OP has made his decision...