Fodor’s Expert Review

Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeLarge

Norwegian Cruise Line set sail in 1966 with an entirely new concept—regularly scheduled Caribbean cruises from the then-obscure port of Miami. Good food and friendly service combined with value fares established the line as a winner for active adults and families. Innovative and forward-looking, Norwegian has been a cruise-industry leader for decades, and its fleet is as much at home worldwide as in the Caribbean. Several of the line’s ships cruise Alaska’s Inside Passage, including one of its newest, Norwegian Bliss.Read More

Noted for top-quality entertainment, Norwegian combines action and high-energy activities as well as a variety of dining options in a casual, free-flowing atmosphere. Norwegian’s freestyle cruising signaled an end to rigid dining schedules and dress codes. Norwegian ships now offer a host of flexible dining options that allow passengers to eat in the main dining rooms or any of a number of à la carte and specialty restaurants at any time and with whom they please. The ships’ accommodations include some of the largest suites at sea, studio cabins for solo travelers, and a private ship-within-a-ship complex called The Haven, a more luxurious area with personalized service.

From a distance, most cruise ships look so similar that it’s often difficult to tell them apart, but Norwegian’s largest, modern ships stand out with their distinctive use of hull art. Each new ship is distinguished by murals extending from bow to midship.

Top Reasons to Cruise

Casual Atmosphere.With no dress code, Norwegian’s ships have shed the “stuffy” reputation of cruises in the past.
Dining Options.Norwegian Cruise Line is an industry innovator in onboard dining, from open seating dining rooms to specialty restaurants.
Entertainment.Their partnership with widely recognized acts and shows has made Norwegian a leader in entertainment at sea.
Family-Friendliness.Numerous connecting staterooms and suites on Norwegian’s ships can be combined to create multicabin accommodations ideal for families.
Itineraries.With some exceptions, Norwegian’s sailings don’t stray far from the tried-and-true one-week length.

Is This Line Right for You?

Choose this Line If
Don’t Choose this Line If
Doing your own thing is your idea of a real vacation. You could almost remove your watch and just go with the flow.
You want to leave your formal dress-up wardrobe at home.
You’re competitive. There’s always a pickup game in progress on the sports courts.
You don’t like to pay extra for food on a ship. All the best specialty restaurants have extra charges.
You don’t want to stand in line. There are lines for nearly everything.
You don’t want to hear announcements. They’re frequent on these ships—and loud.

What to Expect on Board

Fitness & Recreation

Main dining rooms serve what is traditionally deemed Continental fare, although it’s about what you would expect at a really good hotel banquet.

Health-conscious menu selections are nicely prepared, and vegetarian choices are always available. Where Norwegian really shines is the specialty restaurants, especially the French-Mediterranean Le Bistro (on all ships), the pan-Asian restaurants, and steak houses (on the newer ships). As a rule of thumb, the newer the ship, the wider the variety, because new ships were purpose-built with as many as 10 or more places to eat. You may find Spanish tapas, an Italian trattoria, a steak house, a pub, and a pan-Asian restaurant complete with a sushi and sashimi bar and teppanyaki room. Most carry a cover charge or are priced à la carte and require reservations. A Norwegian staple, the late-night Chocoholic Buffet continues to be a favorite event. A charge of $7.95 per order has been instituted for room service; however, continental breakfast and coffee are still free.


More high jinks than highbrow, entertainment after dark features extravagant Las Vegas–style revues presented in main show lounges by lavishly costumed singers and dancers.

Other performers might include comedians, magicians, jugglers, and acrobats. Entertainment varies by ship depending on facilities; the newest ships—Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Escape, for example—have the most appealing options, such as Broadway shows. Passengers can get into the act by stepping up to the karaoke microphone or singing along in a piano bar. Live bands play for dancing and listening in smaller lounges, and each ship has a lively dance club.

