Norwegian Cruise Line is one of my favorite cruise lines in the industry. I appreciate their commitment to bringing great cruise vacations to their guests for reasonable prices. Plus, they're one of the best in the industry at offering something for everyone onboard.
Over the past 12 months, I have been able to cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line 6 times and currently have three additional sailings booked for 2024. From these experiences, I have gained some insight into what some of the pros and cons of NCL might be for prospective travelers.
Because Norwegian is the cruise line I have sailed with the most, it tends to have more pros for me than cons, personally; however, there are some important negatives that potential cruisers should be aware of before booking a sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line to avoid any disappointment.
Below is what I feel that Norwegian Cruise Line offers travelers, and why this cruise line might or might not be the perfect fit for those looking to book their next cruise.
Pro: A ship for everyone
Perhaps one of the biggest pros for Norwegian Cruise Line is the sheer size of their fleet. Currently, Norwegian Cruise Line has 19 vessels, with the new Norwegian Aqua ship scheduled to make its debut in 2025.
With 19 different cruise ships to choose from, there is a wide variety of vessels for prospective guests to choose from, meaning that they are capable of providing a wide breadth of opportunities and variety to their passengers.
All 19 of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships are divided into various categories called classes. Currently, there's the Prima Class, Breakaway Plus Class, Breakaway Class, Dawn Class, Epic Class, Jewel Class, and Sun Class.
Plus, there are two Norwegian ships not part of any class; these vessels are Norwegian Spirit and Pride of America.
Whether someone is looking for an exciting Caribbean voyage on a brand new ship or a more relaxed sailing to Northern Europe on an older vessel, Norwegian Cruise Line has something for everyone.
Due to the size of the fleet and the various offerings onboard, I highly recommend researching each Norwegian Cruise Line ship thoroughly before making any decisions!
Con: Extra charges for activities
(Norwegian Cruise Line's unique and iconic Speedway is onboard Breakaway Plus, Breakaway, and Prima Class ships)
One of the things that I like least about Norwegian Cruise Line is the up-charge for activities, including the renowned Speedway, Laser Tag course, and virtual reality Galaxy Pavilion.
Usually, these added fees are about $10-$15 per person to participate, and while this might not seem like too much of a charge, these small charges can start to add up rather significantly throughout a cruise vacation, especially if you have a larger family.
(Check out the awesome mini golf course onboard the Norwegian Viva called Tee Time)
For guests interested in trying out these extra paid-for activities, I recommend accounting for these items in your overall cruise planning budget. This will help with expectations and help avoid any sticker shocks at the end of the cruise.
With that being said, not all activities onboard Norwegian Cruise Line cost extra. Many onboard activities are complimentary, such as the waterslides; however, it is important to know which onboard activities do cost extra to avoid any potential disappointment.
Pro: Entertainment and nightlife
Something Norwegian Cruise Line does a great job on nearly every ship is their entertainment and nightlife offerings.
There are always countless bars and lounges to explore, oftentimes more than 6 or 7 at least! Entertainment onboard is often exceptional, too, and is something to not be missed.
Some of my favorite cruise entertainment has been onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships, especially their newer vessels that feature Broadway-style shows. Onboard some of their older ships, such as Norwegian Star, guests can enjoy some impressive variety acts and performances.
For guests looking to dance the night away, there is no need to worry. Nearly every Norwegian Cruise Line ship has themed dance parties conducted during any given sailing. From 80s-themed dance parties to the infamous Glow Party and silent disco, those who love dancing are sure to find a place to show off their best moves!
Additionally, many of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships feature interesting bars and lounges to check out.
Whether it be the classic Sugarcane Mojito Bar or the unique Skyy Vodka Ice Bar, there is always something to explore when it comes to bars and lounges for adult travelers onboard.
I recommend taking a look at what bars and entertainment are offered onboard each ship. Once onboard their cruise, you can find the times and locations of entertainment inside the Freestyle Daily, the onboard ship schedule which is delivered to each stateroom cabin each night of the cruise, as well digitally in the Norwegian Cruise Line app.
Read more: 10 Things the Norwegian Bliss ship got right
Pro: Unique and adventurous itineraries
I love the wide variety of itineraries that Norwegian offers to prospective guests.
Whether it is to the Caribbean, Australia, Northern Europe, or Asia, Norwegian Cruise Line sails to nearly every corner of the globe. This means that with Norwegian, passengers can discover many exciting and unique cruise itineraries.
Norwegian Cruise Line has many types of itineraries that can not be found with other cruise lines. Because of this, when looking for a specific type of cruise, I tend to look at NCL's offerings first.
