4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
Norwegian Cruise Line offers a hybrid cruising experience, mixing traditional elements with innovative features, amenities and ambience. Decor is colorful, fun and occasionally loud, especially on newer ships. The dress code is flexible and very casual. It's not unusual to see T-shirt-clad passengers dining among their more dressed up shipmates. (Tuxedos are rare.)
All Norwegian ships have multiple dining venues, ranging from French bistros to steakhouses and sushi bars. Room service is available around the clock, but always comes with a service charge. Specialty dining generally comes with a $10 to $25 cover charge and/or a la carte menus ranging from $8 to $25. All specialty dining venues require reservations. Another don't-miss is Norwegian's signature Chocoholic's Buffet, held once per cruise on each ship. It's a magnificent sight to behold.
You'll want to plan ahead for a Norwegian cruise. With so many dining options, snagging reservations is key and on the largest ships, many people book all of their meals before they board. If you want to try the many specialty restaurants, make sure you budget accordingly, as most are not included in the basic cruise fare. That being said, Norwegian frequently offers value-added fares, with drink or dining packages included; these can also be bought before the cruise to make your onboard experience less stressful.
In addition to eateries, the ships also have multiple bars and lounges. Norwegian is serious about entertainment, and offers exuberant musical productions (including Broadway and off-Broadway shows), comedy from Second City, live bands, lounge singers, piano bars and DJs in the discos. The casinos are a good size and offer the expected games. The requisite libraries, game rooms, shuffleboard, Ping-Pong, art auctions, perfume seminars, gaming lessons and port talks are available every day. Steiner-run Mandara Spas offer luxe treatments at luxe prices, with teeth whitening and acupuncture sessions, as well as Botox by visiting onboard doctors. All ships have fitness centers.
Well-trained counselors staff the children's programs; age-appropriate offerings range from parties and video arcades to kid-friendly learning sessions. The Guppies program offers sensory-based interaction for parents with children 6 months to 3 years. There are teen centers, discos and kids' pools, too. The newer ships in the NCL fleet are particularly welcoming to children, and although standard cabins run substantially smaller -- at an average of 160 square feet -- than those on other new vessels, Norwegian does boast a large number of adjoining cabins and family-centric suites
The crowd is diverse -- primarily American -- ranging in age from young families to older folks, as well as a good many cruisers with disabilities. Norwegian has cultivated a broad appeal, which means its ships are oriented to both families and couples. They're appropriate for gay and lesbian travelers, too.
Norwegian has carved out a major niche for itself in the U.K. and Europe, and homeports ships there both full time and seasonally. In 2016, Norwegian decided to base a ship in Australia and in 2017, it will enter the Chinese cruising market with Norwegian Joy, a ship built especially for Asian travelers.