|from Cruise Critic|
| Now that the second most innovative ship of all time — NCL‘s Norwegian Epic — has been launched, how will it stack up price-wise against Royal Caribbean‘s gargantuan Oasis of the Seas?As we let these hot new ships duke it out for deal supremacy, the real questions become: Which one are you going to pick and how much will you pay?
Meet the Contenders
The newcomer — the Miami-based 153,000-ton, 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic — was christened just last week, bringing fresh new approaches like curvy cabin designs, name-brand entertainment such as Blue Man Group, cruising’s first Ice Bar (kept at a bone-chilling 17 degrees), and more dining choices than ever (like an Argentinean churrascaria and a Chinese noodle bar). Epic is also taking aim at solo travelers, and the ship features an unheard of 128 “studios,” Yotel-like mini-accommodations priced for one.
Those looking to travel over Christmas (which falls within high season in the Caribbean) will pay even more for the same cruise in the same accommodations. Epic’s Christmas cruise costs $1,349 for an inside cabin and $1,869 for a balcony. Contrast that with Oasis, which is quoting a breathtaking $1,999 fare for an inside and $2,849 for a balcony.
As we trolled both cruise lines’ websites for fares, we noticed that more categories on Oasis of the Seas were sold out than on Norwegian Epic, which clearly may account for the higher rates on Oasis.
In addition, NCL has been including Norwegian Epic in recent sales. As part of NCL’s Hello Balcony! promotion, you can book a deluxe balcony cabin for the price of a regular balcony (what this means is a little more in-cabin space to stretch out in). Throw in a separate promotion, an airfare sale on Epic’s Caribbean cruises, and you can lower your total vacation cost with airfares from select cities from $99 or $199 roundtrip. We haven’t seen the same discounting of Oasis cruises, with the exception of some quiet fare drops for shoulder-season April and May cruises. (And in fact, during Oasis’ early days, “deals” were unheard of).
In addition to checking the cruise lines’ Web sites, we also contacted travel agents. Elda Maldonado, owner of One World Cruises, priced some last-minute summer Oasis and Epic sailings for us. For a family of three sharing a balcony cabin, the August 7 sailing of Norwegian Epic costs $3,761 (total, cruise only). Ocean-facing balcony cabins are sold out on Oasis of the Seas, but Maldonado found an interior-facing Central Park cabin for $4,605.
Future Fare Wars?
Using the second week of January as our target dates, on a Norwegian Epic cruise, you’ll pay $789 for an inside or $1,079 for a balcony. On Allure’s second week January cruise, prices right now start at $899 for an inside or $1,249 for a balcony — a difference of just a few hundred dollars. (Checking Oasis for the same week, we’re seeing $1,149 for an inside and $1,449 for a balcony.) April fares, which are usually higher priced than in the dead of winter, are similarly matched: Epic’s April 16 cruise runs $1,009 for inside and $1,319 balcony compared to Allure’s April 17 cruise at $1,299 (inside) and $1,749 (balcony). (Checking Oasis for the same week, we’re seeing $1,299 for insides and $1,649 for balconies.)
Of course, we must offer this caveat: As the sail dates approach and categories begin to sell out, fares could change at any time.
Which Ship is the Value Champ?
Plus, while both ships are pulling out the stops with new dining and entertainment options, not to mention unusual ship designs, and both offer similar Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, in the end, they belong to different cruise lines with different philosophies. You may be a Royal Caribbean fan, willing to pay more for the action-packed, activity-focused experience that line promises, or you may be so devoted to NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, do-whatever-you-want atmosphere that even an Oasis price drop couldn’t convince you to switch lines.