Currently, Norwegian Cruise Line sails to the following destinations and regions around the world: Alaska, the Caribbean, Hawaii, the Mediterranean, Bermuda, Northern Europe, Transatlantic sailings, Panama Canal, Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand, Africa, the Bahamas, Mexico, South Pacific, Canada and New England, the Greek Isles, and Pacific Coastal cruises.
Con: More onboard price gauging
In addition to the fees for select onboard activities, Norwegian is known for some other paid extras.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line charges guests for the ability to message other passengers onboard. This cost is currently $10 for the duration of a cruise sailing. While it is free to use the Norwegian Cruise Line app onboard a cruise, it is not free to use the onboard messaging system.
The onboard messaging system allows guests to contact each other while onboard a cruise. This can be especially helpful for families or large groups of friends traveling together. Without this onboard messaging system, it can be rather difficult to get ahold of members of a travel party.
Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, currently offer the onboard messaging system as a complimentary feature. I personally hope that in the future Norwegian Cruise Line will make this free in the future!
While $10 is not a large cost, it is another small fee that can add up and, in some ways, seems like an unnecessary cost.
Pro: Airfare through Norwegian Cruise Line
For those who would like to or need to fly to their cruise embarkation port, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a flight program in which they assist guests with booking airfare for them and managing flight details.
Oftentimes. Norwegian will offer flight deals as part of cruise promotions. When these promotions are running it can mean that booking airfare through the cruise line can be much more affordable than booking airfare on your own. Because of this, I personally count their air-to-sea program as a pro for the cruise line.
I have booked airfare through Norwegian Cruise Line twice now and have had a great overall experience both times!
(Example of what booking airfare through NCL looks like)
Some guests may experience trouble if their flights are booked too close to their cruise embarkation time. Because of this, I always recommend arriving at the cruise embarkation city the day before the cruise begins. Arriving the day before a cruise starts will help ensure no travel issues should flights get delayed or other travel logistics come up.
Con: Limited shorter sailings
For guests looking for short and quick weekend getaways, Norwegian Cruise Line may not have the most to choose from.
Norwegian's itineraries tend to be longer, with the majority of sailings lasting about a week or more. That being said, there are some shorter voyages, most of which are conducted in the Caribbean/Bahamas and embark from Florida.
Occasionally, Norwegian Cruise Line will have shorter length sailings in other regions as well. For example, last year I tried out Norwegian Cruise Line's Studio Staterooms for the first time during a 4-night sailing from California to Vancouver, British Columbia. This was a great weekend cruise!
I also sailed on a 2-night cruise in Europe from Spain to Portugal in March 2023.
Pro: Friendly crew members and staff
Something that I have experienced onboard all Norwegian Cruise Line sailings is wonderful crew members onboard.
NCL does a great job at customer service, and nearly every crew member we have come in contact with has been very nice, friendly, and helpful. Many times, Norwegian Cruise Line crew members have gone above and beyond and have been a significant reason for our enjoyment of the cruise in general.
(Warm or cool hand towels are often given to guests as they come back onboard after a day of exploring)
We appreciate how kind and helpful the crew members are onboard Norwegian ships. We know and recognize how hard these crew members work to provide an excellent cruise experience to guests, and we are pleased to say we have never had a bad interaction or experience with any NCL crew member!
The cruise line strives to provide excellent customer service from pre-cruise planning to disembarkation, and we can say that all of our experiences with Norwegian Cruise Line have proved this!
Con: Caters to mostly adults and older children
While this might not be a con to everyone, it is something to consider. While Norwegian Cruise Line does have many programs for children onboard many of their ships, we have noticed that, overall, they seem to be a cruise line for adults and older children.
When compared to other cruise lines such as Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, I have noticed that generally there seem to be fewer younger children onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
However, while the majority of travelers on Norwegian ships may be adults, there are still many programs and venues for children onboard.
(Many of the themed dance parties occur on the main pool deck during warm weather itineraries)
For example, the Guppies and Splash Academy kids' clubs are a great amenity for guests traveling with small children. Additionally, there's almost always some sort of splash pad or zone for small children to play in onboard, even if it is very small.
The amenities for children may just be smaller or have limited activities when compared to other cruise lines that have more of an emphasis on family travel.
Pro: Flexible dining
(One of the main dining restaurants onboard Norwegian Viva)
Perhaps one of the largest pros and benefits of cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line is their freestyle cruising mantra that allows guests to dine whenever or wherever they'd like.
There is no schedule for guests when it comes to dining, as they're able to pick and choose exactly when and where they would like to eat. This means that there are no assigned dining times or seats like on other lines!
