Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line Review

Norwegian Jade near Cannes, France. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian Cruise Line is the proverbial underdog of the cruise world: not quite up among the Carnival/Royal Caribbean power elite, but scrappy and determined and lots of fun. You just can’t help but root for them.

Norwegian Cruise Line Overview

NCL is actually the oldest major U.S.-based cruise line, having got its start in 1966. In the late ’90s, after years as practically a budget cruise line, it began a series of moves that eventually gave its profile a big boost. Today, the line has a fleet of young megaships and offers an always-casual onboard experience that’s heavy on dining and entertainment, with a dash of hipsterish innovations like glow-in-the-dark bowling alleys, outdoor nightclubs, solo cabins with adjustable mood lighting, and extra-huge water slides that appeal to adults as much as kids. You’ll find more young couples and young families aboard NCL than aboard many other mainstream lines, in part because of their generally low fares, in part because the ships and the cruises seem to have been designed for a younger clientele.

Freestyle Cruising

The IceBar aboard Norwegian Epic is a chilly – yet fascinating – experience. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Once it started building its modern fleet around the turn of the millennium, NCL became known for two main things: it’s casual “Freestyle cruising” idea and its amazing number of dining options — both of which set trends for the cruise industry. “Freestyle cruising” basically means an onboard vibe that’s less structured and more casual: Instead of fixed formal and informal nights, NCL went with casual dress all the way. Instead of making you sit with the same dining companions at the same table every night, guests can eat when they want, with whoever they want, and wherever they want among the dozen or more different restaurants available on most of the NCL ships — grand main dining rooms, fancy continental specialty restaurants, fun Mexican and Italian restaurants, Indian buffets, South American–style steakhouses, and a variety of Asian options, including sushi, Chinese, and Japanese teppanyaki. To avoid having guests scurrying around the ships at busy mealtimes looking for a seat, computerized screens in various public areas tell you how busy each restaurant is and how long the wait will be if it’s filled up.

Entertainment On NCL

Entertainment-wise, NCL shines. Its newest ship, Norwegian Epic, is one of the best entertainment ships at sea, with four large-scale shows presented regularly on board — including a full production by the Blue Man Group that’s easily one of the very best shows at sea today. NCL’s other ships feature production shows that are way above average, with inspired themes, music, and choreography. Many also offer sketch and improv comedy shows from the famed Second City Comedy Troupe, whose alumni include Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, and Tina Fey.

Activities On NCL

The relaxation room in the Santa Fe Spa aboard the Hawaii-based Pride of America. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Fleetwide, NCL’s ships offer all the usual cruise activities, and more. You can take improv comedy workshops, dance lessons, bartending and cooking classes, or various other enrichment lectures; play Wii games on a two-story screen; participate in a talent show; participate in a wine tasting or beer tasting session; play basketball; work out at the gym; go broke or win big in the casino; or get a massage or makeover at the spa. Kids get a full program of activities divided into several age group; large and creative kids’ and teen centers; family activities like pizza parties and scavenger hunts; and, on Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Jewel, special programming created in partnership with Nickelodeon, including poolside games, the messy Slime Time Live! game show, dancing and singing with Dora the Explorer, and breakfasts with SpongeBob SquarePants.

Suites & Staterooms On NCL

One of Norwegian Epic’s Spa Balcony Staterooms, sporting the famous (or infamous) curved wall design. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Accommodations tend to be about average for the industry, with standard cabins a bit smaller than those aboard some other competing lines. Decor is generally a mix of stylish and fun elements — say, nice wood paneling with bright, island-colored carpets and fabrics. On most of the ships, folks with some money to spend can opt for “The Haven by Norwegian,” a separate first-class section sequestered away toward the top of many of NCL’s ships, offering spacious accommodations and a private courtyard, private sundeck,  a concierge lounge, and (on some ships) exclusive restaurants, bars, and fitness centers, all reserved for Haven guests only.

Breakaway Ships

Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced two new Breakaway ships, due out in 2013 and 2014. These new vesssels will feature a suite complex called “The Haven by Norwegian,” which will be like a ship within a ship, with some of the biggest and best suites at sea, plus a private restaurant, a cocktail bar and a concierge desk.

