After much fanfare, including a star-studded naming ceremony Aug. 27 in Reykjavik, Iceland, headed by the ship’s godmother, singer Katy Perry, Norwegian’s newest and most opulent ship, Norwegian Prima, made her inaugural debut in Miami this month.
Ten years in the planning and building, Norwegian Prima is the first of what will be six Norwegian Prima-class ships. While not the largest ship NCL has ever built, it is no doubt the grandest, at least according to the veteran NCL cruisers onboard. (Since this is actually the first cruise we’ve taken on a Norwegian ship, we couldn’t make comparisons.)
At just under 1,000 feet in length and weighing 143,000 tons, its 20 decks accommodate some 3,200 passengers. Pam and I were invited as part of a special three-day inaugural cruise for mostly media, travel advisors and invited guests. We quickly discovered there was much more to see and experience than we would get to in less than 72 hours. But let’s dive in.
,,, “one thing is obvious: NCL has launched a winning formula with the new Norwegian Prima-class ships. The second one, Norwegian Viva, debuts in 2023.”
Our starting point was NCL’s shiny new Terminal B at the Port of Miami, where the embarkation process was something less than smooth. Since there was no curbside baggage service, we waited in a long line for check-in, only to find they were splitting up people with large bags from those with small ones for security scanning. Pam and I ended up in separate places but were able to get reunited for boarding (good thing — she had the passports). After navigating another long line waiting for the elevators, we finally made it to our stateroom on Deck 13. Now we can exhale.
Ours was a family balcony stateroom, with a contemporary beige and blue tone color scheme. We had plenty of room to stow our belongings, and were glad to see a generous number of plugs for appliances and USB connections. The bathroom was roomy, with a full size shower. We wished the safe was placed higher in the closet for easier access, but overall, we found our stateroom both beautiful and functional.
Now, time to explore.
Often described as a “resort at sea,” that label isn’t wrong. The design team behind Norwegian Prima obviously aimed for an elevated, upscale experience with features that would appeal to all ages. In that regard, they hit the bullseye. Let’s hit some of the highlights and takeaways:
— Dining. Cruising is all about the food and the service, right? Norwegian Prima offers a wide range of specialty and included-with-the-fare restaurants. Hudson’s, one of the two main dining rooms located aft on Deck 7, falls in the latter category. With its 270-degree views from the floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary decor, it’s truly stunning and quickly became one of our favorite places to do breakfast and lunch. One deck up is the Local Bar and Grill, open 24 hours with both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as the Indulge Food Court, featuring 11 different types of cuisine in a “food truck” motif, also complimentary. We didn’t get a chance to eat there, but it was always crowded, and we heard good things. Up top on Deck 17 is the Surfside Cafe and Grill, featuring all-day dining buffet-style.
On our cruise we dined at three of the ship’s specialty restaurants: Food Republic (Asian fusion), Le Bistro (French) and Palomar, the line’s first Mediterranean seafood venue. We enjoyed each, especially the wonderful Dover Sole at Le Bistro and the Branzino for Two, prepared tableside at Palomar. We loved the large chandeliers in Le Bistro — gorgeous. Something to note: Pricing is a la carte, although you can pre-purchase specialty restaurant packages prior to sailing that give you credits to use at the restaurant of your choice. By the way, you would be wise to make your reservations as early as possible. Dining slots can fill up fast.
There are many other dining options, which we hope to get to on a future voyage. Needless to say, no one will leave hungry. Our only suggestion is offer 24-hour pizza somewhere on the ship. You never know when you’ll crave pizza.
— Bars. You can’t go very far in any direction without running into a bar, which is fine with us. If you like your bar dark and contemporary (we do), head for the Belvedere Bar on Deck 6 for a hand-crafted cocktail. The Whiskey Bar on Deck 8 always drew a crowd, and when it wasn’t closed for private events, it’s hard to beat the bar at the Observation Lounge, forward on Deck 17. Whenever we needed to chill or relax, that’s where you could find us.
