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I sailed on both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian’s newest cruise ships. Here’s how they compared.

The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas and Norwegian’s Prima and it showed me what each cruise line does best.

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  • I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas and Norwegian’s Prima.
  • The Prima had a nicer balcony stateroom, better food, and superior adults-only retreat.
  • But the Wonder of the Seas’ family friendly activities, unique spaces, and entertaining shows made it a winner.
In 2022, I was invited to sail on Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ships, the Wonder of the Seas and the Prima, respectively.Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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Both cruise ships were designed to appeal to families.Norwegian Prima

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But in my opinion, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas is a superior ship.Wonder of the Seas

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See how the cruise ships compared in seven categories: overall look, staterooms, food and beverage concepts, pool decks, family friend amenities, adults only spaces, and nighttime shows.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The Royal Caribbean ship is a behemoth of a vessel.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The 1,188-foot-long, 7,084-guest Wonder of the Seas is currently the largest cruise ship in operation.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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And much to my surprise, several spaces aboard the ship — called “neighborhoods” — looked nothing like a cruise ship.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The Boardwalk neighborhood was nearly identical to a real boardwalk complete with wood-paneled floors, a hot dog stand, and a candy store …A candy shop on the Wonder of the Seas

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… while the Central Park neighborhood looked just like an outdoor mall filled with lush plants.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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These uniquely curated spaces made it one of the most unique ships I’ve ever been on.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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In comparison, 3,215-guest Prima looks more like a traditional ship.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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It is slightly smaller at 965 feet-long. And unlike the Wonder of the Seas, every space aboard this ship looked like a typical cruise.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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It’s still a modern ship. But it doesn’t have the same unique appeal as the Wonder of the Seas.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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During my two-night media sailing, Royal Caribbean let me stay in the balcony stateroom on the same deck as Central Park.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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However, this hotel room at sea was not nearly as glitzy as I anticipated.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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It was minimally decorated compared to the rest of the ship.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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Sure, there were some decorative pillows and a patterned carpet.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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But besides a handful of decor pieces, the beige, blue, and white-toned stateroom looked more bland than exciting.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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The bathroom sink was so poorly designed, water splashed onto the counter whenever I washed my hand. And the shower didn’t even have a separate body wash and shampoo.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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The surplus of storage made up for these lackluster amenities: The stateroom had two closets and a large dresser.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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But at a starting rate of $1,400 for 2023 itineraries, I was hoping this cold balcony stateroom would’ve looked livelier and more comfortable.My balcony stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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I don’t have any of this criticism for the Norwegian Prima’s family balcony stateroom.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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The cruise line invited me to spend four nights in this 230-square-foot stateroom during its inaugural sailing.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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It’s one of the nicest staterooms I’ve ever stayed in despite having nearly identical furnishings as the Wonder of the Seas stateroom.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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There was less storage than my Royal Caribbean accommodations. But my Prima stateroom made up for this with better decor.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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This decor added the perfect splash of color, although I’m still confused by this mural.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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And the warm ambient lighting made the space feel like a cozy hotel room.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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I didn’t want to spend time in my Wonder of the Seas stateroom. But my Prima accommodations were so cozy, I didn’t mind hanging back.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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And it’s more affordable too. This balcony stateroom aboard the Prima will start at $991 for spring five-to-seven-day round trips from New York City to Bermuda.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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Onto the food and beverage offerings. Royal Caribbean’s mega ship has over 20 dining venues although over half aren’t included in the base fare.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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There were some fun dining options like a build-your-own taco and burrito bar, poolside ice cream machines (if you count that as dining), and the recognizable Johnny Rockets.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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But to my surprise, the best venue was the buffet, which had sections like international dishes, classic favorites, and a seafood.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Unfortunately, the two speciality dining venues I tried — Hooked Seafood and Mason Jar — weren’t stellar.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The latter is a new-to-brand Southern concept with live music and a separate bar.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Sounds fun, right? Unfortunately, my fried chicken was dry to the point of being nearly inedible.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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However, I will credit the Wonder of the Seas for having unique bars, including a karaoke bar …Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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… a bar operated by robotic arms …Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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… and two with dance floors and live music.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Unlike the mega cruise ship, food is where Norwegian Prima truly shines.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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There were 14 dining options. Like the Wonder of the Seas, half were specialty restaurants.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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Prima’s Onda by Scarpetta was one of the best meals I’ve ever had on a cruise vessel.Onda by Scarpetta on the Norwegian Prima

