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Carnival Panorama Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
71 Reviews

Comparing NCL and Carnival

Carnival Panorama Cruise Review by GPS guy

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2019
  • Destination: the Mexican Riviera
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean View

We chose this new, Carnival ship to compare to the new NCL ships we have been on in the past. Over the Christmas week, my husband and I were lucky enough to be on Carnival’s new ship, the Panarama. As a life-time NCL cruiser, I offer the following comparison:

The processes to get on board vary as much by company as they do for location. Carnival has their own terminal in Long Beach, Ca where the boarding process is seamless. I have been on four Carnival cruises so far, and any bad experiences about boarding escape me. Likewise, we offer nothing ill to say about boarding NCL in Long Beach or New York. Being long-time east coasters now benefitting from the close port in CA, we find it convenient to take advantage of shorter cruises on both Carnival and NCL.

On Carnival ships, both brand new and older, the casino offers no non-smoking area. I found the Carnival casino staff had a greater command of English, and were very “laid back” and generous with their complimentary casino perks. The Panorama’s casino drink policy is pretty straight forward: you either get a drink card with your casino stateroom (how we book), or you don’t. We had a card given to my husband and I received a credit on my card. Regardless, anyone playing at the casino enjoys complimentary drinks once the player’s card registers 1500 points.

The NCL’s new ship, The Escape, which we sailed on last year, did offer a non-smoking area at the casino. This was an AWESOME benefit. I find that non-casino people also come to the smoking casino areas to take advantage of the ashtrays, which severely impedes the casino fun.

I found Carnival more generous with perks at the casino, while NCL has a more regimented, seasonal approach to counting points. Combined with offers from long-time cruising, NCL offers more perks. From a strict casino point of view, I have not sailed Carnival long enough to offer a fair comparison of point perks.

All in all, I find Carnival’s staff more friendly, but their attention to detail and pride of job performance is not as high as NCL. Both are important; personally I appreciate the attention to detail approach over laid-back and chatty.

My pet peeve on Carnival was the lack of hand sanitizers; no one spraying before entering ships, and no one encouraging hand sanitation before meals. I predict a major stomach illness spreading quickly on the Carnival ships if they don’t improve this. The entire casino on Carnival’s Panorama only had one hand sanitizer which I thought was totally inadequate.

In addition to casino experiences, we enjoyed fine dining on both cruise lines. Sorry, NCL, but Carnival beats you. No one makes you feel like you are using food stamps when the Carnival’s casino sends you to dinner. No complaining about ordering a second starter. NCL, I love you, but you need to cut down on buffet and splurge on those paying up charges for dinner. For example, at the Japanese steakhouse restaurant on Carnival, a young girl who only ordered lobster, asked the chef if she could have some filet. He immediately, without blinking an eye, got more filet and all parties applauded. The JiJi restaurant. chef on the Carnival ship went out of his way to make us a fresh ginger sauce. As well, the Carnival’s Captain’s Italian restaurant was outrageously good, especially the homemade, cheese appetizer.

I also liked the buffet being divided into areas on Carnival. I don’t know how they they did it, but a sold-out ship did not look full. The casino was not crazy-crowded, nor were the main spaces. But, there were not enough bathrooms, especially near the casino on Carnival.

Besides more facilities, the views on The Escape were amazing. I liked getting up early and getting breakfast while overlooking the ocean in a relaxing, comfy chair. It required more effort to get a glimpse of the ocean on Carnival’s ship. Speaking of views, I disliked the portable chairs for the main theater. During one rock tribute show, the extensive, dramatic gestures of the cast were over the top. They were talented, but it was excessive and I ended up leaving. On the other hand, the female comedian on Carnival’s Panorama was phenomenal, but the older male comedian was just plain disgusting during his “adult” session.

Overall, NCL’s talent out does Carnival’s, with the exception of a few of the comedians. I have never found the Second City group on NCL funny, at all. I cannot comment favorably enough on the Latitudes program on NCL. I love its perks. As we go forward, we will be enjoying both lines, and look forward to NCL making the wise decision to park a new, large ship permanently in LA. I do feel more confident with NCL’s captain after Carnival’s recent mishaps. I do like that extra attention to detail, and appreciate sleeping without worry.

Good job to both lines; cruising is my passion.

Happy New Year from Platinum Cruise Muse


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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean View

Clean, nice, but didn’t like the color theme.


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