Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line, known also as NCL or simply as Norwegian, is one of the biggest cruise lines in the world and was the originator of relaxed cruising where you are in charge of what you do, how you do it and when you do it.
Short Name(s): Norwegian, NCL
Headquartered: Miami, Florida, United States
Parent Company: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
Focus Location(s): Caribbean, North America, Mediterranean
Key Home Ports: Miami, Seattle, New York, Rome and Honolulu
Onboard Currency: US Dollar ($)
The lines free-style cruising allows you to eat when you want, with who you want and where you want and that way of thinking continues into every aspect of onboard life.
There is no need to dress up for formal nights as there isn’t one but with a number of restaurants to dine at and West End style shows, you will not look out of place getting dressed up and making a night of it or simply heading for a bar in jeans and a t-shirt.
The line is known for its large, family friendly all action cruise ships that offers a wide range of bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and accommodation choices but one of the best aspects of the line has to be the variety of destinations on offer as whilst the always popular Caribbean and Mediterranean are the main focus for the company, they offers lots of choices for cruises to Africa, Asia, Oceania, Northern Europe and elsewhere including a growing number of NoFly cruises from Southampton.
Life on board on NCL cruise ship is about as relaxed as it can be for a cruise ship and that is one of the reasons why the line is so popular.
In the main, NCL are known as been relaxed and as a mass market line but the newer NCL ships also have a concept known as The Haven.
This is a ship within a ship concept where you can pay a (somewhat hefty) premium to have access to a restricted area of a ship which includes luxury suites, private restaurants and lounges and access to your own swimming pools and sunbathing areas.
This allows you to enjoy a luxury cruise ship style holiday away from the crowds whilst still having access to all of the great entertainment options onboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.
One of the great attributes of the newer NCL ships is the waterfront, an outdoor space that is similar to a promenade deck but that features outdoor spaces for many of the line sbars and restaurants which offers a great place to eat, drink, relax and take in the great sea views. The waterfront also offers places to simply sit and relax.
The concept of free-style cruising is all about allowing passengers to do as much or as little as they want whilst on holiday and thankfully NCL have so many great options when it comes to eating, drinking, entertainment and accommodation that you really can have a holiday just the way that you want it.
Norwegians larger ships are all action and have lots to offer adult, kids, and families whilst their smaller shops are more designed around more intimate and relaxed cruising to smaller ports of call.
From a choice of bars and music venues to comedy clubs and full scale West End shows, the entertainment on NCL is arguably its standout feature whilst its food and accommodation can also match the other major lines in terms of quality and choice.
Included in the cost of your cruise is all the food on offer in the Main Dining Rooms (MDRs) and buffet and there are also drink machines placed around the ships and in the buffet offering fruit juices, water as well as tea and coffee.
Entertainment including West End style musicals in the main theatre, live music acts and comedians are also included in the cost of your cruise.
There are a number of speciality restaurants on board NCL ships, from steakhouses to seafood restaurants and dim sum to French fine dining, with each having an extra cost.
Alcoholic drinks, speciality teas and coffees and drinks in bars also cost extra although well price beverage packages can be bought beforehand. If you like to eat meals on your balcony, there is an extra charge for room service aside from continental breakfast which h is included.
As with most lines, gratuities (can also be pre-paid), Wi-Fi and shore excursions all come at an extra cost (although NCL do offer bundles where you can get all of the extras you want as a single add on cost).
The bigger ships offer lots of included activities and attractions but there are also a number of things to do with an extra cost including Go-Karts, laser tag, dining shows, spa facilities, beauty treatments, adults only sunbathing/ pool areas and more.
If you are wanting any professional souvenir photographs they will cost extra and the onboard shop offers all the basics you need but at inflated prices.
When it comes to entertainment, NCL has you covered thanks to not only a wide range of options but also the quality of the entertainment on offer.
If a night at the theatre is your thing, the main shows in the onboard theatre are the place to be with the larger ships in the NCL fleet offering West End quality shows to be enjoyed at no extra cost, with the biggest ships also offering a flashy Vegas style full scale production show.
Shows to have ben covered including Jersey Boys and Kinky Boots and there are also in house production shows that bring you singing, dancing and even magical acts to enjoy.
With double digit bar options on many ships, each bring you their own style on entertainment with many offering singers or musicians with everything from country music to pianist playing throughout the days and night.
The pool deck is also a hub of entertainment onboard with traditional games and fun enjoyed on sea days whilst the main atrium and onboard lounges are the place to be for more traditional fun including quizzes, dance classes and more.
