Anyone that has cruised before knows each cruise line has its own “personality” when it comes to the design and style of their ships. And anyone that has sailed multiple ships within the same cruise line knows that the different ships — and classes of ships — can each have their own feel as well.
With each new ship, cruise lines push the limits of what’s possible at sea. The result? Every new iteration from a cruise line offers something a little different for its passengers.
But in the case of Norwegian Prima — the newest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and the first of the all-new Prima class — this isn’t just a slightly different style compared to past ships. Instead, it’s like no other cruise ship we’ve (and undoubtedly you) have ever experienced.
So what makes it so different? Cruzely was recently provided a tour of the brand new ship, which we explored practically from bow to stern…
First Impressions of Prima (Exterior)
The first thing you’ll notice as you see the ship is that it looks like no other vessel in Norwegian’s fleet. With this new Prima class, the cruise line has opted not just to tweak the design of past vessels, but instead to seemingly start from scratch. In fact, apart rom the famous hull painting that is a staple across the entire fleet, you wouldn’t recognize the ship as being from Norwegian Cruise Line.
From a vertical bow to a back half of the ship that sweeps in on either side (offering more deck space for the lower decks, which are closer to the ocean), there are some major design changes to the exterior of the ship.
As well, NCL has made another bold move that’s nearly unseen in cruising today. As most cruise lines continue to build ships that are larger and larger, Norwegian Prima — and the entire Prima class — is actually smaller than previous ships.
Norwegian Encore, the most recent new ship before Prima, came in at 169,000 gross tons and carried nearly 4,000 passengers at double occupancy. For comparison, Prima is 143,500 gross tons and carries 3,100 passengers.
But you wouldn’t notice the size difference unless the two ships sat next to each other. There’s no doubt the Prima still is a very large cruise ship.
First Impressions (Interior)
Stepping aboard Prima for the first time, you quickly realize that the changes with a new class of ship don’t just apply to its size or the hull style. Having sailed on dozens of ships, including all the major cruise lines and a number of NCL vessels across different classes, Prima is like nothing else we’ve seen.
The first thing that you’ll notice upon entering (and throughout the entire ship) is how stylish all the design choices are everywhere that you go. The colors are modern and calming, there are different textures everywhere that give a high-end feel, and there is hardly a straight line anywhere on the ship.
It’s not a stretch to say that instead of designing a cruise ship, NCL has instead designed a high-end hotel. The style would match right in with the nicest hotels you’d find anywhere on land, and frankly, it’s nicer and more stylish than any cruise ship we’ve been on. (If you’re looking for something to compare Prima too, perhaps it’s most similar to ships like Celebrity’s Edge class.)
As just a single example, consider outdoor seating. Head on most ships and your options for sitting outside include row after row of blue deck chairs. That’s not the case on Prima. Sure, there are deck loungers in abundance, but there are also day beds, swinging chairs, tables with chairs, and outdoor sofas. So no matter how you want to relax, you can do it that way.
The other major change with Prima is that there’s been a lot of thought put into making a large ship feel “boutique” with its space. A normal cruise ship has lots of wide-open spaces, such as the pool deck, or the main lobby, or the dining rooms.
But throughout this ship, it’s been designed to make things feel most more cozy. Take the main dining room in the back of the ship, Hudson’s. Instead of a massive dining area with hundreds of tables across a massive room, it’s designed around the curve of the ship. The result is that you are still in a large dining space, but can only see tables in a much smaller area, providing more intimacy.
The main atrium is still large, but with staircases and flowing decks above that provide a more secluded setting. And perhaps the largest open area of the ship is the casino, but its layout offers a tremendous amount of space between tables and machines instead of feeling like you’re on top of other people. This sort of design is throughout the entire ship. There is hardly any spot that’s a wide open space or massive room. Even the theater is modest by cruise ship standards.
What’s Around the Ship
We’ve discussed a number of areas around the ship, but let’s dive into what you can expect with the major highlights.
The atrium on Norwegian Prima is a bit different than what you’ll find on any other ship. Going between decks 6-8, it’s not near as wide-open as you might be used to. Instead, it’s much more intimate with lots of different spots to sit and have a private conversation and a drink. Head up near the Starbucks on Deck 7 and you’ll have floor to ceiling windows and a glass ceiling to give you sweeping views of the water.
In this area you’ll also find things like Guest Services, Shore Excursions, shopping, and more.
The casino runs along Deck 6 and we must say it is the most spaced out casino we’ve seen on a ship. Games include slots, tables, coin pusher machines, and there is also a VIP section for high rollers.
NCL places a big emphasis on food, and Prima sees the introduction of a new spot called Indulge Food Hall. This area is a casual eatery with food from roughly a dozen different spots. It includes everything from salads to seafood, BBQ, Indian, sweets, and more. No matter what you like, there will be something for you. Sit down, order from the tablet on your table, and the food is brought to you.
In addition, there are any number of restaurants on the ship. From main dining rooms to the buffet (Surfside Cafe) and The Local for included dining, to specialty dining like Los Lobos, Food Republic, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and Onda by Scarpetta that are an extra charge.
La Terrazza/Ocean Boulevard
We mentioned that Prima’s back half of the ship is “cut in” from the hull. This provides a wide area on Deck 8 where you can get outdoors much closer to the ocean than on other ships. Here there is the Oceanwalk, which takes you over a glass walkway that looks down to the water below. There is The Concourse, which is an outdoor sculpture garden. And then there is Ocean Boulevard.
Think of this area as a second pool deck. It’s wide on both sides of the ship with plenty of seating. There is also Infinity Beach, with two (relatively small) infinity pools to take in the views of the water, and even day beds sitting on islands around water.