If you're someone who values flexibility, you will appreciate the stray from traditional cruise ship dining. Guests can enjoy a long day off the ship exploring an exciting port of call and do not have to worry about making it back onboard for a specific dining time! Instead, guests can choose to enjoy dinner at a different time each day of their cruise, should they choose.
Additionally, since there's no assigned seating, passengers will not be assigned to any kind of rotational dining and will not be seated with other cruisers, unless they specifically choose to.
(One of the main dining restaurants onboard Norwegian Star)
This flexible dining system is a large pro when it comes to cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line. It gives guests the ability to see a show, explore a port, or just relax by the pool without having to structure their entire day around an assigned dinner time.
Guests will find this freestyle dining system onboard every Norwegian Cruise Line ship in the fleet, whether it is the brand-new Norwegian Viva or the older Norwegian Spirit.
Con: Norwegian Cruise Line app
Those who have cruised with Norwegian Cruise Line before will know that when it comes to their app, things are not always seamless.
After several cruise sailings with NCl, I can now navigate the app much more easily. However, at first glance, the app is not always the most efficient, as it can appear rather clunky in its functioning when compared to other cruise line apps.
There are some features that I think would be beneficial to add to the NCL app, one of which would be adding the dinner menu for guests to view ahead of time.
Occasionally, there will be a menu for a restaurant or bar inside the app but not always. Oftentimes, guests are unable to see the menu for the main complimentary restaurants.
Because the Norwegian Cruise Line app can take some time to get used to, I recommend that all passengers download it well ahead of time and spend some time familiarizing themselves with all the features. This will help prevent any frustrations during the cruise!
Pro: Beautiful and clean ships
I have found every NCL ship that I've sailed on to be beautiful and well-maintained.
I appreciate that even on some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s oldest ships, such as Norwegian Sun, the staterooms have a relatively modern feel and have been refurbished to make them comfortable.
Even the public areas on the oldest ships have been refurbished in recent years and are thoroughly maintained and updated. This ensures that guests will have a great cruise experience onboard Norwegian ships, no matter the vessel they choose!
I had a 10-day sailing onboard Norwegian Star during an autumn cruise around the United Kingdom, and this old ship quickly became one of my favorites. Because of this, I would recommend not ruling out an older ship simply because of its age.
Con: You need to read the fine print
Those who love to cruise are often able to find exceptional cruise itineraries at affordable prices with Norwegian Cruise Line; however, it can be important to read the fine print to avoid any frustrations during a cruise.
Norwegian prides itself on offering what they call the "Free At Sea Style," which means that guests are given the freedom, and are encouraged, to plan a cruise vacation that fits their needs and desires exactly.
From no dining times to multiple times for shows throughout a cruise, Norwegian does a great job of allowing guests a lot of flexibility throughout the day to make the most out of their cruise vacation.
Part of NCL's Free At Sea offerings is the Free At Sea promotion, which is frequently run by NCL and allows guests to pick and choose from a list of available promotions to further customize their vacation.
Some of the advertised perks include things such as a drink package, wi-fi, shore excursions, 2nd guest free, specialty dining, and more.
However, it can be important to read the fine print on these offers, as some may sound like they're all-inclusive. After reading the details, however, guests might find that these offers are not quite as good as they thought at first glance.
For example, the free wi-fi promotion may, in fact, mean a "free" allotted amount of minutes, not free unlimited wi-fi. Additionally, the free specialty dining promotion may be for one of two "free" specialty dining meals, but not necessarily free specialty dining for the entire cruise.
Sometimes these Free At Sea promotions can be a great deal and can offer some serious savings. Because of this, they should not be dismissed; however, I recommend that prospective Norwegian guests always read the fine print to fully understand the deal they are signing up for.
Pro: Affordable sailings to international destinations
We have been able to sail to some great international destinations with Norwegian Cruise Line several times now, all due to their affordable prices.
For example, our cruise around the United Kingdom was a 10-day voyage that embarked from Southampton, England and cost about $3,000 for two people in a standard inside stateroom,. This price also included roundtrip airfare from Florida!
Norwegian Cruise Line offers many great itineraries during off-peak seasons, making these sailings more affordable. Additionally, NCL has frequent sales and promotions, as well as lowers the price of many cruise sailings the closer the date gets to embarkation.
Con: Crowded pool areas on newer ships
Something that I have noticed onboard some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ships, such as Norwegian Viva, is the crowded pool area.
Oftentimes onboard some of the newer cruise ships, it can be challenging to find a lounge chair by the main pool area due to cruisers reserving chairs, and there can often be no space for many guests later in the day.
In contrast, I have not experienced this problem on older Norwegian Cruise Line ships. It seems that onboard many of the older ships, there's less of a frenzy to grab a lounge chair on the pool deck.
