Norwegian Cruise Line 2023: Your Dream Vacation
As a leading innovator of the cruise industry, Norwegian Cruise Line offers the freedom to cruise how you want on your schedule. Bringing the whole family? Spacious rooms will have you cruising in style and comfort, with activities that will appeal to all ages! Travelling Solo? Enjoy a specially designed studio suite with access to an exclusive private lounge, so that you can unwind after a day of live music, comedy shows, and a three-course meal for dinner. Whether the icy tundra of Alaska is what draws you in, or the sunny beaches of the Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line will offer you an onboard experience that is just as special as your destination.
Norwegian Cruise Line: Freestyle Cruising From “The Innovator”
Describing itself as “the innovator in cruise travel,” Norwegian Cruise Line has been in business for over half a century, but the past two decades have seen exponential growth.
As late as the 1990s, NCL mostly operated older ships and offered a budget-conscious product. But it boldly broke new ground in 2000, pioneering the concept of “freestyle cruising.” The approach bid goodbye to long-time cruise traditions like set dining times, restrictive dress codes and formal nights.
Both cruisers and investors strongly supported the new concept, and in a relatively short time NCL has become one of the top players in the industry, spending billions on a fleet of megaships featuring plenty of bells and whistles,
While most major lines have followed Norwegian’s lead in making cruising less structured and formal, the Miami-based company still stands out for its casual, good-time vibe and variety of activities, restaurants, bars and attractions. The ambience is often compared to a Las Vegas resort experience.
Instead of big main restaurants with fixed seating times, Norwegian ships offer several choices and no assigned seating times. All you have to do is make a reservation at one of several complimentary or a la carte-priced specialty dining venues. Some guests still enjoy dressing up for dinner, but there’s no pressure to do so.
The Vegas comparison extends to Norwegian Cruise Line entertainment options as well. The most obvious are the casinos onboard each ship, which tend to be busy places. But there are many other entertainment choices, including big-name Broadway-style productions, cover bands, duelling piano players, comedy shows and late-night dance venues.
NCL currently operates a fleet of 18 ships carrying between 1,936 and 4,266 passengers. They’re easily recognized by the colourful murals painted on their hulls. Famous artists including Peter Max, Guy Harvey and Wyland are among those commissioned to decorate the hulls of Norwegian ships. The line’s newest vessels have followed industry trends by adding top-deck family-friendly attractions, including go-kart tracks, water slides, laser tag venues and more.
Are You A Freestyle Cruiser?
Who cruises with Norwegian? A very diverse group, including families, couples, singles and multigenerational groups. NCL ships cruise all over the world, but it’s safe to say that its shorter cruises, especially in the Caribbean, attract more families with children as well as younger couples and groups of friends. Longer, more exotic journeys, tend to attract a higher proportion of 55+ couples who have the time and money to venture further ashore.
With its large ships and affordable entry-level pricing, Norwegian Cruise Line is a mainstream cruise line appealing to a broad cross-section of cruisers. But for those willing to spend a little more, there are a variety of premium and luxury options, both in accommodations, dining and drinking.
There are many styles of accommodation to choose from on Norwegian’s ships, including the exclusive ‘The Haven,’ where guests will find the line’s most spacious and luxurious staterooms and suites, along with butler and concierge services.
A Fleet For All Seasons
Norwegian’s current fleet of 18 ships is a diverse group, featuring some of the newest and most innovative vessels afloat, and a few that are more than 20 years old. Older ships have received major – and sometimes multiple – enhancements over their lifetime, maintaining a fleetwide level of quality. Norwegian Joy, for example, launched in 2017, but has already undergone a substantial refurbishment.
The oldest class of ships in the NCL fleet is Sun Class, which debuted in 1999 and includes Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun. Launching in 2001, the Dawn Class includes Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star. The Jewel Class premiered in 2005 and features four ships: Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Gem. Next came the Breakaway Class, with Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway setting sail in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Breakaway Plus Class ships were introduced between 2015 and 2019. The four ships of this class -- Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Escape -- took the product to a new level, with a wide range of entertainment options and more than 20 dining venues on each vessel. They are also significantly larger than their predecessors, each carrying around 4,000 passengers.
Another leap forward came last year, when Norwegian Prima made its debut. The Prima Class is NCL’s newest ship design, with a total of six on order through 2027. Norwegian Prima, estimated to have cost approximately $850 million to build, raises the NCL product with a wide range of upscale suite options, innovative dining concepts like the multiple-venue Indulge Food Hall, and over-the-top attractions like a three-level go-kart track.
There are three ships in the NCL fleet that are in a class of their own. Norwegian Epic, Hawaii-based Pride of America and Norwegian Spirit were one-off designs.
A World Of Wonders & A Private Paradise
Where do you want to go? The choices are many. Norwegian Cruise Line sails to countries on six continents. Popular itineraries include Alaska, Asia, Africa, Australia & New Zealand, the Black Sea, Canada & New England, Bahamas/Caribbean & Mexico, Middle East, Central America & Panama Canal, South America Greece & the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the South Pacific.
You can board a Norwegian ship in a wide range of homeports, including Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Boston, New York City, San Juan, New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Seattle, Vancouver, Seward and Quebec City. That’s just in North America.