— Entertainment. If you’re going to offer an elevated experience, it has to be across-the-board. That can be said of the ship’s shows, staged forward at the multi-level Norwegian Prima Theater and Club. The productions are Broadway quality. The first night was “Noise Boys,” an energetic show similar to “Stomp.” It takes advantage of the theater’s multiple configurations by extending the first floor stage into the audience. On the last night we saw “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” NCL brought the Broadway hit that traces the life of disco legend Donna Summer to sea, showcasing powerhouse vocals from the three women who represent different stages of her life.
Speaking of disco, we had the most fun attending the ship’s Disco Party, where they opened up the entire first floor to flashing lights, disco hits and NCL dancers roaming the crowd dressed in their 80s best. It was a total blast. While we didn’t get around to it, we heard the ship’s version of “The Price Is Right” is also a bit hit with cruisers. Again, word to the wise: Reserve the shows early. They scan your room key for admittance.
— Fun. Where to start? The twin, 10-story slides or the three-level, go-kart race track speedway? Not to mention the Galaxy Pavilion, with its array of VR experiences, and The Stadium, where you can play pickleball and other games. While I passed on The Drop or The Rush, where guests get a fast trip from Deck 18 to Deck 8, I did don a face shield and helmet to speed around the 1,400-foot go-kart track. And the VR rollercoaster will have you hanging on your seat. While some are complimentary, many, like VR and the go-karts, are extra charge. There’s also The Wave waterslide and the Aqua Park for kids.
— Relaxation. The ship has lots of places to lounge and a wide assortment of chairs, sofas and couches to settle back and enjoy the passing waves. One of the ship’s best and most popular features is the wrap-around Ocean Boulevard on Deck 8. There is outdoor dining, a glass walkway over the ocean, bars, specialty restaurants and small infinity pools where you can enjoy the water or recline on a daybed. Be aware the main pool on Deck 17 is small, so you may want to take advantage of the pool areas on Deck 8. And don’t miss The Concourse, also on Deck 8, with its dramatic, million-dollar sculptures.
We also spent time at the Vibe Beach Club, an extra charge area for guests 18 and up that features a bar and infinity hot tubs. It’s located on Deck 17.
For the ultimate in relaxation, visit the beautiful Mandara Spa and Salon on Deck 16. I had a day pass, which entitled me to use the thermal pools, heated lounges and adjacent facilities. For the exercise-minded, you’ll find the fully-equipped Pulse Fitness Center can meet all your needs. Personally, a martini in the Observation Lounge works wonders.
— Accommodations. There are over 1,600 staterooms on Norwegian Prima, including The Haven, NCL’s private retreat where guests enjoy the services of a 24-hour concierge and butler and a restaurant for their exclusive use, as well as their own sundeck and infinity pool. Guests even have their own private elevator. We can dream, right?
There are of course places to shop and a large casino. The ship’s centerpiece is the three-story Penrose Atrium, sleek and stylish with its wrap-around staircases. Be sure and check out the Imagination Wall in the Photo Gallery. You can star in an interactive video. It’s fun, and free, and you can share it on social media.
On the cruise we made one stop at Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay. NCL has made retaining the island’s natural beauty a priority. Guests enjoy several white sand beaches and dining choices, plus a variety of water sports and a zipline. On our visit we had access to the private part of the private island, Silver Cove. Here you can rent a beach house for the day, dine at their private restaurant or spend time at their Moet and Chandon Ice Bar, where you can sip Moet to your heart’s content. Guess where we stayed the longest?
As stated earlier, there’s much more to see and do on Norwegian Prima than you can get to in less than 72 hours. But one thing is obvious: NCL has launched a winning formula with the new Norwegian Prima-class ships. The second one, Norwegian Viva, debuts in 2023.
Ed. Notes: Photos courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line