Norweigan Getaway
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Norweigan Cruise Line Review

If you are looking at Norweigan Cruise Line and wondering if you should spend your vacation sailing with them, this is a must read. Based on our experience, and those of others who have shared it with us, we have a lot to tell you about. Let us give you an honest Norweigan Cruise Review including ships, service, food, entertainment, kids area, and more.

norweigan cruise line

Did you know that Norwegian Cruise Line, also known as NCL, began its journey in 1966? Since then, they have grown their fleet to 17 ships, making them one of the largest cruise line companies in the world. NCL’s ships are registered in various countries, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Panama, allowing them to visit an array of unique and exotic destinations around the globe. From the sunny beaches of the Caribbean to the breathtaking fjords of Alaska, Africa to Antarctica, and so many more – NCL offers a variety of itineraries to suit every type of traveler.

One of the things that sets Norwegian Cruise Line apart is their innovative onboard offerings, including Freestyle Cruising concept. This allows guests to enjoy a more flexible dining experience, with no set dining times or formal dress codes. In addition, NCL’s ships feature incredible entertainment options, many dining options, and attentive service to ensure every guest has a truly memorable experience.  Typically, NCL attracts a diverse range of guests, from families with young children to couples celebrating special occasions. Whether you’re looking to relax on a tropical beach, explore ancient ruins, or simply enjoy a luxurious getaway at sea, Norwegian Cruise Line has something for everyone.

Norweigan Prima cruise ship in port
Norweigan Prima

norweigan cruise ships

Looking to set sail on a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage? Here’s a list of 19 ships in their fleet and the dates they set sail:

  1. Norwegian Spirit (1998)
  2. Norwegian Sky (1999)
  3. Norwegian Star (2001)
  4. Norwegian Sun (2001)
  5. Norwegian Dawn (2002)
  6. Norwegian Jewel (2005)
  7. Pride of America (2005)
  8. Norwegian Jade (2006)
  9. Norwegian Pearl (2006)
  10. Norwegian Gem (2007)
  11. Norwegian Epic (2010)
  12. Norwegian Breakaway (2013)
  13. Norwegian Getaway (2014)
  14. Norwegian Escape (2015)
  15. Norwegian Joy (2017)
  16.  Norwegian Bliss (2018)
  17. Norwegian Encore (2019)
  18. Norwegian Prima (2022)
  19. Norweigan Aqua (coming 2025)
Norweigan Getaway
Norweigan Getaway

norweigan cruise review

To get an idea of the size, and offerings of Norweigans ships:

  • The oldest ship, the Norweigan Spirit offers a capacity of 2,032 passengers at double occupency with a crew of 904. It is 121 feet wide and 880 feet long.  The ship was refurbished in 2022.   Passenger decks are from deck 4 to deck 13 for a total of 9 decks with two main dining rooms, buffet, several specialty restaurants ($), main theatre shows,  daily activities, gym, outdoor basketball court, golf driving nets, a jogging track, and pool.
  • The largest NCL ship is the Norweigan Breakaway which  debuted in 2019 with a capacity of 3958 passengers at double occupency and a crew of 1735. She is 136 feet wide and 1094 feet long. Passenger decks are from deck 5 to deck 20 for a total of 16 guest decks. There are 20 dinning locations to choose from including three main dining rooms, the buffet, several casual cafes that are included plus lots of specialty restaurants ($). Activities onboard include freefall waterslides to go-karts (known as the Norwegian Encore Speedway), laser tag, and the Norwegian Encore Galaxy Pavilion, which is virtual-reality play space with family-friendly arcade games

norweigan cruise waterslides

norweigan cruise Line ships

The ships offerings vary widely based on ship, so you will want to read carefully about the ship you are sailing on and see if it meets with your needs and expectations. Some of the newere ships off go karts where you can race around the world’s first three-level race track at sea. Some ships have waterslides and an aqua park, while others only offer one main pool. While all offer a sports court and shuffle board, some offer mini-golf, pickle ball, and foosball options.  So as you see the offerings vary greatly.  All the ships will have a casino, pool, spa, walking path, gym, photo opportunities, and amazing views.

The offerings vary greatly between ships is pretty consistent cruise industry wide. The older ships are smaller with less bells and whistles. I would say more of NCL ships are simpler than that majority of Royal Carribean Crusieline for example. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, mega ships are not for everyone.

