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6 things that surprised me about Norwegian Cruise Line after trying 6 cruises

ncl bliss

Over the past two years, I have been lucky enough to sail with Norwegian Cruise Line six different times. Each of these cruises was unique, exciting, and taught me new lessons about the brand as a whole. 

My first ever sailing with Norwegian was in August 2022 onboard Norwegian Getaway that cruised to the Caribbean. This experience was a ton of fun and really showed me some of the best offerings in the NCL fleet. 

Since that first trip, I've been able to sail with them five more times. The other Norwegian ships that I have sailed on include Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Star, and the new Norwegian Viva. 

From these six cruise sailings, I have accumulated a list of six things that have surprised me during my cruise experiences. 

#1 - An Abundance Of Onboard Activities


From revolutionary onboard Speedways to laser tag courses, Virtual Reality venues, and thrilling waterslides, something that I did not expect when I boarded my first Norwegian ship was the abundance of onboard activities for guests of nearly all ages. 

Onboard many of Norwegian’s newest ships, guests will find so much to explore that they may find themselves wishing for additional sea days during their voyage!

The amount of activities and areas to explore onboard was truly surprising. Because I had such a positive first experience onboard the Norwegian Getaway, this ship is still one of my personal favorites! 

NCL Waterslide

Even on older ships, guests will find activities to explore during their time spent onboard. On Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star, there is a great main pool area in which to lounge. Onboard Norwegian Star, there are a plethora of hot tubs, including two in the adults-only area, the Spice H2O venue. 

Onboard many of the Breakaway and Breakaway Plus Class ships, passengers will also find complementary activities such as mini-golf, sports courts, and waterslides such as the Ocean Loops slide. 

Because there is so much to explore, I always recommend making a list of must-see and must-do things before any sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line. 

NCL lasertag

(Outdoor laser tag course onboard Norwegian Encore)

When researching which Norwegian ship you'd like to sail on, you should also take a look at what activities are onboard, as this may help narrow down the decision. For example, if you are someone who wants to test out your need for speed with the unique Norwegian Speedway, look at the Breakaway Plus Class ships or the Prima Class ships. 

Read: Is this real-life Speedway on a cruise ship worth the extra cost?

#2 - A Plethora Of Bars And Lounges To Explore

NCL viva

Similarly to onboard activities, all Norwegian Cruise Line ships have many bars and lounges to explore. Many of them even have their own unique theme and cocktails!

For example, on Norwegian Getaway there are 15 different bars and lounges, and onboard the newest ship in the fleet, Norwegian Viva, there are 19 different bars and lounges. This is an impressive amount for any cruise ship of any cruise line! 

NCL ice

(Real-life ice bar onboard the Norwegian Getaway ship) 

One of my all-time favorite bars and lounges in the fleet is the Skyy Vodka Ice Bar onboard Norwegian Getaway. This real-life ice bar is incredibly cool (literally) and unique! Currently, there is a cover charge to enter the bar, which includes the use of a fur coat and two vodka cocktails. I highly recommend checking out this bar for yourself if you are sailing onboard Norwegian Getaway. Make sure that you dress warmly the day you choose to check out this venue! 

Additionally, one of my other favorite bars can be found on many of the Norwegian ships, both old and new. The Sugarcane Mojito Bar specializes in cocktails and is often a great place to enjoy a tasty drink. Onboard some of the newer ships in the Breakaway and Breakaway Plus Class, there is also outdoor seating near this bar where guests can catch the sunset during their cruise. 

NCL star

The impressive amount of bars and lounges onboard with Norwegian Cruise Line was something that truly came as a surprise to me. Because there are so many to explore, I recommend trying out a new one each night of your cruise; this can be a great way to see many different areas around the ship during your sailing!

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

#3 - Great Food Across Ships Old And New

NCL viva

(Complimentary restaurant onboard Norwegian Viva) 

Once I tried the food onboard some of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer ships, such as Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore, I was curious to see if the quality and selection would be the same on older vessels. 

I'm both surprised and pleased to say that even some of the older ships in the fleet, such as Norwegian Star, have really great food. The dining experience onboard the older ships can live up to the newer vessels. 

NCL star

(One of the main complimentary restaurants onboard Norwegian Star) 

A big difference I did notice between older and newer Norwegian ships is the buffet area. The main buffet areas tend to be larger in size and offer a wider selection of choices onboard newer ships in the Breakaway Plus Class, compared to older ships such as Norwegian Sun. 

The main complimentary dining experience onboard newer ships in the fleet, while a bit more modern in its decor and design, is relatively the same as onboard the older ships. The menus are pretty similar, and the same great service can be expected across the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet. 

NCL star

This is something that surprised me when I first sailed onboard one of the older ships in the Norwegian fleet, as I thought that perhaps the food and dining experiences would be far superior onboard the newer vessels. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the quality of food and dining is comparable even on the oldest Norwegian ships. In fact, some of my favorite NCL dining experiences were onboard Norwegian Star, a ship built in 2001. 

