Norwegian Cruise Line are one of the biggest cruise lines in the world, they are American owned and focus on a freestyle approach to cruising. I’ve been cruising since I was 11 years old and have cruised with Norwegian Cruise Line more than any other cruise line. They are without a doubt one of my favourite cruise lines and I consistently recommend them to friends.
Are Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises Good?
Norwegian Cruise Line cruises are generally regarded as being of high quality. Guests love the cruise lines freestyle approach to dining and relaxed atmosphere onboard. Cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line take place all over the world and are particularly popular with families, young adults and solo cruisers.
Like any cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line aren’t for everybody. To find out if they’re for you, in this post we will cover the main things which affect the onboard experience.
Reason #1: Freestyle Dining
Norwegian Cruise Line focus on offering freestyle dining onboard all of their ships. The cruise line launched in the 1960s and implemented freestyle dining in the early 2000s. Many other cruise lines have followed since but Norwegian really were at the forefront of the freestyle revolution.
There are quite a few other cruise lines which offer some element of freestyle dining but still offer fixed dining too. Royal Caribbean, Carnival and MSC are good examples of this. Norwegian cruise line are the only cruise line which has completely freestyle dining in all of it’s main restaurants onboard.
On Norwegian Cruise Line cruises you won’t have to do any of the following (if you don’t want to):
– Dine at a set time
– Table share
– Dress formally for formal nights.
The idea behind freestyle dining is that guests don’t have to eat at certain times. There are a number of places where guests can eat each meal and passengers do so simply by turning up at the restaurant and waiting to be seated. At peak times there may be a wait if you have a lot of guests dining with you but I’ve never found this to be a problem.
To learn about all the different types of food which are included in Norwegian Cruise Line cruises check out this post: Do Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises Include Meals?: Included Food Guide
Guests also don’t have to table share. I’m not a big fan of table sharing although I will do it when the cruise line requires it. Personally I’d prefer to dine only with the people that I came on the cruise with. That said, I do know that a lot of people love table sharing and this is still a possibility if you’d like to take part on a Norwegian cruise.
There are a number of speciality restaurants on Norwegian Cruise Line ships which cost extra. In these restaurants guests usually have to make a reservation although on occasion walk-ins will be accepted.
Reason #2: No Formal Nights
Norwegian Cruise Line don’t have formal nights on any of their cruises. They do have some dress codes which are applied to the ship but these are among the most relaxed in the industry. Guests are free to wear jeans at all times as long as they’t not overly ripped or faded, shorts are allowed in some main restaurants too.
Norwegian do have some ‘dress up or not’ nights but these are exactly what the name suggestions. These nights do provide an opportunity of guests who want to dress up to do so but no guests onboard have to take part.
Dress up or not nights happen on all Norwegian cruises at some point. They usually happen on a sea day and will almost always happen mid cruise. For more information about dress up or not nights, take a look at this post: Norwegian Cruise Line Don’t Have Formal Nights, Here’s What They Have Instead
Reason #3: Solo Lounge and Cabins
When it comes to Solo cruises Norwegian Cruise Line are leading the way by a mile. I consistently recommend the cruise line to solo cruisers not only because of the solo cabins that they provide but also because of the solo lounge and events the cruise line organise.
To find out why, and to find out which other cruise lines I recommend for solo cruisers, check out this post: Best Cruise Lines For Solo Cruisers (Tried & Tested, Pros & Cons!)
Norwegian were the first cruise line to produce cabins specifically for solo cruisers. Solo specific cabins are provided on the cruise lines newer ships. All new ships being produced for Norwegian Cruise Line include solo cabins and each year they win awards for the cabins. The line were actually named best for solos for 5 years by Porthole cruise magazine. – source.
Normally if a person wants to cruise alone they will have to pay for themselves and the cruise fare of the other person that would be sharing the room. This means that solo cruisers often end up paying double the price than the fare for two sharing. This is a very common problem within the cruise industry and something that many passengers complain about, rightly so! The cruise lines do this not just to make up for the lost revenue of the other guest but also to make up for things like the loss of spending on drinks or gambling in the casino.
