In an industry full of excess, Princess ships are impressively restrained, without the too-loud lighting and over-the top-décor you often find on large ocean-going vessels outside the luxury market. Celebrity ships, however, really blow us away with interior design in public areas that feels chic and effortless, yet playful. Case in point: Look for cool seating areas (with, say, egg chairs or hammocks or daybeds) in spaces that tend to be ho-hum on, well, just about every other line.
Neither line has the most innovative cabin choices, but both offer respectably sized rooms with all the must-have amenities, plus solid, helpful service from cabin stewards.
Our Pick: Draw
Both lines offer lovely suites. Celebrity’s choices include the AquaClass suites — with access to both the spa and a private restaurant — and a specialty two-bedroom suite with a glass shower that appears to hang out over the edge of the ship.
Our Pick: Celebrity — While both lines do well in this category, too, Celebrity’s options are once again a bit more creative.
Both lines do a fine job in their main dining rooms, casual spots, and specialty restaurants. The highlights on Princess ships tend to be the Italian and steakhouse options, which are both nicely done if not especially memorable. Some ships have a Cajun eatery; newer ships include a pizza restaurant with Naples-style pies.
Celebrity ships feature Italian restaurants and French choices, as well as one-off odes to historic ships. The line also showcases Qsine (which serves small plates of playfully plated modern fare), Lawn Club Grill (a fun take on a backyard barbecue with grill-your-own steaks and a salad bar), and Blu (a healthy restaurant for guests in spa suites), as well as the poolside AquaSpa Café, where you can grab wholesome, tasty dishes at breakfast and lunch.
Activities & Entertainment
Both lines offer plenty to do each night, with a mix of stage shows and performers — from jazz bands to acrobats and DJs — that take over the middle atrium of the ships. Princess also does a great job with its Movies Under the Stars program, where the line shows popular films on deck, serves popcorn along with milk and (warm!) cookies, and outfits the lounge chairs with blankets.
Celebrity recently launched a few more evening entertainment options: On Celebrity Summit, you can check out 54 Below, a cabaret space with Broadway-style singers. And on Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette, you’ll find a new comedy club: Sin City.
Our Pick: Draw
Families & Kids
Although neither line caters to kids quite as extensively as Royal Caribbean or Disney Cruise Line, you'll find offerings on both Princess and Celebrity for children. Celebrity has limited hours in its playrooms for the under-3 set, and a parent must be present; Princess also requires that a parent be present, but extends the hours of access.
Both lines do a better job at catering to teenagers, and on Princess ships, you'll find large numbers of teens happily flocked together at the buffet for kids-only dinners, as well as at the pool areas.
These cruise lines serve the Caribbean and Alaska very well, but both lines go way beyond and cover a lot of the world: Both offer plenty of choices in Mexico and Europe, as well as Canada and New England, Hawaii, South America, Asia, and Australia. Princess’ more exotic locales include the South Pacific; Celebrity sends ships down to the Galapagos Islands.
Our Pick: Draw
Our Pick: Celebrity takes more categories, so it's the winner here — but only by a hair. Whereas Celebrity can be a little flashier, more stylish, and more, well, cool, Princess certainly deserves credit for consistently delivering quality food and service across the board. In the end, both lines serve their cruisers well with a polished, well-executed cruise. Which one you choose should depend on your travel companions and your preferred destination.