Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

    I sailed on two Norwegian cruises — one that’s $685 a night and one that’s $130. Here’s how I think they compare.

    Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ traditional Norweigan cruise brand and ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas target the opposite travelers.

    Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings operates three brands: Norwegian, Regent Seven Seas, and Oceania.Mass-market Norwegian and ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas target travelers from different demographics.See how NCLH’s cheapest and most expensive cruise operators compare in amenities, price, and overall experience.

    Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings isn’t always known for its caviar dinners and complimentary Champagne. But to some wealthy cruisers, these luxuries could be synonymous with the company.

    The cruise giant oversees three brands: mass-market Norwegian Cruise Line, premium Oceania Cruises, and ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises. As the cheapest and most expensive operators, the former and the latter couldn’t be more different.

    See how two of Norwegian and Regent Seven Seas’ newer cruise ships compare — and which could be the best for you.

    Norwegian Cruise Line’s Prima — the traditional option with splashy, family-friendly amenities

    The Norwegian Prima was the first of six Prima class vessels.

    In October 2022, Norwegian Cruise Line invited me on the Norwegian Prima’s non-revenue inaugural sailing. At the time, the 3,100-guest vessel was the newest addition to the brand’s family and one of its most popular products yet.

    The cruise line touts itself as a “family-oriented” brand. And after four nights on the 965-foot-long Prima, I agree.

    Like many new mass-market ships, the $1.1 billion vessel was as much a floating resort as it was an amusement park.

    The “Galaxy Pavilion” virtual reality arcade looked like something out of a “Black Mirror” episode.

    The Prima’s upper decks are a dream for any bored child. Here, families can indulge in the water and dry slides, escape rooms, virtual reality arcade, and tri-level go-kart track, to name a few amenities.

    Most of these seemed like unusual additions to a cruise. But after going on a very casual virtual alien-slaughtering rampage by way of an uncomfortably bulky headset, it’s easy to see why these flashy activities have made the Prima a hot cruise for families.

    It’s not everyday entertainment on land, nonetheless a ship.

    The Prima has a modern and kitschy twist on mini-golf, pictured, and darts.

    These decks’ booming sound effects, bright structures, and hyperactive children could be overwhelming for any adult.

    That’s when it’s time to head to the adults-only pool lounge, comedy club, or cocktail bar.

    For some reason, the go-kart track has a bar as well. Don’t think too much about its implications.

    The long open-air walkway has lounge chairs and beds, pools, and hot tubs.

    In the theater, Prima’s entertainment could appeal to cruise show haters. Performances during my sailing included “The Price Is Right Live” and “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.”

    As a sometimes cruise cynic, I must say both were unexpectedly enjoyable.

    And as far as staterooms go, my family balcony cabin was roomy and flexed plenty of storage, modern details, and an unfortunate eye-sore of a mural.

    The Norwegian Prima’s family balcony cabin is 230 square-feet.

    But like other mass market cruises, travelers could easily blow past their vacation budget once on board.

    The Prima’s most enticing amenities — the VR arcade, mini-golf course, and go-kart track — are all pay-to-play.

    If you get bored of the five complimentary dining venues, the Starbucks and eight specialty restaurants — including sushi and Italian pasta — will also cost extra.

    However, one of the “free” options includes an 11-venue food hall, which is still one of my favorite cruise dining experiences.

    The bustling food hall has options like Spanish tapas and Singaporean noodles.

    Norwegian has since welcomed its 19th vessel, the Norwegian Viva.

    In 2024, Viva’s itineraries start at $1,200 per person for a 10-day cruise, while Prima’s cheapest is $900 per person for a seven-day sailing.

    As sister vessels, many of their amenities are the same.

    Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Grandeur — the ultra-luxury option with ultra-expensive fares

    The Seven Seas Grandeur joined Regent’s fleet in 2023.

    Regent Seven Seas is smaller than its mass-market sibling, both in the size of its fleet and vessels.

    The operator only has six ships. Its newest, the Seven Seas Grandeur, accommodates 746 guests.

    Its fares are as exhilarating as the Prima’s go-kart track. The Grandeur’s cheapest 2024 itinerary starts at $4,800 per person for seven nights.

    Chartreuse served dishes like beef tartare with sturgeon caviar.

    A cool $685 per night might seem expensive. But hear me out: What you pay is what you get.

    As an all-inclusive cruise line, this fare can include roundtrip flights, pre-cruise hotel, and food, alcohol, and excursions.

    Need to do laundry? No problem. That’s included as well.

    The Seven Seas Grandeur has 503 chandeliers, including one in its atrium.

    In December 2023, Regent Seven Seas invited me on the Grandeur’s non-revenue “christening” sailing. The best part was the food.

    The $516 million floating hotel doesn’t serve run-of-the-mill cruise meals. During my three nights at sea, I dined on sturgeon caviar, seared foie gras, and black truffles — and they’d all be at no additional cost to passengers.

    For all the drinkers, the wine and cocktails flowed as freely as the lobster and filet mignon.

    The ship has a stocked library that includes destination guidebooks.

    The Grandeur was built to be luxurious, tranquil, and generally kid-free.

    There are no loud waterslides, arcades, or go-kart tracks. Instead, travelers can spend their afternoons at a cooking class, reading in the library, or playing bocce.

    The Sports Deck has a putting green and a pickleball court.

    Parts of the Norwegian Prima can only be accessed by guests who’ve booked more expensive cabin categories.

    But because everything on the 735-foot-long Grandeur is included in its price — sans spa treatments and some expensive wines and excursions — almost nothing on the ship is off-limits.

    This includes afternoons in the sauna, cocktails at the lounges, and espressos at the coffee shop.

    Nighttime programming includes a DJ in the Grandeur Lounge.

    With no overstimulating onboard activities, I thought I would feel bored for most of the sailing. But to my surprise, I was relaxed — an emotion I had never associated with cruises.

    Sure, the gym was too small, the nighttime “Marauders’ Ball” show too cringe, and the $6 million in on-board art (including pieces by Pablo Picasso) too ostentatious.

    But these negatives were quickly forgotten during the peaceful afternoon tea service and whenever I returned to my concierge suite.

    The concierge suite ranges from 415 to 464 square-feet.

    The 332-square-foot cabin, my most sumptuous cruise stateroom to date, came with an unexpectedly spacious balcony, a walk-in closet, and a marble-accented bathroom with — wait for it — a bathtub.

    Forget a cruise ship! I want those amenities in my New York City apartment. I would’ve moved into my Grandeur cabin if I had the money.

    Norwegian Cruise Line and Regent Seven Seas Cruises couldn’t be more the opposite

    There are no go-karts in sight on Regent Seven Seas’ ships.

    The brands follow two approaches to cruise pricing. Regent Seven Seas is expensive but all-inclusive. Its mass-market counterpart is more affordable but at the expense of having irresistible pay-to-play amenities.

    These models then lay the groundwork for the ships’ intentions. Norwegian Prima seemed designed to foster exhaustively fun, activity-filled trips. Seven Seas Grandeur is the opposite; instead conducive to a relaxing and quiet vacation.

    What’s best for you depends on what you want — and what you can afford.

    If money isn’t a problem, Regent Seven Seas’ ships can provide a five-star hotel experience with the convenience of cruising. However, Norwegian is best for families, especially if parents need amusement park-like amenities to distract their young ones.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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