With Norwegian Cruise Line there is a set rate for the solo cabins and this is the price that a solo cruiser can expect to pay.
The cabins themselves average around 100-square-feet and contain everything that you’d find in a similar inside cabin. The shower/toilet are usually in little rooms in the corners of the cabin with the rest of the bathroom being in the main cabin. This is similar to the design of the cabins on the Norwegian Epic. Many of the solo cabins have windows which look out onto the corridor.
Below is a video exploring a solo cabin from Sheri from Cruise Tips TV:
Reviews from our Facebook group:
My cabin was small, but I expected that. Amazingly, even though I stayed in it for 12 nights, it never felt cramped or claustrophobic. I loved the small virtual “window” (that even had a shade to lower at night!). I found that keeping the room tidy helped it feel bigger. The room had two cupboards for clothes and my only complaint was the lack of actual dresser. There were no drawers to put away my clothes – I had to sort of stack them on the bottom of the cupboard. (Fortunately, I travel with packing cubes, so those came in quite handy.)
I definitely missed a few things about having a full-sized room, such as a mini-fridge and a regular bathroom and shower. The shower in the studio cabins is basically in the room, and the toilet is enclosed in a room so small I could barely shut the door while I was in it! Overall, though, I would recommend the studio cabins for solo travelers, but I would caution against them for larger people – they might not be as comfortable. – Read the full review here.
It isn’t just solo cabins which make Norwegian Cruise Line attractive to solo cruisers. Norwegian also have a solo lounge where guests staying in the solo cabins can meet up. I personally think this is a brilliant idea and they are currently the only cruise line that offers this. At the start of every cruise there will be a solo meet up for guests to get to know each other.
Reason #4: Broadway Style Entertainment
I am a big fan of theatre shows when I cruise and I usually go every night when I can. Norwegian have a few big broadway style shows which are being performed on a number of their ships, Kinky Boots, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Rock of Ages to name a few.
I watched Priscilla Queen of the Desert onboard the Norwegian Epic. It was so good that I watched it two nights in a row then came home and booked tickets to see it on land. I’ve seen it on land twice since and I have to admit that I think it was better on Norwegian! I live near London but a trip to the theatre can get very expensive, the fact that these types of shows are included in the cruise fare is amazing.
The broadway style shows are usually ALMOST full length and they have all of the elements of the broadway versions. It used to be that broadway stars would ‘end up on a cruise’ and that was something of an insult. That isn’t the case anymore, the performers on cruise ships are often as good, if not better, than performers on broadway. Many of them have come from broadway or will go on to be on broadway.
Quick Tip: Make sure you book the shows!
If you are cruising with Norwegian on any of newer ships (Norwegian Epic, Getaway, Breakaway, Bliss, Encore, Escape and Joy) you have to book to see theatre shows. This can either be done using the cruise lines app or on your stateroom TV. It is also possible to book the shows before your cruise on Norwegian’s online planner and I would strongly recommend you do this if you have the chance. The theatres on Norwegian ships don’t hold all of the ships passengers (approximately 1/4) so it’s important that you don’t miss your chance to see a show.
When you arrive at the theatre you’ll be asked to show your cruise card and it will be scanned to check that you have booked the show. At around 10 minutes before showtime the doors are open to everybody regardless of booking, this is to allow people who didn’t book the chance to fill the empty seats. I’d personally recommend arriving around 20-30 minutes earlier than showtime if you want to secure a ‘good’ seat and have booked to see the show. For me a ‘good’ seat is a seat on an aisle!
You can cancel your entertainment reservations as easily as you can make them so it’s definitely worth doing it.
Most Norwegian ships will have one signature show with a variety of others on other days. Due to the size of the ships the big shows are often on for a couple of nights which means that there isn’t a different show every night. I love the entertainment on Norwegian but this is one of my least favourite things about it, on smaller ships there will be a different show every night.
Around The Ship
When it comes to daily schedules Norwegian have one of the busiest in the industry. All activities are optional but there are a variety of things for guests to chose from. Common activities on a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise include:
– Live Music
– Lessons (dancing, crafts)
One of my favourite things about a Norwegian cruise is the ability to take a walk around the ship at any time and find something going on somewhere. Day or night there are events and live music constantly fills the ship. That said there are plenty of quiet places too where you can relaxed with a drink and a book if you’d like to.
