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I went on 5 Norwegian Cruise Line sailings last year: These are my 15 best tips

ncl bliss

In 2023, I was able to sail on five different Norwegian Cruise Line ships, and it was an amazing year filled with many awesome cruise memories and opportunities to gain insight and knowledge about NCL. 

Each of the cruises I went on was quite different, and I had so much fun getting to see many different aspects of this big-name cruise line and everything it has to offer for travelers. 

My voyages in 2023 consisted of a 7-day Caribbean sailing onboard the Norwegian Bliss; a 2-day Mediterranean sailing onboard the Norwegian Sun; a 4-day Pacific Coast sailing onboard the Norwegian Encore to experience NCL’s Studio Staterooms for the first time, a 10-day British Isles sailing onboard the Norwegian Star; and a 4-day Bahamas sailing onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Viva. 

NCL viva

From these great cruise sailings, I have learned some tips and tricks that might help future cruisers. Come along with me as I break down some of the best tips that I have learned from my experiences onboard Norwegian Cruise Line. 

#15 - Save Time By Doing Onboard Activities While In Port 

NCL viva

One of the best things about Norwegian Cruise Line is all the great activities and amenities onboard. Some of these activities include the Norwegian Speedway, thrilling water slides, a virtual reality venue filled with interactive games and simulators, Laser Tag, Infinity Pool areas, and so much more. 

However, many of these popular onboard activities can get quite crowded during sea days. For this reason, I recommend trying one of the must-do activities while the ship is docked in port. When the ship is docked, most passengers will be out and about exploring the destination. This means that there is usually less of a line for the popular water slides or more open time slots for the Norwegian Speedway or Galaxy Pavilion. 

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(Norwegian Speedway onboard the newest ship, Norwegian Viva)

Whichever activity guests have their eyes on, a port afternoon or evening may be a great chance to enjoy these amenities with the least amount of crowds. 

Read: Review of the Norwegian Speedway: is it worth the extra cost?

#14 - Bring Your Own Toiletries And Personal Items 

NCL viva

Something I learned quickly from my first cruise experience is that it can be quite expensive to purchase toiletries and other items while onboard, so I always recommend packing toiletries and other items with you to avoid having to pay steep prices for things such as toothpaste, shampoo, etc. 

Additionally, the shampoo and body wash onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships, while plentiful, can be quite basic. For this reason, it can also be important to bring items if you have strong preferences for specific products. 

Read: 15 packing tips for first time cruisers 

#13 - Freestyle Cruising Means More Flexibility 

NCL viva

Norwegian Cruise Line prides itself on offering great flexibility to their guests. This means that passengers have the freedom to choose when and where they dine onboard during their cruise, which can be a rarity in the cruise line industry. 

Unlike some other cruise lines that assign a time and location for guests to dine for dinner, Norwegian allows guests to choose when and where they eat every day. If guests want to catch a show, participate in an activity, or spend the day exploring a port, they do not have to worry about planning their day around dinner time onboard. 

I personally appreciate their approach to freestyle cruising. It means that if I find a favorite dining room or restaurant onboard, I can eat there every night, or if I want to eat at a different dining venue every day I can. 

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(The Versailles Dining Room onboard the Norwegian Star is one of our favorite restaurants on an older Norwegian ship)

I recommend trying a new restaurant each night onboard. This gives guests a great opportunity to see everything your cruise ship has to offer in terms of food and dining experiences. 

Read: 60 best Norwegian Cruise Line Tips for 2024

#12 - Try A New Lounge Each Night 

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Norwegian Cruise Line does a great job of offering some awesome bars and lounges onboard each of their ships. From the oldest to the newest vessels, passengers are sure to find at least one bar and lounge onboard that they enjoy visiting. 

I have experienced some of the coolest (literally) bars onboard with NCL that I have ever seen, such as the Skyy Vodka Ice Bar onboard the Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Epic. This bar features Skyy Vodka and is an actual ice bar with some cool Scandinavian designs. Make sure to bring some warm clothes if you plan on visiting this venue, as it gets quite chilly! The Skyy Ice Bar does have a cover charge that includes two vodka-based cocktails. 

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(This chair is made of ice in the Skyy Ice Bar onboard Norwegian Getaway!)

Additionally, one of my favorite bars that's onboard many of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships is the Sugarcane Mojito Bar. For those guests who enjoy a good mojito cocktail, this bar is the perfect spot. I recommend trying out the mojito flight to sample all the different mojito varieties that are offered at this venue. Onboard some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer ships, the Sugarcane Mojito Bar also has outdoor seating and lounge space to watch the sunset. 

Another one of my favorite lounges is the Observation Lounge, which is offered on some of the cruise line’s newest classes of ship, such as the Breakaway Plus Class and Prima Class. The Observation Lounge features huge floor-to-ceiling windows for some great ocean views, as well as comfortable seating and indoor lounge chairs. You'll also find complimentary snacks, tea, and coffee throughout the day. 