Of course, this may be due to several factors. Many of the older Norwegian Cruise Line ships are utilized to sail European itineraries, which could mean it is less warm out. Additionally, newer Norwegian Cruise Line ships tend to be at capacity more frequently than older ships, meaning there are simply more passengers onboard.
While this may not be an exact con, it is something to note when considering booking a new Norwegian Cruise Line ship versus an older one. For those guests wishing to get a good lounge chair near the main pool deck, I recommend waking up early to find a chair, as it can get rather crowded in the afternoon.
Pro: Smooth embarkation and disembarkation
Something that Norwegian Cruise Line does well is embarkation and disembarkation.
I have experienced efficient and speedy embarkation and disembarkation processes during all of my NCL sailings. Once it is embarkation day, guests are looking to get onboard as soon as possible and to start enjoying their cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line does a good job of getting all their passengers onboard sooner, so that they can start enjoying their vacation.
Guests can check in for their cruise in the Norwegian Cruise Line app 21 days before their cruise embarkation day. Downloading the app ahead of time will give you more time to explore all of its features before you are on the ship.
I have experienced efficient and easy disembarkation onboard each Norwegian Cruise Line that I've sailed on, too. I highly recommend that guests wake up early on their disembarkation day and make their way off the ship. Getting off the ship early will ensure that guests do not have to wait in long lines.
Additionally, Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests the ability to book airport transfers through the cruise line. This means that guests can arrange transportation from the cruise port to the airport either on embarkation day or disembarkation day. These transfers can be a great feature for guests looking to make their travel logistics as simple as possible.
Pro: A cruise for the whole family
Despite Norwegian Cruise Line catering mostly to adults, there are amenities onboard for children and younger travelers, so NCL can be a great choice for a family or multigenerational cruise vacation!
Onboard many Norwegian ships, guests will find four youth programs: Guppies, Splash Academy, and Entourage.
Guppies is for the youngest sailors and offers a place for parents to interact with their children who are between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old, as well as those still in diapers.
Splash Academy is for any cruise that falls between the ages of 3 and 12. Here, they'll be able to enjoy creative play, sports, themed parties, and more. Plus, unlike Guppies, parents won't have to hang around, as all activities are supervised by trained crew members.
Entourage is a teen club for those 13 to 17 years old.
Since Norwegian Cruise Line does a great job of having something onboard for nearly everyone in the family, it's a great choice for multigenerational family vacations and adventures.
Read more: Whats new for Norwegian Cruise Line in 2024
Con: Great Stirrup Cay
When it comes to cruise line private islands, Norwegian Cruise Line is one of the leading names in the industry, as they were one of the very first cruise lines to acquire a private island in 1977: Great Stirrup Cay.
Great Stirrup Cay can be rather polarizing amongst cruise line guests. There is not a ton to do ashore. For this reason, frequent cruisers may prefer the more lively private islands, such as Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay.
However, Great Stirrup Cay is one of my personal private islands! I think that for guests who are looking for a relaxed day in the beautiful Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay is an awesome destination.
While there might not be a lot of activities on Great Stirrup Cay, this island is beautifully maintained and is the perfect place to relax and take in the views and warm sun!
A recent refurbishment to Great Stirrup Cay has made this island even more beautiful, and I think that visitors will be impressed with how clean, sophisticated, and relaxing this destination is.
Pro: Comfortable and modern staterooms
(Inside Stateroom onboard Norwegian Viva)
On every single Norwegian sailing, I have stayed in the most affordable stateroom offered: interior cabins.
While they may be the most affordable of the rooms onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships, these standard cabins are very comfortable and have many modern amenities, making them the perfect home at sea.
Norwegian Cruise Line has an impressive amount of stateroom types available onboard their ships. Many of the NCL ships have around six different types of rooms for guests onboard. These categories include inside, oceanview, balcony, suite, and The Haven Suites.
While not every Norwegian Cruise Line ship will have every type of stateroom onboard, there are plenty of options for guests to choose from.
Additionally, Norwegian is the leading cruise line in the field of solo cruising. NCL has some unique Studio Staterooms that are specially designed for solo travelers and come with their own exclusive amenities and benefits.
(Norwegian Cruise Line has plans to add and expand Studio Staterooms and accommodations for solo travelers onboard all of their ships in 2024)
Everyone's able to come to their own conclusion about the pros and cons of any given cruise line; however, these are my personal thoughts about the positives and negatives when sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line
(Exclusive Vibe Beach Club area onboard Norwegian Viva)
This list of pros and cons are just some of the things that I have taken note of so far in my sailings with Norwegian Cruise Line, and I hope they can help prospective cruisers make informed decisions when looking to book a cruise!