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The Prima and Wonder of the Seas do share two similarities: an onboard Starbucks and teppanyaki concept.matcha

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But unlike Royal Caribbean’s vessel, the Prima had the most unique complimentary dining venue I’ve ever seen on a ship: a food hall with touch screen ordering pads at every table.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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Here, diners are offered 11 restaurants — like Indian, international noodles, and rotisserie — all inside a touch screen.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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And almost everything I tried here was delicious, although the pad thai was subpar at best. Besides that, I would’ve paid to eat here.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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The Prima’s watering hole options weren’t as diverse as the Wonder of the Seas. But the Metropolitan was a standout bar.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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Norwegian says this bar is zero-waste by using liqueurs and syrups made from some of the ship’s food waste.drink

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However, this emphasis on being zero waste feels futile. Cruises aren’t known for being environmentally friendly. And the bar only cut out a tiny fraction of its waste.Bartenders on the Prima

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But bars aside, the food on the Prima was far superior to the Wonder of the Seas.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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Cruise ship cuisine isn’t known for being diverse. But the Prima had several multi-cultural options at the food hall.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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I could’ve eaten every meal here. And I still find myself craving it sometimes.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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However, no other cruise ship pool deck can compare to the Wonder of the Seas.Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas water park

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Here, it was a collection of colorful amenities ranging from three multicolored water slides to several pools and hot tubs …A waterslide on Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas

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… a children’s water playground, and nearly endless rows of pool chairs.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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It’s the world’s largest cruise ship so of course this is one of the largest pool decks I’ve ever seen.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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And the bright decor made it as visually overwhelming as a theme park.Pool on Wonder of the Seas

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Unfortunately, the Norwegian Prima’s pool deck can’t compare to the Wonder of the Seas. It looked as plain as any other cruise ship’s pool area.Norwegian Prima

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There was one water slide and another small water playground but both looked drab compared to the Wonder of the Seas.Norwegian Prima

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Luckily, there were other options for pool-side lounging: an outdoor walkway with pools, lounge chairs, daybeds, and panoramic views of the ocean.Norwegian Prima

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But there’s no comparison: The Wonder of the Seas’ pool deck is far superior to the Norwegian Prima, especially if you’re traveling with young children.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Speaking of children, both cruise ships were designed to appeal to families. And there are plenty of amenities on both vessels that do just that.Norwegian Prima

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Both had dry slides and mini golf courses (although the Prima’s was definitely flashier and more interactive).Norwegian Prima

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Besides that, the two cruise ships offer different activities and amenities.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The deck above the Wonder of the Seas’ pool deck was a mecca of outdoor family fun.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Besides the dry slide and mini golf course, this outdoor activity deck also had a playground, a surfing simulator …Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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… and a zipline that soared over Central Park.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Across other neighborhoods, the ship also had an arcade, a carousel …Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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… and two large rock climbing walls, giving families of all ages and all activity levels a wide variety of amenities.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Meanwhile, the Prima had some of the most unique activities I’ve seen on a cruise vessel.Norwegian Prima

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The ship also had an arcade. But unlike the Wonder of the Seas, this one was driven by virtual reality.Norwegian Prima

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Here, travelers could walk through haunted mansions, ride roller coasters, and fight off creepy aliens without leaving the cruise ship.Norwegian Prima

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For travelers who prefer more tangible activities, the ship also had an outdoor go-kart course with a viewing platform.Norwegian Prima