NCL mojito

(Mojito Flight onboard Norwegian Bliss)

I recommend trying out a new bar and lounge each night of a cruise sailing. This can be a great way to see various areas of the ship, as well as try some tasty cocktails during your cruise! 

Read: 13 things you'll love about the Norwegian Getaway

#11 - Plan Out Your Day So You Don’t Miss Out

NCL encore

Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests an onboard ship schedule called the Freestyle Daily. This schedule is physically delivered each night to guests’ staterooms and can be found digitally in the app. 

Browsing and flipping through the Freestyle Daily is one of my favorite things to do before going to bed each night. Taking a look at the Freestyle Daily the night before will help ensure that guests do not miss out on any of the fun onboard. 

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I recommend making a note either in the physical Freestyle Daily or in the app of the things you are interested in seeing or doing onboard. The Freestyle Daily is also where guests can find the times and locations for entertainment onboard, as well as the opening and closing times of the various dining venues.

Read: 10 reasons why the newest Norwegian Cruise Line ship is my favorite

#10 - Not All Ships Are The Same

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In sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line, I quickly learned that not all ships are the same. In fact, ships in the same class are not exactly the same. 

Whether it is an older or a newer ship, NCL vessels are all rather unique and feature their own set of amenities onboard. For this reason, I recommend doing some in-depth research into what each ship offers.

NCL honduras

If you are someone interested in the latest and greatest technology and enjoy sampling some of the best food at sea, I recommend trying one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer ships. If you are someone looking for an adventurous itinerary at an affordable price, their older vessels may be right for you. 

Researching what is offered ahead of time will help ensure that when it's time to cruise, your vacation is as fun and seamless as possible. 

Read: Norwegian Prima Class vs Norwegian Breakaway Plus Class

#9 - Download The NCL App As Soon As Possible

NCL app

One of the very first things I recommend doing when planning a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation is downloading the NCL app, as this is where guests can research their ship, check their itinerary, book shore excursions, purchase a Wi-Fi or drink package, and, when the time comes, check-in for their cruise. 

Additionally, the NCL app is where guests can see all of the venues and amenities onboard their ship, where they can check the digital version of the Freestyle Daily, and where they can check any onboard charges. There is also a fun portion of the app that shows guests a countdown of days until their cruise begins. 


(Onboard messaging does cost $9.95 for guests to use)

Downloading the app will help ensure that guests can look at the ship layout before the cruise begins. This means that come embarkation day, passengers will have an easier time locating different amenities and areas of the ship.

While the Norwegian Cruise Line app does have the occasional downside, such as no free onboard messaging, it is a great tool for guests to use both before and during their cruise vacation. 

#8 - Buy Wi-Fi Before Your Cruise

NCL viva

Speaking of the Norwegian Cruise Line app, I highly recommend booking Wi-Fi for your cruise ahead of time. If you are someone who is considering purchasing Wi-Fi for your cruise vacation, Norwegian has several packages with various prices for guests to choose from. 

Something important to know is that purchasing Wi-Fi right before a cruise or while onboard a cruise is always more expensive than pre-purchasing it. One to two days before embarkation day is when the price tends to increase. Oftentimes, the earlier guests choose to book wifi the cheaper it will be. 

NCL viva

For this reason, I recommend deciding as soon as possible if you would like Wi-Fi for your cruise or not. Wi-Fi is not always necessary for a cruise. In fact, sometimes it can be a nice way to disconnect and unplug from the outside world. However, if you would like to stay connected during your cruise, purchasing Wi-Fi as soon as possible is the best way to save a bit of money. 

Read: How to get free wifi on Norwegian Cruise Line

#7 - Arrive A Day Early Before Your Cruise


Oftentimes, embarkation day can be one of the most exciting days of a cruise vacation. It is the first time guests will see their cruise ship, and the feeling of anticipation is always exciting. However, embarkation day can also be a bit stressful, so I recommend limiting as many travel logistics as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to arrive at the cruise embarkation port at least one day before the cruise begins. 

If you are someone who has to fly to your port, flights can get delayed or changed; it can be rather stressful to try to fly to a cruise port the day the cruise begins. 

Arriving at least the night before embarkation day means that guests can relax and be reassured that they are at the port and ready to get onboard their Norwegian Cruise Line ship. 

Read: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

#6 - Book Shore Excursions Before Sailing

NCL Roatan

Similarly to booking Wi-Fi early before your Norwegian Cruise Line sailing, pre-purchasing shore excursions can be an important part of planning for a cruise. Shore excursions can increase in price once the cruise has begun. Additionally, popular shore excursions could sell out before it even begins, so an important aspect of Norwegian Cruise Line vacation planning is to pre-book any and all shore excursions. 