Head upstairs to Deck 17 and you’ll find the pool deck, but it’s a big change from what you might be used to seeing. In short, if you’re expecting a large wide-open pool deck, then it’s far from it. In fact, it might be the smallest we’ve seen on a major ship.
The pool itself is in line with the size you might find on other ships, but the seating around is significantly smaller. There are also infinity-edge hot tubs and a poolside bar.
Near the pool deck you’ll find the kids’ waterpark with a number of spots for parents to lounge while the little ones play in the water. On the other side of a partition is a large sun deck for those that want to get some rays but don’t need to be at the pool.
As well, there is also the Wave Waterslide, a raft slide that takes you out over the edge of the ship for those wanting an adrenaline rush.
The aft area of Deck 18 is where you can plan your kids to want to spend the most time on Prima. Of course, the big draw is the three-level Prima Speedway where you can drive go-karts while at sea ($15 to ride). This popular feature makes an appearance after being a hit on other NCL ships.
But the entire area around the track is also filled with things to do. There are dry slides (The Rush) that loop down 10 stories to Ocean Boulevard. The Stadium has a lot of free-to-play games like shuffleboard, ping pong, and even beer pong (beer optional).
New to Prima is The Bull’s Eye ($40 for 50 minutes), which are private booths for playing darts. And then there is Tee Time ($10), which is a mini-golf course like you’ve never seen. Instead of simple little greens, these holes are much more engaging and you can even win prizes.
Perhaps the biggest adrenaline rush is known simply as The Drop. This slide drops you 10 stories out over the ocean. Good luck trying not to scream.
Located on Deck 17 forward, Galaxy Pavilion, which has been a fixture on newer NCL ships, is also on Prima. Here are a ton of immersive virtual reality games, an escape room, and even a TopGolf golf simulator. Games cost $8 each or $29 for an hour. The escape room is $15 per person.
The spa has always been a big deal on NCL, and aboard Prima that’s no different. Just about any treatment you can imagine is available, but if it were up to us, then a day pass just to relax here would be the biggest draw.
The spa features thermal relaxation beds with beautiful window views, an ice room, sauna, salt room, and more. But the main centerpiece are the multiple immersion pools with the two-story waterfall beside them.
In addition, there is the gym, which features one of the best views from anywhere on the ship.
Norwegian has pushed The Haven — the exclusive area of suites and other amenities — on recent ships. Prima actually has the most Haven rooms as a percentage of the entire ship than any other vessel in the fleet.
In addition, there are its own private elevators, sundeck, lounge/bar, restaurants, and infinity pool at the aft of the ship. If you’re wanting the most exclusive experience on the ship, then The Haven is where you’ll want to be. Think of it as a “resort within a resort.”
What about your home away from home? Much like the rest of the ship, cabins are done in calming neutral colors, with a whole lot of modern style. In fact, we would even describe them as minimalist.
One feature we did like of the cabin we toured? Instead of the typical round shower enclosure, the walk-in shower is a rectangle with a glass door. It seems to offer much more space than the typical in-cabin shower.
Who Will Love This Ship (and Maybe Not so Much)
While NCL has pushed toward offering more luxury than other major cruise lines, it’s obvious that Norwegian Prima is pushing even more in that direction. As we said at the beginning of this article, this isn’t so much a cruise ship as a high-end hotel.
For adults wanting to take a luxury cruise, this is your ship. It’s stylish, elegant, and dare we say sexy? Design is at the top of the charts onboard, and the entire ship feels “boutique.” If you’re celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary, or want a romantic getaway, then we can’t think of a better ship right now.
In fact, we loved the vessel (although admittedly we were only a visitor for a few hours). There were a couple of things that could be an issue.
For one, the design that makes the ship feel so much more intimate and cozy? It really extends everywhere, even spots that would be better served with larger space. For instance, the pool deck at the top of the ship is small, so instead of that open and airy feeling you get at the top of a ship, it’s still a bit enclosed.
If you have kids under 10 years old, then this likely isn’t the ship for you. Yes, there are areas for kids and there will be things for them to do. However, Norwegian Prima is definitely designed for adult passengers in our eyes.
Older kids and teenagers? That’s a different story. They should have plenty to do on the ship between the go-karts, Galaxy Pavilion, waterslides and the games area at the back of the ship. However, these aren’t really designed with smaller kids in mind.
Final Thoughts on Norwegian Prima
If you’re a fan of NCL’s most recent ships like Encore, then you have some sense for the more upscale atmosphere and design that’s been put into the ship. Prima takes that another step farther.
This isn’t a ship designed to appeal to people looking for a cruise for $50 per day. It’s a high-end ship focused much more on luxury. And in our opinion, the price — while typically higher than what you’ll find on other mass market cruise lines — is still fair compared to what you’d pay for a similar level resort on land.
For instance, we found balcony cabins around $1,300 per person for a one week cruise (including NCL’s Free at Sea with bar, specialty dining, wi-fi, and excursions). For a couple that would be around $2,600 or $370 per day.
In a high-end land resort, we’d expect to pay around that for a nightly stay, and that doesn’t include food, beverage, or entertainment. In addition, you get to travel from port to port compared to staying in one place at a land-based resort.
If you’re a passenger that wants a luxury experience while also getting the amenities and activities that are found on a large vessel, then you might have found your cruise ship.
Sounds great, but more of a money pit to me. Would love to see it though. I’ll stick to the many others where I can take two cruises for the amount of this one.
Yes, NCL is definitely pushing for higher prices.