Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
bebe08

Somewhat loyal Celebrity cruisers try NCL

Recommended Posts

We have been on several Celebrity cruises on both classes of ship (have not sailed on the Edge).  We decided to try NCL for a Caribbean cruise because we wanted something new…either new ports or a new ship (or both).  Having been to almost all the Caribbean ports Celebrity offers, the only thing new for us would be giving the Edge a try.  I priced it and was a no go for us.  So…we booked NCL Escape which offered 3 of 4 new ports for us (Roatan, Harvest Cay Belize, and Costa Maya).   We really enjoyed all 3 of these ports and would definitely return.  Cozumel was a repeat for us and there were several ships in port that day so we stayed onboard.

 

After so many Celebrity cruises we know our way around their ships so well as they are all very similar. There is a warm familiarity about Celebrity for us that we feel as soon as we board.  The Escape is the largest ship we have been on, and I was concerned we would find it overwhelming.  However, we found it to be well laid out and easy to find our way around.

 

There are way too many differences between NCL and Celebrity to cover them all so I will highlight the ones that had an impact for us. 

 

I am posting this on both the Celebrity and NCL boards and am happy to answer any questions about our experience.

 

Veranda Stateroom

-        Escape has lots of outlets as well as USB ports on each side of the bed; the Celebrity ships we’ve sailed on are lacking in this area

-        Escape has a coffee/tea maker (woo hoo!) – none on Celebrity

-        Celebrity staterooms have nicer amenities – ie shampoo, lotion, bathrobes

-        Hallways outside the stateroom seemed narrower on NCL…need to move to the side to let others get by you

-        Escape has magnetic stripe key cards (sometimes take a few tries to get it to work), whereas most Celebrity ships now have tap cards

 

MDR

-        There are 3 MDR on Escape and we ate in 2 of them – the largest one, and one of the smaller ones.  We LOVED the ambiance – tables are more private and further apart than Celebrity and therefore MDR is not as crowded.  The large MDR also has live entertainment during dinner….nice quiet background music.   Service was excellent…I wish the staff were identified on the table placard the way Celebrity does – would help when chatting with the staff and would make it easier come survey time as well.   Unfortunately , food on Escape was only average….this is where Celebrity excels.  We did have some good dishes on the Escape, but there were also several dishes that were letdowns.  They don’t miss the mark by much…seems like something that could easily be improved. 

 

Other food/bar venues:

-        O’Sheehans:  This is an Irish pub style restaurant on the Escape with no extra fee.  We ate there several times (breakfast, lunch and supper!) and for the most part the food was really good.  It is nice to have a sit down restaurant that is in between the buffet and the MDR – wish Celebrity had something similar. How I would love to see them replace the Sushi place with something like this!!

 

-        Supper Club: Absolutely loved this on the Escape!!  Nothing comparable on Celebrity.  We went twice.  The first time had no fee, was a 3 course set dinner with Elton John/Billy Joel tribute.  Second time was an upcharge for a 5 course dinner and Melba Moore was the entertainment.  Food was delicious – best dinners we had on the ship and entertainment was great.  Venue has a really nice ambiance, not too big and all tables seem to have a good view.   While reservations are required, neither show we attended was sold out.

 

-        Atrium Café:  This was a disappointment for us on the Escape.  It is where you can get Starbucks coffee and pastries (neither of which is free or included in basic drink package).  It is in a very busy, noisy spot, next to Atrium Bar and entertainment (game shows, live music) in the Atrium.  Often the chairs from the Café were moved to the entertainment area, so no where to sit.   We love Al Baccio on Celebrity, and missed having a fairly quiet spot to go to for a cup of coffee and a snack. 

 

-        Waterfront:  The Escape has a really neat area called the waterfront which is a ¼ mile promenade of restaurants and bars.  We went there a few times to walk around and also enjoyed a drink at sail away at one of the bars – we were surprised it was not crowded.

 

-        Margaritaville at Sea:  Yes the Escape has this 🙂  There is a cover charge of $15 per person, but they only charged us for one person.  We had an enjoyable lunch there.  The margaritas are the best ever!!!  Drinks are covered by the drink package if you have one. 