Read: What is a 20+ year old Norwegian Cruise Line ship really like?

#4 - Full-Length Broadway Shows And Performances 

NCL viva

Prior to my first sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line, I researched what the entertainment would be like onboard. I was pleased to find that there are Broadway and theater shows onboard. I didn't learn that Broadway-style shows were full-length productions until I was onboard. 

Guests can catch a showing of a production that is currently or has been performed on Broadway! Some of my favorite shows have been "Six" and "Jersey Boys." These full-length productions are truly impressive and can be enjoyed by everyone onboard for completely free!

NCL six

Some of my other favorite shows onboard other Norwegian Cruise Line ships include "Choir of Man," "Beetlejuice," and "Burn The Floor."

Guests who choose to sail with Norwegian Cruise Line are sure to be impressed with these quality performances. Not all Norwegian ships have the same Broadway-style shows onboard, and they are subject to change at any time. 

#5 - Awesome Variety Entertainment 

NCL star

I was surprised to find that there's also some really great variety acts onboard many of the Norwegian Cruise Line ships. 

On every Norwegian Cruise Line ship that I have sailed on there have been comedy acts. This can be a fun form of entertainment and activity to catch in the evenings. Onboard many of the newer Norwegian ships, there is even a dedicated venue for comedic acts and performances, such as the Improve venue onboard Norwegian Viva. 

In addition to comedy acts, there are also variety acts such as magicians, dancers, jugglers, and more. This surprised me when I first learned about these types of entertainment onboard. 

NCL star

In fact, some of the very best variety acts I have seen so far in my cruising career was onboard Norwegian Star. The magician show was awe-inspiring and left us mesmerized. 

Additionally, some of the ships in the Breakaway Class feature a Dueling Piano show that is so much fun! This show is called Howl At The Moon, and Norwegian calls it "the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll dueling piano show."


(Example of the song request sheet for the Howl At The Moon dueling piano show onboard Norwegian Getaway) 

I was pleasantly surprised by just how much awesome variety entertainment can be found onboard Norwegian Cruise Line vessels, especially onboard their newer ships. Now, the variety acts and shows are one of the things I look forward to each time I cruise with NCL!

Read: Norwegian Cruise Line pros and cons

#6 - The More You Cruise, The Better Benefits You Get

ncl latitudes

(An example of some of the tier benefits for Latitude Reward members) 

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a reward and advantage program called "Latitudes Rewards."

This program allows passengers who sail with Norwegian to earn points each time they sail. These points accumulate, and the more points that are earned, the higher tier that guests will reach. These different reward tiers allow guests to earn benefits onboard their next cruise sailings with Norwegian. 

The first time that guests sail with Norwegian Cruise Line they will automatically join the Latitude Reward program. 

NCL viva

(Unique onboard activity on Norwegian Viva, the Norwegian Speedway) 

Currently, there are seven reward tiers offered by Norwegian Cruise Line: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Sapphire, Diamond, and Ambassador. Bronze is the entry reward tier that passengers are automatically entered into after they sail with Norwegian, whereas Ambassador is the highest tier and requires 700 or more Latitude Reward points. 

Typically guests are given one point per night during their sailing. For example, if guests are staying in a standard inside stateroom on a 7-night cruise, they will be given 7 points at the end of their sailing. 

However, there are ways for guests to earn more points faster. Occasionally Norwegian will offer deals and promotions on certain cruise dates or itineraries that allow guests to earn more than one point per night. 

NCL viva

Additionally, staying in certain stateroom types allows guests to earn more points. For example, staying in Norwegian’s unique Studio staterooms designed for solo travelers will allow guests to earn 4 points per night of their cruise, while staying in certain suite stateroom categories will earn guests 2 or more points per night. 

Some of the rewards that guests can earn in the higher Latitude Reward tiers include discounts on drink packages and shore excursions, free laundry, priority tender tickets, exclusive cocktail parties, priority check-in and embarkation, discounts on Wi-FI packages, specialty dining dinner for two, wine tastings, behind the scenes ship tours, exclusive cruise offers, and even a complimentary 7-night cruise once guests make it to the Ambassador tier. 

NCL star

My first time sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line I was pleasantly surprised just how great some of these benefits can be for frequent cruisers and repeat travelers. 

Read: Guide to Norwegian Cruise Line’s Latitude Rewards program

My past six sailings with Norwegian Cruise Line have taught me a lot about this cruise line and brand

NCL Viva

I have been pleasantly surprised by many things while onboard and throughout different cruise experiences. 

I am looking forward to learning even more about Norwegian Cruise Line in upcoming sailings this year and sharing more tips to help prospective cruisers know what to expect when choosing Norwegian for their next cruise vacation. 

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