International 2023 homeports for Norwegian ships include far-flung places like Buenos Aires, Panama City, Athens, Southampton (UK), Capetown, Dubai, Sydney, Tokyo and Singapore. The line recently completed a successful first-ever season of homeporting in Capetown, sailing along the coast of South Africa and Namibia.
In winter, many of Norwegian’s most popular ships cruise in the warm waters of the Caribbean. The line offers a broad range of Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries departing from more than half a dozen home ports. If you’re looking for a quick getaway, NCL offers plenty of three- and four-night jaunts from Miami to the Bahamas. It also offers an abundance of seven-night sailings, focusing on the Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean.
In summer, the line is a major player in Europe, with about half the fleet travelling there each year. Choices include northern Europe and the Baltics, including itineraries featuring Iceland, the UK and Ireland. There’s the ever-popular Greek islands cruises and classic Mediterranean cruising with stops at iconic ports like Rome, Florence, Naples and Barcelona.
Alaska is another popular summer destination, and the beautiful Norwegian Bliss was custom-designed to maximize viewing opportunities for the region’s unsurpassed scenery. This year’s Alaska season will see five NCL ships exploring The Last Frontier.
NCL has become synonymous with cruising in the Hawaiian Islands. It’s the only large-ship cruise company to offer an all-Hawaiian islands itinerary, with year-round return sailings from Honolulu. To meet U.S. regulations, most of the staff are American citizens, making the ship unique among major cruise vessels.
All Norwegian cruises to the Bahamas feature a full-day visit to Great Stirrup Cay, an idyllic private island paradise. Always one of the most popular port calls, Great Stirrup Cay entices guests to stroll soft, white-sand beaches and enjoy activities like snorkeling, kayaking, ziplining or simply relaxing in a private beachfront cabana.
Staterooms & Suites For Every Kind Of Cruiser
With its ships carrying between 2,000 and more than 4,000 passengers, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a wide range of accommodation choices. The stateroom list includes tiny but efficient 100 sq. ft. cabins for solo travelers, budget-priced inside cabins with about 140 sq. ft. of space, ocean view cabins of about 160 sq. ft. and popular and plentiful balcony cabins of around 200 sq. ft.
Higher level accommodations include 285 sq. ft. mini-suites, family suites of up to 650 sq. ft., penthouses up to 880 sq. ft. and owner’s suites of up to 1,382 sq. ft.
Some Norwegian ships, including Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Escape, and Breakaway Class ships, feature spa staterooms. These are distinguished by tranquil decor, a luxury bathroom, easy access to the ship's Mandara Spa, and free access to the Thermal Spa Suites.
For the ultimate in luxury, NCL style, you can upgrade to accommodations in The Haven, a private enclave often described as “a ship within a ship.”
Haven guests have access to exclusive amenities including The Haven Restaurant and associated lounge, a private sundeck and 24-hour butler service. Rooms feature luxury bedding and toiletries, a mini-bar and deluxe coffee maker. Concierge services, priority dining and entertainment reservations, and evening turndown service are other perks for Haven guests.
Norwegian Dining: What You Want, When You Want, Where You Want
Freestyle dining is a hallmark of the Norwegian Cruise Line experience. You can dress up or down, sit with friends or make new ones. You can eat inside or outside, and you can choose what time you dine, based on your mood, not a schedule.
Each NCL ship features up to three main dining rooms serving a wide variety of delicious cuisine in multiple courses. That’s included in the cruise fare. Each ship also features a sprawling buffet, open for breakfast lunch and dinner. Highlights include a meat carving station, made-to-order omelettes, customized pasta dishes and more. Buffet meals are also at no extra charge. Every Norwegian vessel also has a 24-hour venue featuring classic pub fare in a relaxed atmosphere. Think chicken wings, fish and chips and Reuben sandwiches.
When you want a unique culinary experience, Norwegian’s specialty restaurants offer flavors for every palate. Specialty dining packages are available, or meals can be purchased a la carte or with a flat upcharge. Popular choices include succulent meats at Moderno Churrascaria, sophisticated French cuisine in Le Bistro, and fresh Mexican flavours at Los Lobos. Throughout the fleet, there are specialty dining restaurants specializing in seafood, steaks, BBQ, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and global cuisine. Room service is also available 24/7.
Every Night Is An Entertainment Extravaganza
One of the elements that adds great value to the cruise experience is the quality of entertainment offered every night -- all included in the cruise fare. Norwegian Cruise Line stakes a credible claim as offering the best entertainment at sea. There are topnotch productions of hit Broadway musicals like The Jersey Boys, The Choir of Man and Six; dance extravaganzas like Footloose and Burn The Floor, and original production shows with choreographed music and dance.
But that’s just the start. Entertainment is everywhere on an NCL ship – varying from ship to ship – including favorites like stand-up at the Headliners Comedy Club, a Beatles cover band at The Cavern Club, live renditions of rock classics at Syd Norman’s Pour House and duelling pianos at Howl at the Moon. On some ships, a version of the Deal Or No Deal game show is a popular attraction.
The entertainment action continues with themed parties and special events, including sail-away parties, H2Glow dance parties, Nashville Nights and Caliente deck parties, all inviting guests to dance the night away.
Let’s not forgot cruise gaming as a popular entertainment option. Norwegian Cruise Line casinos are equipped with the latest and most popular slots, as well as a variety of choices for table game players. A casino rewards program offers everything from complimentary drinks to stateroom discounts and more.