The relaxed onboard style of cruising continues when it comes to the bars and restaurants onboard Norwegians cruises as although the fanciest restaurants, such as the French fine dining speciality restaurant, do have a dress code, it is only the bare minimum of no shorts and sleeveless tops.
The majority of eating and drinking spots allow you to eat and drink when you want and have no dress codes and there is no formal night to worry about packing for.
Even in the Main Dining Rooms (MDR’s), you can simply arrive when you want and or you can of course choose to dine at the same time every night.
The quality of food board is as you would expect from a mainstream cruise line in that the quality varies from one venue to another.
Whilst the choice of onboard restaurants change from one ship to another, options incudes bar-b-que, French, steak, seafood, Asian, Brazilian, buffet, traditional, fast food, bar food and onboard cafes and ice cream bars.
The Main Dining Rooms food quality can vary depending on how busy it is so try to avoid key dining times, such as just before shows etc.
The choice of food available in the main onboard buffet is amongst the best of the big cruise lines and the quality is consistent with the price of the cruise as in it is better than budget line but not as good as premium line.
The best food on board is often found in the many speciality restaurants but whether they provide good value or not is often some hotly debated.
The accommodation offered by Norwegian once more depends on the ship that you cruise on but the majority will offer the basics options of internal rooms, rooms with windows, balcony rooms and suites and then there is the special part of the ship called the Haven.
This is a ship within a ship concept where those willing to pay the extra premium get access to luxury suites, their own restaurant, their own lounge and even their own swimming pools and sunbathing areas.
Most rooms are capable of been set up in either a twin or double bed set up and many rooms are also capable of hosting 3 or 4 people for those wanting to stay together as a family.
A number of ships offer family rooms that have a main living room are with separate bedrooms going off of them
The biggest and newest ships offer lots of amenities and all that you could need from a modern hotel experience including large interactive television (where you can view and make bookings for shows and dining and also see your onboard spending), USB charging points and a well-appointed bathroom / shower room.
If the entertainment offered by NCL is their best onboard attribute, their global reach of destinations is arguably their other biggest strength.
All of the big mass market companies such as Norwegian operate in the key cruising areas such as the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Alaska and Northern Europe, Norwegian Fjords, and the Canaries but NCL offer much more than that.
Thanks to a wide range of ships, from huge all action floating resorts to smaller more boutique like ships, they can cover all of the big ports to smaller ports in far flung places and they take full advantage of that.
It would be difficult to list all of the destinations that they cover in this review and the list is something that is changing constantly but if you are an experienced cruiser looking for somewhere different to go, Norwegian offer cruises to fascinating destinations such as Greenland, Iceland, South America, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Islands and even the French Polynesian islands.
If you love sea days and been onboard and are not too interested in port days, why not try one of Norwegians transits through either the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal, something that they offer with decent frequency?
One of the great aspects of NCL is the range of re-positioning cruises that they offer, where you start in one point and finish in another, these are perfect for those wanting to add a land based holiday onto the beginning or end of their getaway and also for those who want to fit in as many different ports of call as possible.
Over the last decade or so, the lien has started to establish itself more and more in the UK and now offers good range of cruises from Southampton including to the Canaries, the Norwegian Fjords, Northern Europe, the Baltics, the Mediterranean and transatlantic trips.
One of the highlights of NCL is their Hawaiian cruises as they are the only large cruise line to offer cruises around the islands that start and finish in Hawaii.
Due to legal red tape, cruise ships have to visit a faraway port on a Hawaii cruise, so the majority will start and end on the American west coast. This means a couple sea days added to either side of your holiday but with Norwegian you can enjoy a week or 2 of simply cruising around the main Hawaiian islands onboard the Pride of America.
Whist this is the smallest and oldest ship in the NCL fleet, it is perfect for sailing around the islands where you have much more time onshore, with no sea days.
Norwegian Cruise Line currently have around 20 ships, with some been built and some on order whilst some are older ships that have been fully refurbished to all but brand new and many are newer builds.
That means you will get a modern cruising experience no matter which ships you decide upon, although the Pride of America does have some aspects lacking due to its age, size, and the legalities of its permission to be able to cruises amongst the Hawaiian Islands.
The ships of NCL can be split into a number of classes of size and style including.
These are all smaller ships under 100,000 tonnage and whilst they cannot match the facilities and activities of the larger ships, they can visit ports that the larger ships cannot.
