Let’s face it—travelers either love cruising or they don’t. I fell into that “don’t” category, but a recent trip on Norwegian’s newest ship, Prima, just moved me into the “love” category. The brand has fixed everything that was wrong (in my mind) with cruising. Spacious cabins (even the showers!), great food with more dining options, wide open spaces that eliminate that crowded feeling, and a world-class spa all won me over.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Prima, the first of six ships in the brand’s new luxury prima class, recently set sail debuting a new approach to cruising. The 965-foot vessel holds 3,100 guests; however, two things make it feel a bit more intimate: some interesting new industry-forward design concepts and the highest staff to guest ratio of any ship.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO Harry Sommer said the Prima was designed to capture a new share of the market and entice those who eschew the crowded traditional cruise model. He added that numerous smaller gathering areas and intimate seating lounges spread people around the ship to create more personal spaces.
Welcome to ‘The Haven’
If you’re one of those travelers who opts for the concierge or premium level at resorts, you’ll appreciate The Haven on Prima, which offers high amenities and service, including 107 upgraded guest rooms so large you’ll forget you’re on a ship. The Haven occupies eight floors of the aft section, all accessed through private elevators.
Guests have access to 24-hour butlers, concierge service for booking dining and activities, priority seating at restaurants and shows, a private pool and sundeck area, and many more exclusive features. Staterooms range from the 6,694-sq. ft., 3-bedroom garden villa to 378-sq. ft. spa suites, all impeccably decorated and ultra-spacious.
Guests also have access to their own restaurant and lounge or can enjoy in-suite white tablecloth dining. If you prefer small ship sailing, The Haven’s ship-within-a-ship concept is the solution.
A reimagined restaurant scene
Forget those long buffet lines of cruise ships past. The pandemic forced cruise ships and a lot of venues to rethink their approach to serving large quantities of people. And in this case, travelers won. I’ve never been a big fan of the banquet-style food served on cruises and NCL has certainly upped the ante.
There are still two traditional main restaurants offering menu service and I found the food to be equivalent to fine dining. A modern food hall offers 11 different dining concepts with everything from a noodle bar and Indian cuisine to barbecue and a full-service Starbucks. This concept is perfect for multi-generational families with diverse palates to please. No matter your craving, you’ll probably find a restaurant serving that cuisine.
There are seven upscale dining venues that require reservations and offer specialties from around the world—each one has its own unique personality. And don’t worry, there are still plenty of casual dining options for grabbing a quick bite or burger. There’s no shortage of lounges and bars, from quiet intimate spaces to sports-themed and music-filled spots. The ship’s Metropolitan Bar is the industry’s first sustainable cocktail bar at sea, artfully serving zero-waste cocktails prepared with surplus ingredients from the restaurants.
The spa’s revolutionary thermal experiences
Spas always seem to be afterthoughts on cruise ships, but Prima’s Mandara Spa almost feels like the ship was designed around it. An impressive two-story waterfall (a first among cruise ships) that spills into thermal pools is the spa’s most inviting feature. But the ship’s thermal spa and hydrotherapy area was the highlight of my trip, with eight experiences for guests including the industry’s first charcoal sauna at sea, a salt and steam room, an ice room, experiential showers, a flotation salt pool, and an infrared sauna.
There’s a full menu of treatments, including a beauty salon and barber shop. A massive full-service fitness center includes a yoga and spin studio, and the gym’s 180-degree ocean view is enough of an excuse to get your workout in.
Race a car, feel G-forces, step into a virtual world
There are plenty of activities to keep guests busy on those days at sea, or for those, like me, who want to enjoy the ship to themselves while in port. Prima boasts a few firsts in entertainment.
Primarily, the Speedway is the largest and first three-level racetrack at sea and there’s no bigger thrill than zooming along a track high above the ocean. The Drop is also the world’s first freefall dry slide that is a 10-story plunge where daredevils experience more G-forces than an accelerating F1 race car.
On top of those thrills, there is golf, a virtual reality game room, pickleball court, foosball tables, ping pong, and other sporting amusements. Younger kids can play at the splash academy and aqua park, while nightly entertainment includes Broadway-style shows, a comedy club, and a live game show in addition to the casino.
Thoughtful design provides quiet, personal spaces
This is perhaps the aspect I most appreciated about the Prima—the thoughtful design that is an attempt to woo those anti-cruisers who want to avoid crowds. There are many small sitting areas scattered throughout the ship with comfortable seating, daybeds, and loungers if you just want to read a book in a quiet space.
Rather than having one large, central pool deck, Prima has three different pool areas allowing guests to spread out, and the two infinity pools give the appearance of spilling over into the ocean. But the crown jewel in the ship’s thoughtful design is the Concourse, which features a multi-million-dollar outdoor sculpture garden. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon cocktail or stroll in the moonlight after dinner.
If you’re a luxury resort traveler but love the idea of sailing into different ports of call for some unique experiences, the Prima is sure to satisfy your desire for spacious and upscale accommodations coupled with fine dining and myriad entertainment options.