Princess Cruises Versus Celebrity Cruises: Which Is Better?
If I gave you the daily programs from my recent cruises on these two lines, you would see they are offering and doing all the same things on board. On the surface these two cruise lines appear to be interchangeable, with little to differentiate one from the other.
However, one of these lines (Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises) is better than the other – as I’m going to show you.
Really The Same?
If I covered up the cruise line name on their daily programs, you would absolutely struggle to tell which was Princess Cruises and which was Celebrity Cruises.
They have the same range and types of activities: quizzes, game shows, deck games, enrichment talks, cooking demos, movies out on deck, art auctions, bingo, fitness classes, fitness seminars, shopping deal events, and so on.
They have the same entertainment. Live music around the ship, on the pool deck and in the bars and lounges. The main theatre shows are the same too. They are all song-and-dance review shows.
On the newer ships, with more modern theatres, the shows are a bit bigger and glitzier, like “Rock Opera” on Princess, and “Kaleidoscope” on Edge. They have guest entertainers with the usual singers, magicians and so on. They have big casinos.
Their dress codes follow a classical and traditional cruise approach, with a mix of smart casual and dress up nights. On Princess, it’s called, “Dress To Impress” and on Celebrity it’s “Evening Chic”.
Dining is also largely the same. There’s a mix of included dining venues and some specialty restaurants with added fees. There are main dining rooms with early, late, or any time options for dinner, a buffet restaurant, called Oceanview Cafe on Celebrity and Horizon Court on Princess. They both have informal dining venues around the pool.
The specialty restaurants are broadly similar. Princess has Sabatini Italian, Crown Grill Steakhouse and Bistro Sur La Mer, their French Bistro. Celebrity has the Tuscan Grille, which is Italian. Murano, which is French and Petit chef. Both have sushi restaurants, the SeaView Bar on Princess, Sushi on Five on Celebrity.
They have their signature coffee shops, International Cafe on Princess, Cafe al Bacio on Celebrity, Spa and Fitness Centres and so on.
On this basis, there is really very little to choose between them. If you like a classic cruise experience and ship, which I do, neither is better.
However, during my cruises as I settled in and probed deeper, I experienced some differences that has affected which I’m choosing as being better. And I think should factor into your thinking too.
On checking, I found that both cruise lines have fleets of the same size. Princess has in service, or about to come into service at time of recording, 15 classic traditional cruise ships. Celebrity cruises also has 15 ships, 13 classic cruise ships and 3 expedition ships in the Galapagos.
Both offer sailings all around the world on their classic cruise ships. Princess has the upper hand calling on 380 ports in 100 countries, while Celebrity calls on 80 fewer ports (300) in 79 countries. And while they both cover most popular cruise regions; Princess runs world cruises that Celebrity don’t do.
But I found at both Future Cruise Sales desks that I could find they offered every itinerary I was looking at. I decided that although Princess calls in more ports, it has an edge here but is not significantly the better.
But what they are doing with their new ships does.
As Princess adds new ships they are sticking to an existing style and format. The newer ships are getting bigger but the ships like Sky Princess, Enchanted Princess, Discovery Princess are the same layout and format as the slightly older and previous Royal Princess, Regal Princess, but with an extra deck.
They have the same look, the same venues, the same facilities. Their focus instead is on making the way things work on all their ships better through technology with their Medallion and Medallion-Class updates.
The Medallion is a wearable device and an app. It speeds up your check-in. It opens your cabin door, enables you to order drinks and food wherever you are, enables the crew to provide a more personalised service. I have a video about this in more depth, so wont dwell on the detail.
Princess is sticking with what is familiar to current and past guests.
Celebrity is taking a different tack.
On one hand they have the Millennium and the Solstice classes, which makes up the bulk of their fleet and from the outside and inside have very traditional cruise ship look and layouts. But all their newer ships are very different.
As Celebrity expand their fleet, unlike Princess, they have a brand-new class of ships: The Edge class. With Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex and Celebrity Beyond.
These ships are very different and divide opinion, especially with existing Celebrity passengers I have spoken to. They have new hull shape, the Magic Carpet on one side, and big changes to the cabins with Infinity cabins, which don’t have balconies you walk out onto. There are big decor changes that much more modern and trendier.
They have new venues on them like Eden, which again, divides existing cruise passengers. It’s a three-level venue which has quirky entertainment and more avant-garde food and drinks.
They’ve ditched the one large main dining room and replaced it with four smaller dining rooms, which you move between. Tuscan, which is more Italian. Cosmopolitan, which is modern American cuisine. Mediterranean in Cyprus and more French cuisine in Normandy.
If I step on a Princess ship, no matter where in the world, no matter which ship it is, it will be very familiar every time. It will look the same, have pretty much the same layout. The facilities, everything will be incredibly familiar.
When I go on Celebrity, what it looks, feels like and many of the facilities will be different based on which ship I go on.
This makes, in my view, one line better based on who you are and what you are looking for.