Casinos, bingo sessions, and art auctions are well attended. Adult games, particularly the competitive ones, are fun to participate in and provide laughs for audience members. Goofy pool games are a Norwegian staple, and the ships’ bands or DJs crank up the volume during afternoon and evening deck parties.

Fitness & Recreation

Mandara Spa offers exotic spa treatments fleet-wide on Norwegian, although facilities vary widely.

Spa treatments include a long menu of massages, body wraps, and facials, and current trends in hair and nail services are offered in the salons. The latest addition on board is a Medi-Spa physician, who can create individualized treatment plans using nonsurgical treatments such as Botox Cosmetic. State-of-the-art exercise equipment, jogging tracks, and basic fitness classes are available at no charge. There’s a fee for personal training, body composition analysis, and specialized classes such as yoga and Pilates.

Key cruising tips

With Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining package you dine in a specialty restaurant every night at a special low rate.
Although Norwegian has one of the newest fleets at sea, the oldest ships just don’t have quite the panache or as many Freestyle dining venues as are found on the newer ships.
Children 3 years old and younger dine free in specialty restaurants, and children ages 4 to 12 can eat from the complimentary kids menu or a specialty kids menu for a reduced cover charge.
While the ships are family-friendly, the line has removed all its self-service laundries to add more inside staterooms.

Your Shipmates

Norwegian’s mostly American cruise passengers are active couples ranging from their mid-thirties to mid-fifties. Many families enjoy cruising on Norwegian ships during holidays and summer months. Longer cruises and more exotic itineraries attract passengers in the over-55 age group.

Dress Code

Resort casual attire is appropriate at all times; the option of one formal evening is available on all cruises of seven nights and longer. Most passengers actually raise the casual dress code a notch to what could be called casual chic attire.

Junior Cruisers

For children and teens, each Norwegian vessel offers a Splash Academy program of supervised entertainment for young cruisers ages 3 to 12. Younger children are split into three groups, ages 3 to 5, 6 to 9, and 10 to 12; activities range from storytelling, games, and arts and crafts to dinner with counselors, pajama parties, and treasure hunts. The program now also offers activities for kids from six months to three years old. “Guppies” offers their parents the opportunity to engage in a variety of sensory-based programs with them, including baby art, storytelling, and a parent and baby mini-workout.

Group Port Play is available in the children’s area to accommodate parents booked on shore excursions. Evening babysitting services are available for a fee. Parents whose children are not toilet-trained are issued a beeper to alert them when diaper changing is necessary. Reduced fares are charged for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom, including all children. Infants under six months of age cannot travel on Norwegian ships.

For teens ages 13 to 17, options in the Entourage program include sports, pool parties, teen disco, movies, and video games. Some ships have their own cool clubs where teens hang out in adult-free zones.


Somewhat inconsistent, service is nonetheless congenial.


A fixed service charge of $14.50 per person per day for passengers three years of age and older is added to shipboard accounts for staterooms and minisuites; for suites and The Haven the service charge is $17.50. An automatic 15% gratuity is added to bar tabs. Staff members may also accept cash gratuities. Passengers in suites who have access to concierge and butler services are asked to offer a cash gratuity at their own discretion.

Past Passengers

On completion of your first Norwegian cruise you’re automatically enrolled in Latitudes, the club for repeat passengers. Membership benefits accrue based on the number of cruise nights sailed: Bronze (1 through 29), Silver (30 through 54), Gold (55 through 79), Platinum (80 through 174), Platinum Plus (175-699), and Ambassador (700 or more). Everyone receives Latitudes, Norwegian’s e-magazine, Latitudes pricing, Latitudes check-in at the pier, a bottle of sparkling wine, and access to a special customer service desk, and discounts in onboard shops. Higher tiers—depending on level—receive such amenities as an invitation to the captain’s cocktail party, dinner in a specialty restaurant, free Internet minutes, free laundry, discounts on shore excursions, and priority for check-in, tender tickets, and disembarkation.

305/436–4000 or 800/327–7030

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