Once guests have booked their sailing, they can log in to the NCL app and can browse the different offered shore excursions for each port the cruise visits. I also recommend checking the offered shore excursions frequently. If a cruise is several months to a year away, not all the offered shore excursions may be shown yet. About two months before a cruise begins is usually when all the shore excursions are offered. 

Read: 10 things I learned on my first Norwegian Cruise Line sailing

#5 - Check For Sales And Promotions Frequently 


(Norwegian Cruise Line offers a great promotion and package for military members and their families onboard every ship)

Something that I appreciate about Norwegian Cruise Line is the affordable cruise prices they offer, while still conducting some truly awesome itineraries. NCL has an entire tab and page on their website dedicated to cruise deals. This is a great spot to check when looking to plan a great cruise vacation at a more affordable price. 

Oftentimes, Norwegian Cruise Line has past guest discounts, deals and promotions on airfare, solo cruiser discounts, group cruise discounts, and special discounts of 10% off all cruises for military members and their families. 

I highly recommend checking out the deals and promotions page to see if any of these savings can apply to you and a cruise you are interested in. 

Read: 16 tips to not waste money on your first cruise

#4 - Allocate Money For Onboard Expenses & Extras 

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(There is a large mini golf course with interactive elements onboard Norwegian Viva)

Budgeting can be important when planning any vacation, especially when planning a cruise vacation with NCL. There are many onboard expenses that guests should be aware of before booking and while planning. For example, items such as alcoholic drinks, gratuities, and some onboard activities cost extra. 

For this reason, I recommend researching how much these items cost. Some onboard activities, such as the popular Norwegian Speedway, cost $15 to participate in, and Virtual Reality simulators at the Galaxy Pavilion cost $10. These activities are available onboard some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ships: the Breakaway Plus Class and Prima Class vessels. 

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(Laser Tag course onboard the Norwegian Bliss ship)

The average alcoholic drink onboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships costs about $12. Knowing how much these items cost can help when it comes to budgeting beforehand and during your cruise vacation. 

Additionally, guests should take into account costs such as specialty dining restaurants and any gambling games they may want to participate in onboard. 

Read: How much is the drink package on Norwegian Cruise Line

#3 - Check In Online As Soon As Possible


In the Norwegian Cruise Line app and website, guests can check in for their cruise 21 days before embarkation day. 

The earlier that guests check in for their cruise the better. Oftentimes, checking in early means that guests will get an earlier boarding time. The earlier that passengers can board their cruise ship, the sooner they can start enjoying their vacation. 

For this reason, I recommend making a note of the date 21 days before your cruise embarkation day. 

Read: Norwegian Cruise Line Check-In Process

#2 - Do Not Miss Out On Themed Parties 

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Norwegian Cruise Line is known for their fun and themed dance parties that happen onboard their ships. For example, many ships host a Glow Party that features bright neon colors, black lights, and a live DJ. Many guests will wear all-white clothing and outfits, so they glow and can dress to the theme. 

These Glow Parties are a lot of fun, and if they are held on your next sailing, I highly recommend checking them out! Other themed parties include 80s and 90s decade-themed dance parties and many more. 

Passengers can check the Freestyle Daily ship schedule for the times and locations of when and where these themed parties will be held throughout their cruise. 

#1 - Consider Booking Airfare Through Norwegian Cruise Line 

NCL flight

I have been able to use Norwegian Cruise Line’s air program several times and have personally had really good experiences! Occasionally, NCL will offer buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) airfare. This could save you a great deal on flights, as the second guest gets free airfare! 

We have utilized this promotion several times, and each time it has come out to be cheaper to book flights through Norwegian Cruise Line than on our own. For those who do choose to book airfare through NCL, I highly recommend asking Norwegian Cruise Line for an air deviation so that guests can arrive the day before the cruise embarkation. 

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There can be a lot of travel logistics involved when it comes to flying to a cruise embarkation port. For this reason, arriving the day before a cruise begins can eliminate delays or other facets that may affect your trip. 

Booking airfare through NCL may not be for everyone, as it does limit some flexibility. For example, usually, guests are not able to specify which airline they would like. However, guests looking to save some money on flights, it may be a good option to check out. 

Read: I saved $800 booking my flights through Norwegian Cruise Line, but was it worth the stress?

From the five different cruises I took with Norwegian Cruise Line in 2023, I was able to learn some helpful tips for further sailings with them!

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Norwegian is one of my absolute favorite cruise lines, and I am looking forward to seeing what NCL has in store for the coming year, as well as learn even more about Norwegian Cruise Line! 

These are just some of the tips and tricks that I have learned from my personal experiences traveling with Norwegian Cruise Line. I hope that these tips will help others plan the best possible cruise vacation with Norwegian. 

Read: Norwegian Cruise Line pros and cons

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