Princess are focusing on one type of traveller, which maybe you. They’re focusing on couples and probably multi-generational travellers. Princess Cruises are appealing to a more traditional cruise travellers’ profile, those more likely to be in their fifties, sixties and seventies. People who want a predictable, consistent and familiar experience.
Celebrity I think, as they make no bones about it, are trying to attract a younger and more diverse traveller including solo travellers, by introducing solo cabins with balconies now on their new ships.
They’re pushing social media stars like their Captain Kate to engage that kind of social media active community. You see it in the advertising. You see it in their design. They’re trying to become a more youthful appeal cruise line.
They’re also trying to be more luxurious. They’ve upgraded the design. They’ve upgraded the food. They’ve upgraded the service, and they’re trying to attract users who is more driven towards a luxury end of the premium larger ship cruise lines, but not quite at the ultra-luxury Seabourn. Silversea, Regent Seven Seas level.
Which is better? It depends on what you like! Do you want something more familiar and perhaps a bit more traditional, or do you want something that is more modern? And do you want to know that no matter which ship you step on from the line, any itinerary, anywhere in the world, when you step on that ship, it will be familiar and the same?
While you think about that, as I struggled with that as both have merits, there is another issue that did help me decide which was best.
Both lines have a very wide range of cabins on their ships. Inside right up to suites.
However, I could see on my cruise that Celebrity is dedicating more energy on differentiating between cabin classes.
For example, if I travel on Princess in a mini suite, I don’t have any dedicated, specific areas, but on Celebrity, their equivalent is Aqua Class, and they have a dedicated restaurant called Blu and some access to the spa and so on.
If I travel in a suite on Princess, I obviously have the suite, which is great. I have a smallish concierge lounge. I have an area allocated in the main dining room for suite guests but with the same menu mostly. I can eat breakfast in Sabatini, but you I have dedicated facilities beyond that.
Celebrity, however, has what they call the Retreat experience. Obviously, I have my suite, I have a dedicated deck which has, on the Edge-class ships, a plunge pool and on the other ships, it has a hot tub. I have a large retreat lounge, which is on a bigger scale than the Princess Concierge lounge. I have a dedicated restaurant (Luminae) with its own kitchen.
In my experience, if I was planning cruising in a suite again, excuse the pun here, Celebrity has the edge here for that. Possibly in a mini suite too, but for rest of the grades not.
However, even taking that into account, there is another obstacle that I came up against, and when I asked people on my channel, their preference between Princess and Celebrity, the issue of fares came up, and that shifted opinions in my view on who offers better value.
When looking at which cruises to book ahead, Celebrity was costing more for the same grade on the same itinerary at the same time than Princess.
On the plus side for me, as I like this, both now offer more all-inclusive fares.
Celebrity has “Always Included” fares. And that includes Wi-Fi, gratuities and includes a drinks package. And depending on the grade I travel, the amount of WI-FI or the level of the drinks package gets higher and higher.
Princess have an opt-in Princess plus fare, which includes the same things. But unlike Celebrity, there is also the basic Princess fare that does not include those. So, if you don’t drink or use Wi-Fi much or at all, this could make them better for you.
But if you prefer more all-inclusive fares, like I do, both offer that. However, I am likely to have to pay a premium if I’m going on Celebrity over Princess. In return I probably am getting to get a slightly more luxurious experience.
So, which is the best line depends on how you define value and balance all those elements.
So where did I net out taking all of this into account. The problem I still faced was, like many of you, after all of this I liked both lines and enjoyed my cruises on them. I found it hard to choose between them. As I started to plan future cruises though, it did become clearer.
I’ve booked both of those for two very different experiences and two different reasons.
I booked Majestic Princess to Alaska because Princess cruises are the experts in Alaska. They have and own facilities on land, lodges, trains, buses, and so I booked balcony cabin on Majestic Princess to go to Alaska because I think that they will give me the best experience there as they have more expertise and a familiar experience will be welcome as that I can slip into quickly and focus on the destination.
However, I booked Celebrity Edge in summer in the Mediterranean. It’s a peak season. It’s when ships are full and busy. For this I’ve booked in a Retreat suite. First, because this is a special occasion with my partner as part of our wedding anniversary celebrations. Second, we know the ports and so the ship plays a bigger role on this trip, and I do think that their suite experience has the edge and third as this is peak season having the Retreat facilities will be a bonus and a retreat literally.
With everything that I discovered, the better line became obvious to me when looking at what I wanted to do at a particular point in time and for what reason. That helped see which made the best value
Is this a cop out? Possibly, but I don’t think so as since both offer a premium cruise on similar sized ships, both have the same overall daily program and facilities as discussed at the start this, both offer all-inclusive fare and to get the best value experience what I am doing, where and when drives which is better. The right line for the right trip determines what is better.
ABOUT TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Gary Bembridge’s Tips For Travellers aims to help you make more of your precious travel time and money on land and when cruising the oceans or rivers of the world. To help you, in every video I draw on my first-hand tips and advice from travelling every month for over 20 years and average of 10 cruises a year.
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