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There’s also a high-tech darts lounges (although the wind made it difficult to play) and an outdoor “Stadium” with games like pickleball and beer-less pong.Norwegian Prima

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But ultimately, the Wonder of the Seas offered up more free fun despite the Prima’s more unique activities.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Emphasis on free: The Prima’s best activities — the VR arcade, go-karts, darts, and mini-golf course — all came at an extra fee to guests.Norwegian Prima

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But if you’re willing to pay, the Prima has more exciting and exhilarating family friendly amenities. It’s hard to beat a VR arcade and go-karting at sea.Norwegian Prima

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Both cruises are designed for traveling families but that doesn’t mean adults can’t have their own peaceful retreats aboard the vessels.Wonder of the Seas Solarium

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The Wonder of the Seas has the adults-only Solarium.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The idea of a Solarium isn’t new to cruise ships. But the Wonder of the Seas is more grand than the other Solariums I’ve seen.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The glass dome-enclosed venue has hot tubs, a pool, rows of lounge chairs, and of course, a bar.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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Unfortunately, this covered space made me feel like a fish inside a fish bowl.Solarium in Wonder of the Seas

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Norwegian’s adult retreat had the same amenities: pools, hot tubs, and views of the ocean.Vibe Beach Club

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But unlike the Solarium, Norwegian’s Vibe Beach Club is outdoors.Vibe Beach Club

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It had more of a relaxed space.Vibe Beach Club

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And even though the Solarium had more eye-catching decor, the airy Vibe Beach Club was more of a standout adults retreat.Vibe Beach Club

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Onto the last category: shows. During my sailing, the Wonder of the Seas was showing its ice skating, superhero, and water shows.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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I wasn’t able to catch the cruise ship’s play on a superhero drama. But I did find time to watch the wholesome ice skating show.Ice skating show

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The performers were undeniably talented but the lack of a cohesive storyline and somewhat tacky scenes weren’t enough to keep me entertained.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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It seemed like a typical cruise ship show with the addition of an ice rink.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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But I have none of this criticism for “inTENse,” the ship’s diving, dancing, and synchronized swimming performance.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The exhilarating show paired fast paced music with equally quick movements, creating a show with so much exciting visual appeal, I didn’t know where to look.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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It was the most creative cruise ship show I’ve ever seen. And the venue was just as unique.Wonder of the Seas

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The outdoor dive board-lined stage rose and sunk into a pool, creating a set that moved as much as the performers.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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The Prima didn’t have “inTENse” divers and tightrope walkers.Norwegian Prima

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But it did have some distinguishable shows: “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” tap dance and beat box medley “Noise Boys,” and “The Price Is Right Live” game show.Norwegian Prima

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The production for “Summer” rivaled that of a true Broadway performance. And at the time, “Noise Boys” was the most contemporary show I had ever seen on a cruise ship.Norwegian Prima

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But to my surprise, I enjoyed “The Price Is Right” the most.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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The well-executed game show — which looked like it was ripped from a television screen — was interactive, entertaining, and surprisingly funny. I found myself chuckling throughout the show.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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When I sailed on the Norwegian Prima in October 2022, it was the first time I had ever found myself enjoying cruise ship shows.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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But after sailing on the Wonder of the Seas, Prima’s riffs on recognizable shows are no longer as appealing. However, I’ll always have a soft spot for the “The Price Is Right Live.”Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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That’s not to say the Prima isn’t a great ship in its own right.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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It still has several stellar standout features that are superior to the Wonder of the Seas.The amenities inside Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima cruise ship.

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But travelers don’t go on cruises just to stay in their staterooms all day.Inside the family balcony stateroom on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Prima

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And while the food on the Prima was generally superior, the buffet aboard the Wonder of the Seas was great as well.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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So at the end of the day, the family friendly amenities, pool deck, and uniquely curated spaces on the Wonder of the Seas outshined Prima. And that’s why the Royal Caribbean vessel is now my favorite.Royal Caribbean Wonder of the Seas cruise ship

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