A large cruise ship, the Norwegian Dawn, sailing across a blue ocean

Searching for your first or next cruise can be overwhelming. Try to figure out all the differences between these cruise lines because, at first, they all seem very similar to you. In fact, most passengers will experience largely the same on each cruise line. Below, we’ve covered several differences between Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines. Just remember that, in general, your experience will be the same on these cruise lines. However, you’ll notice some major differences.

Difference between Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line

1. Ships and their size

Carnival Cruise Line has 24 ships that travel the world, and most can hold around 3,000 passengers. However, the cruise line’s oldest and smallest ship, the Fantasy Class, can only hold 2,000 passengers, while the biggest ship, the Excel Class, can hold more than 5,000 guests.

The Norwegian cruise line fleet is slightly smaller, with 19 operating ships, and it offers a wider range of ship sizes and designs. The cruise line’s oldest and smallest ships, Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun, hold only 2,000 passengers. In comparison, large vessels like the Norwegian Epic or Norwegian Escape can have double the capacity of 4,000 passengers.

2. Cabins and Suites

Carnival cruise ships have spacious standard cabin sizes, among the largest in the industry. The smallest ships have five room categories, and the largest ships, such as Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, have more than 25 categories.

Norwegian cruise ship cabins are in line with industry standards. However, balconies on some of the newest ships are notably small. There are many cabin categories to choose from, even on the smallest ships. Moreover, there is an extensive selection of family cabins, including suites, Oceanview, balconies, and inside options.

Also Check: Browse the Norwegian Cruise sailings for a wonderful cruise vacation

3. Food and Drinks

Carnival has some of the best food in the industry. Here, you won’t find 5-star cuisine but the grubby, greasy, and casual dining options on Carnival’s ships. It is worth the hype. Almost all of the dining on Carnival’s ships is inclusive. Other included eateries can be found serving burritos, pizza, paninis, and tacos. This cruise line has a main dining room with both traditional and flexible dining times. Moreover, you can enjoy specialty dining as well, but most ships only have a couple of for-fee restaurants.

The Norwegian Cruise line is based around freestyle cruising with no set dining times or even dress codes. Instead, this cruise line has several restaurants available for dining each evening. On this cruise line, you’ll enjoy more freedom and flexibility with your dining. Still, most restaurants onboard are specialty restaurants that cost extra. Moreover, most of the ships have upwards of 8 specialty restaurants, including Japanese, French, Italian, and Brazilian.

4. Entertainment

Both cruise lines offer a wide range of onboard entertainment. Still, Norwegian offers its world-class performances and award-winning Broadway shows. Moreover, both ships have comedy, musical performances, and a live band to entertain you. So be sure to check their entertainment options before you book if you have any specific requirements.

5. Itineraries, Destinations, and Homeports

This cruise line is known for having the most US homeports, sailing out of 14 different departure ports on the North American mainland on a seasonal or regular basis. It often offers itineraries to other destinations such as the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada/New England, and Mexico. It also sails to Europe and Australia, including the South Pacific and Papua New Guinea.

Norwegian Cruise Line is spread across more international homeports and focuses on smaller US homeports than Carnival. It sails from 14 homeports on the North American mainland, including Puerto Rico, on a seasonal or regular basis. It offers itineraries from and to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico, Alaska, and New England/Canada. Moreover, it provides seasonal Northern Europe and Mediterranean itineraries year-round from Hawaii; it offers Hawaiian island cruises.

Also Read: Check out the Carnival Cruise sailings for a wonderful cruise advanture

Carnival vs Royal Caribbean vs Norwegian: How to Know Which Cruise Line is Best for You

Choosing between these three cruise lines is very difficult since each offers unique experiences and amenities. Carnival is often seen as the most family-friendly and budget-conscious option, with a festive and casual atmosphere. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines cater to a broader audience and offer luxury and adventure. Norwegian offers freestyle cruising, while Royal Caribbean stands out for its innovative ships that include attractions such as robotic bartenders, ice skating rinks, and high-tech entertainment.

Also Read: What are the 5 Best Cruise Lines for Seniors?


If you’re a first-time cruiser, both cruise lines are perfect. Norwegian Cruise Line has innovative onboard attractions and a contemporary take on casual cruising. At the same time, Carnival Cruise Line is great for food and offers a Fun Ship experience in a casual environment at an affordable price.

FAQs about Carnival Cruise Line vs. Norwegian Cruise Line

1. Which is cheaper, Carnival or Norwegian?

Carnival cruise line is considered less expensive than the Norwegian cruise line due to several factors.

2. What makes the Norwegian Cruise Line different?

Norwegian Cruise Line offers sailings at different prices to global destinations on their beautiful hull art, pioneering Freestyle Dining, and buzzworthy amenities such as racetracks and ice bars on its ships.

3. Which is the cheapest cruise line?

Carnival cruise lines often stand out for their affordability compared to other cruise lines in the American market.

4. Is Norwegian Cruise better than Carnival?

If you want a fun ship cruise experience, choose Carnival Cruise Line. If you want innovative onboard attractions and contemporary casual cruising, choose a Norwegian Cruise.