Having sailed on most of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships, I looked forward to investigating the new Norwegian Prima.
I had seen renderings of the different areas, but there’s nothing like actually stepping onto a ship for the first time and seeing how those initial drawings were brought to life.
Even before walking the gangway, you can tell that this is a game-changer for Norwegian Cruise Line. Prima‘s profile is different from anything the line has done in the past. The bow was somewhat reminiscent of Celebrity’s Edge-class ships, while the aft area reminded me of MSC’s Seaside-class. The similarities ended there. Once I stepped inside, I found nothing that resembled these ships or any of the other NCL ships to date.
Forget about the atriums found on other Norwegian ships. On Prima, Penrose Atrium extends three stories, with expansive views of the sea. Most of the public spaces and dining areas are found on decks 6, 7, and 8. Shops skirt the outside of public spaces or line the hallways, making very efficient use of the space.
One of the most interesting spaces on the ship, Prima Theater and Club, functions as a multi-purpose area. When being used as a theater, it seems, at first glance, fairly standard. But this space has the ability to transform into a dance club within minutes or morph into an area that can be used for a wide variety of other purposes.
To achieve this, the seats are pushed away from the stage. Think of a high school gym with bleachers and how they move away from the basketball court to stack against a wall. On Prima, the seats fold down, almost like stow-and-go seats in a car. Once flipped over, they can then slide into the space behind them. It’s quite a clever concept.
The theater itself has the latest and greatest technology. This is ideal for the ship’s big-ticket production show, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, not to mention the audience-participation shows such as a live version of the game show The Price is Right.
Certain restaurants are familiar favorites and have kept their original names. Some, like Hasuki, are familiar concepts (in this case, Teppanyaki) with new names. One new-to-Norwegian venue is Palomar, the specialty seafood restaurant.
One of my favorite new dining concepts is Indulge Food Hall, featuring 11 different dining styles to choose from. Some of the venues are modified versions of restaurants found on other Norwegian ships, while others are completely new to the line.
Lovers of Indian food will enjoy Tamara, while meat lovers should try the Rotisserie, which reminded me of Moderno on other ships. Ordering food here involves tablets with menus. If you sit in the booths or tables scattered around the area, you will be able to order from any of the restaurants. If you sit at the counter of whichever venue you choose, you will only be able to order from that restaurant. The menus may have some different choices between lunch and dinner.
Hudson’s and The Commodore, the two main dining rooms, both have fixed menus which do not change throughout the week. These restaurants serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Local, a 24-hour venue (known on many Norwegian ships as O’Sheehan’s), serves pub meals throughout the day. I do miss the Shepherd’s Pie, but many old favorites like wings and burgers are still available.
The staterooms have a modern look. Balconies are consistent with beds near the sliding doors rather than on some ships that alternated the layout with the living area near the balcony doors. The rooms have a modern look with the frames of the beds in full view. The art adds a special touch. The balconies are comfortable with designer chairs that recline.
All Haven category staterooms are now physically located within The Haven complex, which is a definite plus. Spanning several decks on the aft of the ship, the area oozes elegance. Because it is larger than any Haven area featured on past ships, it naturally also includes a larger inside bar, as well as an outside bar with stunning views. Similarly, The Haven Restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating areas.
Plenty of options, many with an additional fee, give guests a chance to try something new — or go back to old favorites.
Surrounding the funnels is a three-story race track, expanded from two levels on other ships. The drone of the cars — really the drone from the sound effects, since these are electric cars — alert guests to their presence. While enjoying the fresh air on my balcony, I noticed the noise emanating from the track. It’s not obnoxiously distracting, but definitely noticeable. That noise pollution may not affect all guests, but those looking for a quieter experience may want to make sure that they book something as far away from the track as possible.
Galaxy Pavilion takes passengers on many journeys, with several options chosen by the guests. Whether it is experiencing a roller coaster in a snowy landscape or racing on a course, there are plenty of virtual reality choices for thrills and chills.
Up on Deck 18, near the racetrack entrance, one of my favorite new activities is a bank of darts parlors known as The Bull’s Eye. The electronic board keeps score, and friends may enjoy a game or two in their own private space.
Also in the sports complex are other activities, including a court for the ever-popular pickleball and shuffleboard.
If you have sailed on the Breakaway-class ships, you are already familiar with The Waterfront. On Prima-class, this outside area is known as Ocean Boulevard. If you thought The Waterfront was the best part of a Norwegian cruise ship, then you will be blown away by its counterpart here. Ocean Boulevard features wonderful areas for strolling, outdoor dining and drinking venues, a sculpture park, two infinity pools, and more. It quickly became my favorite spot on the ship.
As far as the pool area, I was surprised that there is just one main pool. There are also two infinity pools with four hot tubs nearby, as well as additional hot tubs which are only available to guests of Vibe Beach Club or The Haven.
Children have their own aqua park with plenty of seating around, perfect for parental supervision.
Many of the bars are in large open areas. Don’t expect to find an intimate smaller space for a drink.
My favorite bar, Belvedere, does seem more intimate due to its size and location, but still lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. The other large drinks venue, Metropolitan Bar, focuses on sustainable cocktails and serves excellent concoctions, but the space reminds me of a waiting room at a medical center — an upscale medical center, to be sure, but a medical center nonetheless. It just didn’t do it for me.
This ship is unlike any other in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, and figuring out the layout took a few days. One goal of this design was to create a more upscale look and experience. For the most part, NCL has achieved that. I’m not quite sure how a racetrack translates into luxury, but I suppose if I were the CEO and one of my grandchildren had suggested an element to be included on a ship, I would not eliminate that particular element.
One of my first observations was the lack of fish on the carpet swimming toward the front. In place of the fish, there are triangles with the vertex pointing forward. With the modern look of the hallway carpet, in my ideal world, they could have designed an abstract triangular fish.
Some of the gathering areas — like Improv at Sea comedy club and Syd Norman’s Pour House — offered limited space, a real drawback for those wishing to watch a comedian or hear music.
I definitely appreciate the connection to the sea found on Norwegian Prima. What really makes this ship upscale is the level of service. Throughout the ship, I found the crew to offer extraordinary service. The connections that crew make with guests and the level of service provided exemplifies the upscale experience.
All uncredited photos are by Theresa Russell.
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