 

-        Specialty restaurants:  We didn’t do any on the Escape other than what was already mentioned so can’t comment.  These restaurants book up very quickly and unlike Celebrity no “deals” are offered during the cruise. 

 

Entertainment

Theatre Shows:  The 2 shows we saw at the Escape theatre were Broadway quality and we thoroughly enjoyed them.  On Celebrity we have started to avoid the production shows as they aren’t that great, and we just go to the theatre for the guest entertainers which are usually very good.  Reservations are required on NCL, but not on Celebrity.  However, there is a standby line, and neither show was full so would have been no problem without a reservation.

 

Comedy Club:  This is a separate venue on the Escape with comedy every evening.  While reservation are required, we had no trouble getting in without a reservation.  We went to 2 shows and enjoyed them.  Celebrity doesn’t have a comedy club, but there are usually a couple of shows with comedians in the theatre.

 

Live Music:  Escape has several bars/venues with live music throughout the ship and we saw several different performers.  We enjoyed them all.  However, we did find some of the piped in music in the venues to be extremely loud, which made conversation difficult.  Celebrity on the other hand also offers some quieter music options.

 

Pool/Spa AKA our Sanctuary 🙂 

-        On Celebrity the Solarium has always been our sanctuary.  We love that it is indoors (no worry about sunburn/sunscreen) and being a solarium you feel the warmth of the sun.  We also love the pool and hot tubs, as well as the drink service.  It is a great place to relax with a drink and book and we have spent many happy hours there. There is also a small café in the solarium.  The Solarium is adults only and there is no fee.  Celebrity also has Persian Gardens for a fee* and it has heated loungers, steam room, sauna.  *Aqua category has access included. 

 

-        The Thermal Suite on the Escape is sort of a mix between the Solarium and the Persian Gardens and became our sanctuary.  There is a fee and we felt it was worth every penny.  There are a limited number of passes sold so it is never crowded.  There is a T-Pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna, salt room, snow room, and many heated loungers.  Tea and water are provided.  As this is part of the spa there is no drink or food service. 

 

-        As you’ve probably figured we avoid the main pools on both Celebrity and the Escape.  3 reasons for this:  lack of shade, very crowded, and typically noisy.  We do like to sit outside on the sundecks (away from the pools) from time to time and both Celebrity and Escape offer several options to do this.  Escape offers adults only sundeck area called Spice which has a grotto water feature for cooling off as well as hot tubs.  There is very little shade, other than what is offered by a few umbrellas.  It was quite windy when we were there so umbrellas couldn’t be used.  There is also another adults only sundeck area on the Escape called Vibe which requires purchasing a weekly pass – we did not do this so can’t comment.  The Escape also offers a waterpark and water slides which we didn’t try.

 

Other Observations

-        There was not nearly the hard sell on the Escape that we are used to seeing on Celebrity – ie do we want to upgrade our beverage package? Buy a dinner package? Get our picture taken? We weren’t afraid to make eye contact with the staff in the shopsl for fear they would try to sell us something lol. 

-        Apps by both Celebrity and NCL could both use improvements.

-        Internet was comparable on both.

-        Embarkation/Disembarkation also comparable

-        Websites – I much prefer the NCL site over Celebrity for ease of use, as well as information available

-        Drink packages: we had the basic package on the Escape and didn’t feel the need to upgrade.  It covered alcoholic drinks up to $15 as well as fountain pop.  It did not cover specialty coffee (ie Starbucks) or bottled water which seemed odd.  By comparison on Celebrity similar package would cover drinks up to $9 but also includes special coffee and bottled water.

-        Celebrity makes an effort to have Officers visible throughout the cruise, never saw this happen on the Escape.

-        We experienced excellent service on the Escape, comparable to Celebrity

 

Final Thoughts

We really enjoyed our cruise on the Escape, and the ports that we visited.  As we didn’t find the food in MDR to be as good, I would buy a dining package next time and make sure to make reservations in advance.  The only other thing we really missed about Celebrity was Al Baccio.  Perhaps a smaller NCL ship would have a quieter place to relax over coffee. 