Norwegian Cruise Reviews

To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Ship ReviewLive Voyage Report
Norwegian Breakaway Review• Christening Ceremonies in New York
Norwegian Dawn Review
Norwegian Epic Review• Eastern Caribbean from Miami
Norwegian Escape Review
Norwegian Gem Review
Norwegian Getaway Review
Norwegian Jade Review
Norwegian Jewel Review
Norwegian Pearl Review• Alaska & Glacier Bay from Seattle
Norwegian Sky Review
Norwegian Spirit Review
Norwegian Star Review
Norwegian Sun Review
Pride of America Review

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  • We spent A HUGE amount of money to have the cruise of a lifetime in a Penthouse suite on Norwegian looking forward to the “exceptional” customer service, We haven’t had our cruise yet, but all of the customer service we have had to date has been HORRENDOUS! Our agent and myself have been on hold hold or the one with them for over 7 hours trying to solve problems THEY created (such as deleting one of our group members) and trying to get Latitudes member cruise benefits (which they said we were eligible for, said they put a note in our account to credit once our agent called, only to have done NOTHING, no note or anything and refused to apply the credit with our agent.). And the final straw is their customer service after a SIGNIFICANT price drop – we understood we wouldn’t be able to get an upgrade with our category, but they were unwilling to do ANYTHING at all after a $2000 price drop, when others we know received category upgrades and on board credit. I have lodged a complaint about their customer service and received NO reply from corporate. This is our third Norwegian Cruise and will be our last after this experience. It has really taken a lot out of our anticipation for the vacation. If you want a once in a lifetime special cruise experience and to be treated with consideration and respect, choose another cruise line.

  • I have never been one to leave reviews. Anything could be good or bad, and I’ve always just rolled with the punches. However, I feel I have to say something about my experience so far with Norwegian’s customer service. I am currently booked to go to Alaska in July. I have had questions about excursions, add-ons, airfare etc. and have had to call in several times to get the answers because the website is difficult to navigate. I have spent a minimum of 35 minutes waiting for someone to come on the line, and up to an hour and a half before I spoke to a human being. I have to say after spending over $10,000 so far, this is highly unacceptable. There has been an issue with my airfare, and I still don’t know what airline I am on and what time I fly. I need to get seats for my family and can’t get it done. I would really like to be able to sit with them!!
    I have cruised with Disney 4 times, with customer service second to none. They are available almost immediately every time I call. Because the cost was a couple thousand cheaper for this cruise, I decided to try another cruise line. I feel I have made a mistake.

  • I’m suggesting not cruise with Norwegian cruise line ever again. Also, do not book directly with Norwegian, check prices on other websites.
    I booked the cabin well in advance assuming the price would be competitive. During booking over the phone with Norwegian I was told that the price will be adjusted if drops before sailing.
    I found out just few weeks later that price drops and when I called Norwegian, was told that they can only give me onboard credit for $50. This was just 25% of the price drop that they never clarified about their unethical policy.
    I would have saved at least $500 if booked thru travel agents or other web sites just few weeks before cruise.
    I’m done with Norwegian and would like to suggest other customers not to sail with them.
    There are many other choices you can save lot of money and enjoy your vacation.

    Neil B

  • I received an email from Tonya from inside sales, we communicated months earlier, with me asking for a long term cruise.
    She was excited to tell me about a 16 day cruise on the Joy form LAX to MIA. With that prompt i booked the cruise for a base rate of $4,398.
    Now they have dropped the same cruise, same cabin to $2,249.
    It’s not their problem that i live on Social Security and a small pension, and it has taken me 4 years to save for a cruise.
    NCL did offer me a nice inside room, unlike the Balcony I booked.
    Gee, no thanks.
    Can I just get a credit for future cruise, No but we can upgrade you to a nice inside room.
    NCL really does not care a bit about the customer, as long as they have sucked out all your money.

  • The last experience cruising on NCL I had nothing but great things to say, 2 cruises on the Jade, in the Adriatic and Mediterranean and twice on the Epic from Spain to Sicily… we were sold, great service, great trips… fast forward from 2013 to 2019… WHOAH how far can a company drop? This 5 night cruise from NYC to Bermuda has been the worst… to see how they’ve altered services in favor of MORE people, less quality in food, services and courtesy… for example; the spa… no longer do you get the luxury of a ROBE.. get escorted to a tranquil lounge to wait, no no…. just hustled into your massage room by the therapist, change right there… lie down get your quick and expensive massage, put back on your Bermuda shorts and hurried out… oh the worst thing we had on our $15,000 vacation, our big suite has 2 TVs – 2 remotes…. the remote? Yes. We’re told “hold it to the blue light located on the tv” or it won’t work…. so forget lying on the bed and changing channels…. no no… it’s not low batteries… it’s just how it works in all staterooms ?…. the room service, cold food, Pepsi only, 45 minutes if you ask for ice tea…. worst room service ever… 24/7…. entertainment is sad…. sorry NCL… how low can you go? Your prices are the only thing that rose to the top… ?? Zero stars …


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