My husband and I absolutely love to take cruises. While we have been on cruises on Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America Cruise Lines, and Norwegian Cruise Lines, we enjoy cruising on Princess Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines the best. For the purposes of this review, I am going to concentrate on Norwegian Cruise Lines ( I will refer to it as NCL throughout this article) because they are the least expensive of the three, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck!
We have cruised with NCL on three different trips. The first cruise was on our honeymoon in 2010. It was on what was then a brand new ship, the Norwegian Epic. The second cruise was to Florida, the Bahamas and the cruise line’s island. The third trip was our very first transatlantic cruise and it was from Copenhagen, Denmark to Miami, Florida.
Here are the top ten reasons, in my opinion, that you should cruise on NCL:
1) Great Prices
Each of the cruise lines we traveled on have their perks, but the beauty of NCL cruises are they have the same experiences others have, at a less expensive price. For instance, our transatlantic trip was twelve nights, and had one stop along the way in the Azores. The cost of the cruise was $770 each for a mini suite. For those of you not acquainted with cruising, the general room accommodations are:
*Studio rooms ( see #2, NCL only)
*Inside cabin (no windows, tiny room on the inside of a ship)
*Ocean view (a bit larger with a window to see the ocean going by)
*Balcony room (larger room with a balcony to sit on)
*Mini-suite (even larger room which includes a couch and maybe a chair or two)
*Suite (has a bedroom and also a living room area, sometimes a dining area)
*Family suite (the largest of the suites with usually more than one bedroom)
As you can see from the description above, a mini-suite is in the middle, not too shabby but not too over the top either. Although that is a good price for a cruise, when my husband called the cruise line to see if that was a mistake, he was told it was not, and if we were members of AARP, which we are, we could save 10%. So we were each able to take a 12 night cruise for $700. That is pretty amazing, and is much less expensive than what other cruise lines had to offer.
2) Rooms for Singles
Some of the newer NCL ships, such as the Norwegian Epic, the Norwegian Breakaway and the Norwegian Getaway now have rooms for single cruisers. They are considered studio rooms. They are not huge, but you do get a comfortable full sized bed, plenty of storage space, your own bathroom, and access to a lounge for all of the other cruisers in the same type of room. It’s a good way to get to meet people if you are traveling alone and want to meet others doing the same. Or you can choose to not use the common area and have a quiet cruise on your own. It used to be that if you wanted to cruise on your own, even in an inside cabin, you would have to pay a surcharge to make up the difference of the person not using the other bed in your room. With these single rooms, you just pay for yourself, and that’s it.
3) Freestyle Cruising
NCL invented the freestyle cruising phenomena which means passengers don’t have to have dinner at a certain time and place, or be at the dining room for the 6:15 or 8:15 pm seating, which is how cruising used to be in days gone by. NCL led the way in letting passengers decide when they would like to eat dinner, and who they would like to eat with. Dining in a dining room on NCL means you can arrive at the front desk of the dining room at any time, and ask for a table for two, or a table for you and your ten closest friends, as if going to a restaurant at home. This frees you up to enjoy your cruise and not have to rush to make a dinner seating.
4) Dress Up If You Like Night
Most cruise lines still have at least one formal night where dressing up in suits, long dresses or cocktail dresses is expected. NCL is much more laid back and they have certain nights during their cruises where passengers can dress up if they like, and if not, it’s fine.
5) Great Cruise Line for Kids
NCL ships have joined forces with Nickelodeon and provides Nickelodeon activities for kids such as “slime time” poolside, and a meet and greet with Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob Squarepants and other Nickelodeon characters. They also have water slides and many of the NCL ships even offer kiddie pools. Plus of course there are the kids care programs where parents can drop their children off at the sections of the ship designed for children’s care and activities. Some cruise lines do not cater to children and families but NCL certainly does. Now this is not to say if you are an adult your cruise is ruined by too many children. We hardly see the kids on the NCL cruises we have taken, except in the dining rooms and the café. The activities for kids are plentiful, but there are many things for adults to do on the ship that are not near the kids and everyone can have a great time.
If you want the perks of an NCL cruise, but not the kids, it’s best to go during the school year as fewer children will be on your cruise.
6) Unusual Entertainment
Most cruise lines offer the standard entertainment such as Broadway style shows, comedians, and magicians. But NCL goes above and beyond that. It offers that entertainment, PLUS entertainment by the Second City Players. You might have heard this name because many now famous comedians and actors got their start with the Second City Players in Chicago or Toronto. Among them are John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Robert Kline, Bill Murray, George Wendt, Shelley long and Martin Short. This troupe of comedians do an improv act and involve the audience. But wait, there’s more…
The Blue Man group is featured entertainment on many an NCL ships, as well as a dinner theater show put on by Cirque Du Soleil. Not only is the food good but the acts are mesmerizing and the whole experience is quite entertaining. Members of the Cirque troupe are also on hand to teach the kids some circus acts which is a unique feature only NCL offers.
7) Fantastic Spa
For extra money cruisers can purchase a spa pass and are treated to one of the most fabulous experiences at sea. The spas on the Norwegian ships are truly equipped for total relaxation and are one of the things I enjoy most about cruising with NCL. There are hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms with both dry and moist heat, spa pools to swim in or to enjoy massages of tiny bubbles, curved metal bars to lie on and have bubbles surround your body, heated tiled lounge chairs, and relaxation areas where one can get hot or cold drinks, fruit, and a comfortable seat looking out huge floor to ceiling windows with relaxing music piped in.
8) 24 Hour Real Restaurant
While most cruise lines have a buffet area that is open all night, NCL ships have an actual 24 hour real restaurant with waiters and waitresses ready to take your order off a menu. The food is delicious and you feel a little extra special having someone wait on you in this restaurant while the rest of the ship may be asleep. And the best part is that you don’t pay a bill or leave a tip as this is one of the free restaurants onboard.
9) Coffee Makers in Every Room
This is a nice perk, especially for people like me who are not early morning risers and need coffee to wake up even before heading up to the buffet area for breakfast. Or who want to have a nice cup of coffee on their balcony and watch the world go by.
10) Friendly Staff without Going Overboard
Some of the cruise lines I have been on, such as Holland America, have loads of staff people. And all of them go overboard trying to wait on you hand and foot. When you go to the dining room, you have the same water, water boy and wine steward each night. By the end of the cruise, you could become best buddies with them. Although a tip amount is charged per day standard for cruisers now, staff still don’t make that much money. So when I see staff on cruise ships that go above and beyond, I sort of feel obligated to tip them extra. But do I really WANT all this extra service? No, thanks. I really don’t. I want to go on a cruise with my husband to leave my cares behind and enjoy our time alone together. I love the fact that NCL has great staff that are always pleasant and friendly, but they don’t become my best friend. NCL does not have as many staff onboard their ships, and it may mean that you have to wait a bit before you are seated, or a minute longer before you are served your orange juice in the café in the mornings, but I am fine with that, especially because the cost of the cruise is less than the cruises that pay all of the extra staff.
So there you have it, the ten best reasons to cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines, in this cruiser’s opinion.
By Karen Hellier