 

In summary, I would describe NCL Escape as being big, bold and in your face, whereas Celebrity has more of an understated elegant feel about it.  We have a Celebrity cruise coming up in April and I am looking forward to that familiar feeling when we get onboard…almost like being home 🙂 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, bebe08 said:

 

-        Margaritaville at Sea:  Yes the Escape has this 🙂  There is a cover charge of $15 per person, but they only charged us for one person.  We had an enjoyable lunch there.  The margaritas are the best ever!!!  Drinks are covered by the drink package if you have one. 

 

 

 

 

Great review and comparison. It sounds like you had a good time.

 

Just an FYI that you didn't mention about Margaritaville, which means you probably didn't know:

 

You can go there for breakfast as well and it's FREE! Hardly anyone goes up there during breakfast and I'm not sure why. Maybe they just don't know about it. It's a smaller buffet with a mixture of breakfast items but they also have made to order omelettes and also breakfast sandwiches as well.

 

I just thought I would mention it in case you ever returned on another NCL ship with this type of venue on it. :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, mitsugirly said:

 

 

Great review and comparison. It sounds like you had a good time.

 

Just an FYI that you didn't mention about Margaritaville, which means you probably didn't know:

 

You can go there for breakfast as well and it's FREE! Hardly anyone goes up there during breakfast and I'm not sure why. Maybe they just don't know about it. It's a smaller buffet with a mixture of breakfast items but they also have made to order omelettes and also breakfast sandwiches as well.

 

I just thought I would mention it in case you ever returned on another NCL ship with this type of venue on it. 🙂

 

Thanks, didn't know it was free in the morning. Great idea!

Happy CRUISING, 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So happy you posted this. We haven't sailed Celebrity before, but are considering them for a January 2021 sailing. Sounds to me like they are different, but not in ways that would be terribly jarring for us. Glad you went on the Escape, as that is my favorite NCL ship! A couple of notes, on the newer ships, they do have the "tap" key cards for doors (Escape was the last with the key slot) and on the newer ships the Starbucks is it's own semi-enclosed space, so it's not as hectic as the Atrium cafe on the Escape. However, the Escape has much to love over the newer ships, in my opinion. Glad you discovered the Spa, but sad you never tried Pinchos. While Pincho is considered "specialty dining", you can get some great stuff there a la carte and it doesn't require a reservation. It's one of the main things I miss while sailing on other NCL ships.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

thanks for the review. I had to cancel celebrity cruises before due to work. i just always assumed that x food was significantly better than ncl. interesting to hear that they were comparable. 

 

i really enjoy osheana/the local bar. it's really enjoyable to have great bar food 24/7 for late nights. 

 

lastly, i didn't think it was possible for someone to try to upsell me more than on ncl 😆

Edited by DrSea

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great Review!

 

We recently sailed Celebrity Millennium from Vancouver to Tokyo and I found myself nodding as I read your review and comparisons.  You hit almost all the points I would make if I did a similar comparative review.  

 

As we are  Platinum Plus on Norwegian we do get a couple complimentary dinners in specialty restaurants. We tend to find Cagney’s (the steakhouse) underwhelming but love the steak in Le Bistro. Aboard Millennium, we took advantage of those discount offers you mentioned and ate in the Asian Restaurant one evening and at Le Petit Chef another.  We liked the Asian one and found it comparable to Norwegian’s (but typically it comes with no surcharge there). While the food was tasty at LPC, after the initial course, we were over the animation and we disliked  that we had to wait (or hurry up) since the whole restaurant is served at the same. Glad we got it at a discount, wouldn’t go again unless it was with a child or was free. There was no Milano’s aboard Millennium but suspect we would have liked it. 

 

Like you, we are glad to have tried a different line, as it adds to our opportunities!  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, mitsugirly said:

 

 

Great review and comparison. It sounds like you had a good time.

 

Just an FYI that you didn't mention about Margaritaville, which means you probably didn't know:

 

You can go there for breakfast as well and it's FREE! Hardly anyone goes up there during breakfast and I'm not sure why. Maybe they just don't know about it. It's a smaller buffet with a mixture of breakfast items but they also have made to order omelettes and also breakfast sandwiches as well.