Leo Class:- Norwegian Spirit (built 1998, formally Superstar Leo)
Sun Class:- Norwegian Sky (built 1999, formally Pride of Aloha), Norwegian Sun (built 2001)
Dawn Class:- Norwegian Star (built 2001, ordered as Superstar Libra) and Norwegian Dawn (built 2002, ordered as Superstar Scorpio)
Pride of America Class:- Pride of America (built 2005, the only US flagged cruise ship in the world as of 2020)
Jewell Class:- Norwegian Jewell (built 2005), Norwegian Jade (Built 2006, formally Pride of Hawaii), Norwegian Pearl (built 2006), Norwegian Gem (built 2007)
These are larger cruise ships that are over 100,000 tonnes, with some amongst the largest cruise ships in the world and offering the full Haven experience and the widest range of onboard facilities.
Epic Class:- Norwegian Epic (built 2010)
Breakaway Class:- Norwegian Breakaway (built 2013), Norwegian Getaway (built 2014)
Breakaway Plus Class:- Norwegian Escape (built 2015), Norwegian Joy (built 2018), Norwegian Bliss (built 2018), Norwegian Encore (built 2019)
Leaonardo Class:- Expected to arrive 2022
NCL is a cruise line that is great for families, couples and both the young and old as there relaxed style allows you to tailor any holiday to how you like it.
If you are after a full blown traditional cruise holiday, where things a happen in a certain way at a certain time and for 1 or 2 nights you get dressed up to the nines, then this isn’t the cruise line for you.
The staff onboard a NCL cruise are right up there with the best and should never be an issue. You can always expect a friendly welcome whenever you meet a staff member and they will always go out of their way to help.
Unfortunately, that does not translate to their land based staff who if you are unfortunate to have to deal with beforehand, you will likely find it a stressful experience.
Even basic requests to their call centre can be a time consuming effort that ends up going nowhere and if you need any information about your up coming cruise, it is always worth ringing back as the answer you will get from one member of staff will likely be different from one to the next.
When you contact the company or book a cruise be prepared to be constantly contact with no offers but unfortunately these offer often verge on been mis-leading as despite many things been promoted as money off or even free, they can cost more!
If you do take a holiday with NCL, the chances are that Norwegian will quickly become one of your go-to cruise companies due to the great ships and onboard staff but for some reason they want to make it as difficult as possible for you to book the holiday in the first place and experience there great offering.
We always recommend booking online or using a travel agent and avoid using there call centre.
Another big issue to keep in mind is that many of the company’s facilities, activities and attractions come at an extra cost and these can rack up quickly and if you are to enjoy the best dining on board, you will pay.
The history of the Norwegian Cruise Line has been a long and fascinating one which started from the off in headline fashion.
Originally established in 1966 as the Norwegian Caribbean Line by Norwegian Knut Kloster and Israel Ted Arison (who went onto form the Carnival Cruise Line!), when they purchased the cruise ship come car ferry Sunward.
Originally the ship operated as a ferry between Southampton and Gibraltar but they soon moved into modern style cruising and in many ways it is thanks to Norwegian that we have cruising as we do know.
Norwegian were pioneers of the industry in the early days including been the first line to offer an Out Line Cruise, the first to offer combined air and sea pricing and they were the first to developed new cruise ports in the Caribbean including the still popular Ocho Rios.
In 1979, the company made headlines by purchasing the iconic SS France, one of the great trans-Atlantic ocean liners and after a renamed to the SS Norway, it become one of the world fastest, biggest, and most luxurious cruise ships.
This was seen as paving the way for the huge behemoths we all enjoy today.
The early 2000’s saw the company’s expansion from a North American and European focussed company to a world company with new partnership in Asia and Australia and they also purchased some US flagged ships to form a new NCL America brand.
Whilst this plan perhaps did not go fully to plan, it has left them as the only company to offer cruises in Hawaii without the need to visit a foreign port.
The last decade or so has all been about building bigger and more advanced ships which has allowed them to offer cruises to all parts of the world and to cement themselves as the 3rd largest cruise line in the world.
The line is owned by their parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holding who also own their sister lines Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Overall, Norwegian Cruise Line are one of the leading cruise lines in the world and that is a standing that they deserve.
Whilst it is fair to say that they are not perfect, as the saying goes, no person is and certainly no cruise is.
The more relaxed style of Norwegian is been rolled out by multiple, other lines but at the moment it can be easily argued that NCL are still the best at free-style like cruising.
If Norwegian have a ship that offers what you are looking for and heading to a destination you want to visit for a cost you are happy with, we would certainly recommend taking your next cruise with NCL.
If you are looking of a review of NCL before you book your next cruise holiday, we hope that you found our NCL review helpful.