Le Bistro on Norweigan Breakaway
Le Bistro on Norweigan Breakaway

norwegian cruise line freestyle

The dining is touted as freestyle which gives the impression of freedom to eat when you want, wherever you want at a whim. We did not find this to be true. We found it not only a good idea, but essential to make reservations for dinner by the first night of the cruise or options were not available. We saw so many upset guests that they tried to dine at 5pm and there were no tables until 9pm at the 2 main dining rooms. The lines to get in the dinning area were so long, with no seperation between those with timed reservations and those hoping to just be seated on a whim. We’d get in line at 5pm for a 5:30 reservation and get to the front by 5:45 at times.

norweigan star versailles dining room was elegant and beautiful
norweigan star versailles dining room was elegant and beautiful

Dining rooms were beautiful and filled with gracious table servers. The wait staff is severealy overworked so the service is slow and inaccurate. We laughed because in the 14 days we were on the ship not one meal did they get everything right. Didn’t matter the restaurant or time of day, someones order was really wrong every single time.  Because your table changed from night to night, so did your server. We missed the repoire with the same wait staff. No one got to know our prefernces, made small talk, anticpiated our needs, or even did magic tricks like other lines.

norweigan star versailled dining room food chicken main entree
norweigan star versailled dining room food chicken main entree

The food was okay, nothing exciting. The main dining rooms menu did very nightly, but some things like french onion soup were on the menu almost every single night – I guess they had lots of leftovers. The food was presented beautifully, but lacked interesting flavors or uniqueness. The buffets were cramped and frustrating to navigate. But we did appreciate the free juice options, crepe station, and sandwich stations. The desserts were limited, with only about 4 choices and they all tended to taste similar.

O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill bbq burger with bacon and fries in a basket
O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill bbq burger with bacon and fries in a basket

We did enjoy O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill which allowed us to catch life music and offered  yummy nachos and pub type food. We also enjoyed Ginza where we got to eat yummy Chinese food in the perfect atmosphere. But the line to get in here was alwasy way down the hallway even before they opened this small venue.

Norweigan Cruise Line Signature Dining

Signature dining was very mixed bag. First there is the matter of cost. I will point out that at some restaurants kids are allowed to eat at the specialty dining free if they order off the kids menu.

Moderno Churrascaria is a brazilian steakhouse with an impressive salad bar and 8 meats on a stick brought to your table
Moderno Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse

We really enjoyed Moderno Churrascaria where they offered a wonderful, huge salad bar in addition to skewers of wonderfully flavorful meat brought to your table. It was a real treat and a fun place to eat. Tepanyaki where the food was prepared on the griddle in front of us with some songs and lots of humor in addition to a delicious dinner.  But not all of them were good. At La Cucina the food was mediocre at best. The bread was good, not great. There is better bread service at the standard dining room on the Disney cruise ships. The salad was a blue cheese wedge and it was well prepared and good. But the 8 layers of lasagna noodles were mush and the sauce between them seemed to be poured from a can without any seasoning. The steak was well prepared, juicy and deliciuos. But then the tiramisu made an appearance and once again disspointed. It was heavy, not light. It appeared to be a marshmallow layer??! Super dissapointing and I do not recommend.  Don’t get me wrong, the ones that were good were really good, but for $70/person at La Cucina I expected the food to be good.

NCL BLISS - Bliss Speedway
Norweigan Bliss Speedway

norweigan cruise line entertainment

Daytime entertainment tends to consist of lazy days on the sundeck, a couple of activities from the cruise team, wonderful live music that I think beats any other crusie line in terms of variety and availability, and ammenties (ie waterslide mini golf, etc.) that very dramatically by ship.

There are no pay-per-view or on demand entertainment in your staterooms and not pool side movies which our family missed.

If you have kids and are use to RCL or Disney, you will be dissapointed. Their program is organized and has caring councelors, but it has very limited hours and is is very rigid with expectations each kid participate in the planned activity. So keep that in mind if it is a deciding factor.

Norweigan Getaway Crowded Pool
Norweigan Getaway Crowded Pool

Pools tend to be overly crowded and lounge chairs hard to snag. Pool towels are vailable, but need to be checked out with your stateroom key.

ncl entertainment

During the evening  that shows are more vegas than broadway. They are all high energy, high caliber, and professional. But I would not say that they are all family friendly.

NCL offers more themed parties than any other ship we’ve been on. So if late night dancing and parties is your thing – you will love the various themed nights available througout your voyage.

The balcony cabin on norweigan breakaway
balcony cabin on Norweigan Breakaway

norwegian cruise line Staterooms

One thing I really liked about NCL staterooms is the wide variety of room options. The cheapst, budget rooms are nice enough as long as you only have 2-3 per staterooms. Adding a 4th passenger really makes it super cramped. But the rooms were nicely maintained and well layed out. I appreiated little touches like a way to communicate with your stateroom steward if you needed privacy or if your room was ready to be made up.