 

I just thought I would mention it in case you ever returned on another NCL ship with this type of venue on it. 🙂

 

Thanks for the tip 🙂

Also, thanks for your review of the Escape...I was eagerly following it right up until we left for our cruise.  Was very helpful and loved your pictures 🙂

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, bebe08 said:

Thanks for the tip 🙂

Also, thanks for your review of the Escape...I was eagerly following it right up until we left for our cruise.  Was very helpful and loved your pictures 🙂

 

 

 

Aww, thanks so much. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the your review, going on the Escape for the first time and gives me some insight.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Margaritaville at Sea for breakfast.  Going to try this in May.  Never bothered to stop by there, but they were usually empty, just behind rails so never thought about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, Mikiejag said:

Margaritaville at Sea for breakfast.  Going to try this in May.  Never bothered to stop by there, but they were usually empty, just behind rails so never thought about it.

 

I want to point out to anyone who might be sailing on the Bliss that they do not have the buffet breakfast in Margaritaville like they do on the Escape and Breakaway class ships. We asked about it on our December Bliss sailing and they said they had stopped doing it because it was too inconvenient to transport the food from the Garden Cafe, which is on the front of the ship on the Bliss. We were disappointed, because it HAD been available when we sailed on the Bliss last February.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loved your review!  We ventured over to celebrity a few years ago and loved it. Now we have 3 under our belt.   We had some cruise next certificates to use and decided on escape. Loved that! We are now platinum.   Oh what to do. So we jumped ship and tried the Havana area on the new carnival ships!  Oh my gosh, amazing!!!
People need to venture out of the box. Each line has there critics and cheerleaders but we love the differences!  We have never had a bad cruise with inedible food and awful service!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This review caught my eye as we are long time Rccl and a few celebrity cruises.  Just got back from the summit last December.  We also took our first cruise on NCL - TA on the Encore.  We were pleasantly surprised with NCL.  Granted, the  ship was not at capacity. However, we loved the ship, entertainment and the perks made it a great experience.  This is one of the reasons we are looking more to Celebrity vs RCCL.  RCCL give us a discount for a drink package but it’s still an expense that when comparing total cost and value, celebrity wins most of the time.  We do still love their oasis class ships 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We sailed on Getaway in December and have previously sailed on Celebrity, the last time on Reflection in November, 2018. 

The entertainment on Norwegian is so much better. Burn the Floor, Howl at the Moon, Comedy Club, Million Dollar Quartet, plus the Main Theatre were all fantastic. My recollection of Reflection, not so much, unless you are a fan of athletic violinists.

We don’t use the pool but always managed to find a vacant lounger with shade on the pool deck and never had any great difficulty maneuvering through the masses.

There are eighteen bars on Getaway and we never had to wait too long for service on any of them. Plus Bailey’s isn’t classed as a premium so bonus point from me.

Granted, the food is slightly better on Celebrity but we have never had any complaints with NCL’s offerings. We don’t have to cook, serve, wash or load and empty a dishwasher and have never lost weight on a cruise so not an issue.

We will be on Celebrity Constellation next week and will take it as it comes and enjoy the cruise for what it is. Just hope the violinist is on another ship.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/20/2020 at 10:46 PM, mitsugirly said:

 

 

Great review and comparison. It sounds like you had a good time.

 

Just an FYI that you didn't mention about Margaritaville, which means you probably didn't know:

 

You can go there for breakfast as well and it's FREE! Hardly anyone goes up there during breakfast and I'm not sure why. Maybe they just don't know about it. It's a smaller buffet with a mixture of breakfast items but they also have made to order omelettes and also breakfast sandwiches as well.

 

I just thought I would mention it in case you ever returned on another NCL ship with this type of venue on it. 🙂

 

I  agree the smaller breakfast buffet at Margaritaville and served breakfast in the pub are wonderful options. I prefer them both to a MDR or Garden Cafe buffet. Quieter ways start the day, quick service and I can get a made to order omelet at either place. I don't need 30 options at breakfast, I am probably only going to select 3, lol.

Edited by Nola26

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great review. Never been on Celebrity.  Nice to see another point of view.

 

Have been with NCL a long time but will admit that the food could use some improvement. You selected a great ship for your 1st time. Escape in my favorite. Really love the layout and as mentioned, easy to get around.

 

 Hope you come back to NCL again.  Next time try the NCL Jewel class. They have more quiet spaces and half the people. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...