This summer I took three cruises. Each was the same length (7 days) and each was on a different cruise line in a different part of the world. Each cruise had four ports and two sea days. On each ship I booked a balcony stateroom.
The first cruise I took was with Norwegian Cruise Line on the Norwegian Spirit. This trip went from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska with stops in Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Icy Point Strait. It was on an older ship — the Spirit was built in the 1990’s but went through a $100 million overhaul in 2020.
The second cruise was with Holland America Cruise Line on the Nieuw Statendam. This trip was round trip out of Copenhagen with stops in the Norway (Eidfjord, Geiranger, Alesund) and Gothenburg, Sweden. The Nieuw Statendam is a larger ship that was built in 2018.
The third cruise was with Virgin Voyages on the Resilient Lady. This trip was round trip out of Athens, Greece with stops in the Greek Islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos and Bodrum, Turkey. The Resilient Lady is (as of writing this post) the newest ship in the Virgin Voyages fleet, built in 2023. It is similar in size to the Nieuw Statendam.
I rate each cruise on various categories below, picking a winner of the best in each category. As to not burry the lead, Virgin Voyages came out as the clear winner in just about every area.
This is a bit of comparing apples to oranges. My first two cruises (Norwegian and Holland America) were booked through casino offers: Norwegian through my status with Caesars Rewards and Holland America through an offer from a local land based casino. Virgin Voyages, however, was booked using Virgin Red points.
I have broken out what I paid for each cruise:
|Room Cost||$649||$630||62,000 Capital One Points|
|Inclusive Package Fee||$170.40 Free at Sea||$350 Have it All|
$175 Club Orange
|-$100 Included Bar Credit|
|Cost per Night||$172.17||$201||$88.57|
Winner: Virgin Voyages
I had a similar type of stateroom on each sailing — an outside balcony.
All three rooms were updated (the oldest being Holland America from 2018) and all were quite comfortable.
Virgin took the prize for technology with an included tablet that controls lights, TV, and curtains. I like their modern decor and the hammock on the balcony is extremely comfortable. But the bathroom is small. I didn’t do a separate post on the stateroom on Resilient Lady, but you can see a nearly identical tour of my room on Scarlet Lady.
Norwegian was overall very good with a ton of storage and nice colors. The TV was quite small (not that I watched any TV). I could also hear my neighbors more than any of the other ships.
Due to upgrading to Club Orange on Holland America, I had a unique room that was essentially sideways to the outside. This gave me a huge balcony and twice the windows. It was also the only ship that had twice daily housekeeping and the nicest bathroom. It felt the most classic of rooms too, which isn’t really something that I preferred but I’m guessing others would.
Winner: Holland America
All three ships are equipped with wifi. Norwegian included 150 minutes with their “Free at Sea” package. Holland America included unlimited basic with their “Have It All” package. And Virgin Voyages has free basic wifi for all passengers, and I was upgraded to free premium with my “Deep Blue Extras” status.
Norwegian and Holland America wifi rarely worked (maybe it connected about 20% of the time). When it did work, it was extremely slow. Someone trying to work while at sea would have been in trouble.
Virgin wifi worked all the time and was as good as my home internet. I could stream video. If I was working from sea, I would have had no problems.
Winner: Virgin Voyages
Each cruise had ports that wow-ed and ports that I felt could have been skipped. Both Norwegian and Holland America had to drop a port (or two) from their original itinerary.
The Greek islands are fun and hotels in the summer are prohibitively expensive. The Norwegian fjords are amazing to sail in and out of; and it is very difficult to get to them any other way than by ship. Still, I was blown away by the scenery of Alaska.
Winner: Alaska (Norwegian)
Service was good on all three ships. Norwegian and Holland America were similar in level of formality — staff always called me “sir” or “mister”. Most of the crew on these two ships were from the Philippines and Indonesia.
Virgin had a much more diverse crew (at least the public facing staff) from all parts of the world. The interactions with guests is casual and more conversational. The connection with staff felt much more personal and genuine.
The service on Holland America was probably the best from a hospitality standpoint — getting everything just right and being very formal.
For me, I much preferred the style of Virgin. And it was excellent — the casual nature did not mean things were missed.
Winner: Holland America (formal) and Virgin Voyages (my preference)
Virgin does things differently by not having a main dining room and having all restaurants included. There is no up-charge for specialty dining. And the food is consistently fantastic.
Holland America and Norwegian have the more traditional cruise dining options — a main dining room with some quick service options and up-charge specialty dining. I found the food at the specialty dining on Norwegian to be best, but the main dining room on Holland America to far surpass that on Norwegian.
Winner: Virgin Voyages
Holland America has a nice theater and I enjoyed their Step One Dance Company. Their various music venues offer something for everyone.
Norwegian had a few good shows but overall it felt more amateur to me. Almost like entertainment was an after thought. I understand they are changing their entertainment options so I will be interested to see where it goes. Norwegian also offers some broadway shows on their larger ship; just not on the Spirit.
Virgin takes entertainment to the next level. From the Happenings Cast to Scarlet Night to their many productions shows, Virgin Voyages does entertainment extremely well. Their shows are edgy so might not be for everyone (it is an adults only cruise). But in my opinion there is no contest.
Winner: Virgin Voyages
In my opinion, Virgin Voyages are better than either Norwegian or Holland America in just about every single way. One note: For families, Virgin is not an option as no kids are allowed so it can’t even be considered as an option. For me, no kids was another huge plus.
I don’t know that it is fair to compare Virgin to the other cruise lines. Virgin Voyages is only three years old. Holland America, on the other hand, is celebrating their 150th birthday this year.
Virgin currently only has three ships.
My guess is that Virgin Voyages are losing a LOT of money right now. They are pouring money into all aspects of their sailings to prove that they can change the cruise experience. However, I don’t imagine that their current business is financially sustainable.
My prediction is that Virgin Voyages is trying to position themselves for a buy out by one of the larger companies. When that happens, we will see big changes to cut costs and Virgin will no longer be the the best cruise line.
If you are planing a cruise with adults in the next year or two, there is no reason to consider Holland America or Norwegian over Virgin Voyages. The entertainment and the food are exceptional. The price is right (even without the amazing deal I got, there are plenty of deals to be had). The staterooms are very comfortable and the service is amazing.
Have you cruised any of the three cruise lines I traveled with this summer? What do you think of my analysis?