The stateroom attendants were friendly and did a great job of keeping everything super clean and communicating constantly. We were sad that towel animals are no longer standard on NCL. The furnishings don’t hold a candle to those on any stateroom on Disney Cruise Line

norweigan star 3 bedroom garden villa suite main bedroom with king bed and huge panoramic floor to ceiling glass windows
norweigan star 3 bedroom garden villa suite main bedroom with king bed and huge panoramic floor to ceiling glass windows

The suites are wonderful. There are lots of choices to fit a variety of options. Suites come with more perks like upgraded dining rooms for breakfast and lunch, expedited on/off the ship, reserved area for seeing shows, etc. See Norweigan Cruise Ship Suite Review

norweigan cruise line destinations

Norweigan Cruise Line Destinations

One of Norweigan’s strengths is their wide variety of destinations worldwide. Whether you want to head to the Carribean to their private island Stirup Cay or head down under, visit Africa, cruise the Meditternean, head to exotic Asia, or explore South America – NCL has so many itineraries to choose from. If you are looking for a spring break or summer vacation locally sailing out of Florida I would say there are better options – better food, better entertainment.

norweigan cruise itineraries

But if you are looking for a truly special itinerary – where the ports are the stars, NCL can be a great option to get you there as a moving hotel.  No other major cruiseline offers the Africa itinearies that Norweigan Cruise does. My family has been salivating over the South Africa and Madagascar trip, the 16-day Seychelles, Kenya & Tanzania voyage, 18-day Namibia, Cape Verde, Angola & Ivory Coast, and Egypt options (sadly they have been temporarily removed due to unrest in the middle east).

norweigan atrium

Norweigan Cruise Line Review

Some other things to mention from other cruisers who wanted to share their experiences recently:

The whole towel management system on the cruise ship was a bit bizarre. Instead of multiple towel stations spread out throughout the pool deck area, there was only one main station requiring passengers to sign-in and sign-out their towels.

Just to reiterate, the dining experience was just “ok”.

I found that Taste and Savor had shorter hours for breakfast and dining in those rooms for dinner (along with the Manhattan room), we waited a long time for food to come out. Our service was good and very polite but it seemed that they did not have enough staff during these peak times. And the buffet was a zoo from the moment you walk in (with the endless “Washy Washy” song in the back round). I found that many people just did what ever thy wanted. For example if we were waiting in line to grab a hamburger, someone would just skip the line and reach in front of the person who was next and just start helping them selves. There is no where to sit.

Service was good but slow…

Again service was good but it was slow like they didn’t have enough people working. The crew member at the internet help desk was amazing. The guest services staff was great but when talking to them about the issues above, they said they would look into it. After two time of going there and nothing being done, we didn’t go back.

norweigan entertainment venues

Once previous avid NCL cruisers after a 2024 voyage

Terrible entertainment with no real production show. Food in there free restaurants was awful. Again no customer service anywhere on the ship. We are gamblers and the casino was bad. No servers, had to stop and go to bar if you wanted something to drink. Hosts didn’t take the time to get to know you, sat behind their desk. Was on an 11 day and the ports where great but It looks like we will be exploring a different cruise line.

This family warns about the smoking sections on the Breakaway, 2024

The smoking section is located in the middle of the ship next to the children’s pool, the buffet entrance, and the walkway to get around outside. You smell second hand smoke on the upper and lower decks around it.  The food and service was nothing special. The complementary restaurants serve the same thing, and only switch up a few things on the menu for the whole cruise. If you want better food and service, you have to spend more money. Not much entertainment. They offer a show here and there but not enough seating for all who wants to attend.

Never Again! from a guest on the Encore in 2024

First off, the ship was way too crowded. You can’t walk out of the stateroom without having to push people away. The main pool was literally more human than the actual water in the pool. The slides and ropes coarse were closed the whole time for some reason, and we were charged random daily fees that we didn’t know about ($80 a day). Teenagers were running around and kids were throwing ice off of the top deck. When you try to go see a show you can’t! (there are no seats)  My family did however spend the majority of the week in our stateroom because of the overcrowd. I will not be cruising with Norwegian again. This past week was miserable.

sunset over norweigan star cruise ship
sunset over Norweigan Star cruise ship

NCL Personal Review

So, with all that said, would I recommend NCL? It really depends on the ship, if you book a suite, and if the itineary is worth it.  The newer ships attract many families which make them even more crowded. If you can book a suite you will have a block of reserved seating for the shows and better food for lunch and dinner, plus space to not feel so crowded. Norweigan Cruise line does offer some of the most unique cruises out there with ones visiting Africa, among other intersting destinations.  But I would warn our cruise had its itinerary drastically altered a week before hand with not explanation, causing many to cancel. They have also done this fleet wide recently in the news. So if you are flexible and can snag a great deal (which can be found on NCL) maybe they are a good fit for you.

Borromline. For us, unless we are sailing to a location only offered by Norweigan Cruise Line, we will spend our hard-earned money and sail with another cruise line that offers more consistent offerings with better food. I mean, food is one of the main activities on a cruise vacation.

 

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