Would you rather Feel Free or board a ship Full of Fun?

Australian families will be the winners of a new rivalry between  major cruise lines in the coming months.

While Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, was quaffing beer and pledging no discount war in the bar of Sydney’s Lord Nelson this week, over at the newly minted offices of Norwegian Cruise Lines, industry veteran Steve Odell was making no such promises.

“Discounting is not our objective,’’ Ms Duffy told Cruise Passenger. “Carnival offers the best value option for family cruises…”

Mr Odell, the newly appointed managing director of NCL Asia Pacific, on the other hand, is building a staff of 50 and his only promise is to win over Aussie cruisers.

“We’re cranking things up and getting the business in shape in the region. We’re the new kids on the block and while we’ve had great representation, we’re ready to take it to the next level.’’

It will be an interesting battle.  A quick price check this morning put Carnival ahead on value with an equivalent cruise at $99 a night against Norwegian’s website price of $236 – more expensive than even Princess at $122.60.

Royal Caribbean is closest to Norwegian at $2,515 for 11 nights aboard Explorer of the Seas – a daily price of $228.63. Royal Caribbean claims this is on special and reduced from $3,498 – which at $318 a night would have put them well ahead of Norwegian.

That said, it’s early days. Cruise Passenger was told coyly by one Norwegian phone rep that “we’re testing the waters as its our first ship down here, and it is a year away.”

We think that means there could be bargains. Watch this space!

The Norwegian Star is fresh out of refurbishment with 17 dining venues and 11 bars and lounges. And the Norwegian style of cruising has proved popular with Australians, particularly in Hawaii, which the like considers home territory.

Carnival, however, is conceding nothing. Ms Duffy told Cruise Passenger: “Carnival is the number one cruise line for families carrying more than 700,000 children annually. We have more families every year than any other cruise line in the world.’’

So there!

So how do the two lines stack up?

Number of ships
Norwegian Cruise Line has 14 ships.
Carnival has 24 ships across its fleet

Main destinations
Norwegian Cruise Line visits Alaska, Asia & Middle East, Canada & New England, Europe, Hawaii, South America, Transatlantic.
Carnival Cruise line visits the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, as well as Hawaii, South America, New England, Alaska and the Caribbean.

Australian homeported vessels

Carnival: Carnival Spirit which debuted in 2012 and Carnival Legend spends the summer months in Australia.

Norwegian: Not yet, but NCL’s Norwegian Star will arrive in Australia for the 2017 season and the line is keen to have a vessel in Australian waters if it can

Kids clubs:
Carnival’s popular for Dr Seuss club invites kids for interactive stories, art and craft and playing with Dr. Seuss characters.
Norwegian’s partnership with Nickelodeon ended in January 2016.  Their youth program has various kids clubs like Splash Academy, King’s Camps Sports, Entourage.

Carnival: Fares start from $1098 per person for an inside cabin 11 nights to Auckland on Carnival Spirit – that’s $99 a night.

Norwegian: Fares start from $2,835 on a 12-night Sydney to Auckland trip on the Norwegian Star in February next year – that’s $236.25 a night