Reason #5: Variety and Quality of Ships
Norwegian Cruise Line have ships which vary in size and amenities. The largest of the ships feature things like go kart tracks and laser tag courses where as the smaller ships don’t feature any of these things.
It’s incredibly important that potential cruisers research the ship that they are planning on cruising on ahead of time. A person who was looking for adrenaline filled activities may be disappointed by the smaller ships but those passengers looking for relaxation may not want to be on one of the mega ships.
Cruise Ship Design
All but one of the cruise ship was specifically built and designed for Norwegian. The only exception to this is the Norwegian Spirit. The Norwegian Spirit is my favourite ship in the fleet. She was originally built as Superstar Leo for Star Cruises but was bought by Norwegian in 2004. She’s relatively small compared to the other ships in the fleet but features a big atrium, lots of deck space and a promenade deck which I love.
Below is a video I filmed embarking the Norwegian Spirit in 2019.
Cruise Ship Classes
Norwegians cruise ships are split into different classes, the newest of which being Breakaway Plus class. The cruise ships in the same ‘class’ are generally speaking pretty similar as they’re built to the same design, these are referred to as sister ships . There may be some differences but chances are if you like one ship in the class you’ll like them all.
Unclassed Cruise Ships
There are three cruise ships owned by Norwegian which don’t have a class, these are Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Spirit and Pride of America. These three ships don’t have any sister ships.
The oldest and smallest cruise ships in the fleet Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun make up the sun class.
Next up we have the Jewel class ships. This proved to be a very popular design for Norwegian so they produced four ships in this class. The ships are Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Pearl. I’ve cruised on the Jewel, Jade and Pearl and found that the ships provide a more classic style of cruising than their big sisters. I personally really like these ships but cruisers cruising on these shouldn’t expect things like go kart tracks.
Next came the dawn class ships. These are similar to the Jewel class ships just a little bigger. The ships in the fleet are Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star.
The next class was Breakaway class where Norwegian perfected some elements of cruise ship design such as a waterfront promenade and multiple open atrium areas throughout the ships. The Norwegian Breakaway was launched in 2013 and this is where I tend to think that the ‘new’ Norwegian cruise line ships began. Norwegian Breakaway and her sister Norwegian Getaway are the only two ships in this class, both ships feature ropes courses.
Breakaway Plus Class
The ships in the Breakaway plus class built on the success of the Breakaway ship design. These are the biggest cruise ships in the fleet and are filled with lots of adrenaline filled activities like VR areas and laser tag courses. The ships in this class are Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy.
The next class of ships for Norwegian will be the Leonardo class of ships. These will be launching in 2022.
Reason #6: Family Friendly
I cruised with Norwegian as a child and a teenager so I can personally vouch for how family friendly the cruise line are. There are a number of activities dedicated to children onboard and kids clubs that children can join.
For babies/toddlers there is a program called guppies. This program is for guests aged 6 months to 3 years and is not a drop-off program. Parents are invited to take part in the activities or come and play with their child in the dedicated room but cannot leave their children unattended.
Kids and Teen Clubs
There are then programs for 3-5 year olds called turtles, 6-9 year olds called seals, 10-12 called dolphins and a teen club for 12-17 year olds. Norwegian do strictly stick to these age groupings and it isn’t usually possible to put siblings together if they’re not in the same age group.
I had so much fun in the teen clubs as a teenager. There aren’t really organised activities in the teen area but it’s more of a space for teenagers to come and hang out with their friends. I used to love playing on the playstation or wii with my friends. We also had events like pool parties and meals which I enjoyed. Cruising as a teenager definitely ignited my love of travel and making friends with people from different countries,
To sign your children into the kids club you have go to the kids clubs on embarkation day.
To learn more about the kids clubs and services offered check out this post by my friends over at Cruising With Kids: Norwegian Encore Kids and Youth Programmes.
In addition to the kids clubs lots of the cruise ships in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet have things like waterslides and basketball courts where children and teenagers like to spend their time. The best thing about cruising as a teenager for me was the freedom that it gave me to do my own thing, if my parents wanted to sit down for dinner, I could get pizza from the buffet, it was AMAZING.
Reason #7: Itinerary Variations
Norwegian Cruise Line cruise all over the world but have the majority of their ships are based in Europe and around the USA.
Norwegian cruise to the following destinations:
Norwegian offer a number of Northern Europe itineraries, they cruise mostly to the Baltics or Norway, most cruises in this part of the world are 10-14 days in length. A few cruises do cruise from the UK but most often they will cruise from places like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
Norwegian do also have British Isles itineraries from time to time.
If you are considering a baltic cruise make sure you check out this post, you’ll learn what to pack, when to go, what to do in ports and more: Baltic Cruise Tips: Your Biggest Questions Answered
Norwegian offer a lot of Mediterranean cruises from a variety of cruise ports. These are usually a week or two in length.
To learn more about how much Mediterranean cruises actually cost (and how you can reduce the price) check out this post: How Much Does a Mediterranean Cruise ACTUALLY Cost? (With 21 Examples)
North Africa and The Middle East
Norwegian Cruise Line also offer cruises around North Africa and into the Middle East. This is becoming an increasingly popular place to cruise to although I haven’t personally tried one yet!
Canada and New England
Cruises to Canada and New England are very popular with Norwegian. They have a variety of itineraries which tend to last between 7-10 days. Popular ports to visit tend to include places like New York, Portland and Halifax.
South America and Antarctica
Norwegian do actually offer a few itineraries to South America and Antarctica. These cruises are usually quite expensive because less cruise lines cruise to these destinations but these are definitely bucket list itineraries for a lot of people.
Cruises to this part of the world are typically longer and are usually between 14-20 days in length.
Norwegian have LOTS and I mean LOTS of Caribbean cruises. It’s possible to pick a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise to the Caribbean relatively cheaply and there is lots of choice. Cruises with Norwegian cruise the Caribbean year round.
It’s possible to find a Caribbean cruise on a new Norwegian ship for as little as $120 (£100) per night.
Norwegian also have a lot of itineraries which go to Hawaii. I’ve actually cruised to Hawaii with Norwegian but I was 11 years old at the time so didn’t really appreciate how amazing it was. Cruises to Hawaii are generally more expensive than cruises to the Caribbean or Alaska.
To take a Hawaii cruise you can either cruise to Hawaii from the US or fly to Hawaii and take a round trip cruise.
Alaska is a very popular cruise destination and Norwegian have a lot of choice when it comes to Alaskan itineraries. I’d recommend everybody to cruise to Alaska at least once. Whatever you do though, pack a coat! The weather in Alaska is incredibly unpredictable and it can rain even on the sunniest of days.
Popular places to visit on an Alaska cruise include Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria.
Australia and New Zealand
There are a number of Australian itineraries that Norwegian offer. These tend to be long, at least 14 days in length and tend to visit both Australia and New Zealand.
Norwegian do have some Asian itineraries. These are usually at least 14 nights in length and may extend up to 20 or 30 days in length.
If you are visiting Asia I’d recommend that you try to extend your trip a much as you can. I took an Asian cruise with Princess in 2018 and it was hands down the best cruise that I’ve ever been on. To learn more about cruising in Asia, check out this post: 7 Asia Cruise Tips, Packing, Visas and More
Who Would I Recommend Norwegian Cruise Line Cruises To?
I’d recommend Norwegian Cruise Line to anybody who likes the flexible relaxed approach to dining and cruising in general. Young adults, couples and families all seem to love Norwegian cruises and solo cruisers do too. Personally I’m a big fan of the entertainment, the ships and the onboard atmosphere.
To learn more about why I recommend the line, check out our recommended cruise lines page here: Recommended Cruise Lines, Full List
Where To Next?
There is not a lot that I love more than going on a cruise, meeting new friends and realising that I paid considerably less that everybody else for the exact same cruise.
Finding and booking a cruise is no easy task. I’ve been able to cruise for as little as $50 per night and I regularly save over 75% compared to advertised brochure prices. You can do it too!
If you have any cruise questions or stories/photos you’d like to share, please join us in our Facebook group!