Norwegian Prima is perhaps the boldest and brightest in a new class of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) vessels, with six more sister ships slated over the next five years. 

On Norwegian Prima’s inaugural American sailing from New York, panel discussions among the ship’s management team and executives said she is the prototype for bigger and better things to come from NCL. 

While many cruise lines might tout a range of technological bells and whistles which sound fantastic on paper, NCL has gone above and beyond in the delivery of Norwegian Prima

On the outside, her animated hull artwork makes her look like much of the line’s Breakaway-class ships. The imagery, which flows from the bow to the stern, depicts fluid shapes of blue, much like the undercurrent of the ocean. 

But inside, she’s a much more grown-up ship than her predecessors, a nod to how NCL sees its market for the coming few years. The ship is adorned with US$8 million worth of art, and a US$2 million sculpture garden, all carefully curated by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio.

prima galaxy pavilion

And while she still boasts some cool and innovative rides, such as the signature Norwegian Cruise Line Speedway go-kart racetrack (albeit with some major improvements on those offered on other NCL vessels), the interactive Galaxy Pavilion as well a free-fall dry slide and waterslides, it seems she is hitting a different stride, attracting younger and more affluent guests. 

Perhaps the most obvious indicator that NCL is angling the new Prima class towards a more upper-premium market, is in the design of the ship. The line’s owner demanded a hotel rather than a ship. Norwegian Prima delivers in spades.

Cascading chandeliers, curved rich cerulean panel walls and deep brown chesterfield armchairs are just a taste of what passengers will experience thanks to interior designers and architects such as Piero Lissoni, Rockwell Group, SMC Design and Studio Dado.

“We use a lot of different architects to design the space, and they all have different visions, and then you try to do your best to make sure that when you’re leaving one room that an architect designed, and then go into the next room that a different architect designed that there’s some continuity that doesn’t feel like you’re in two different places,” said Harry Sommer, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line.  

The food on Norwegian Prima

The most notable thing when you enter the ship is the three-level Penrose Atrium, featuring elements of the world’s most famous squares, from St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to St Mark’s Square in Venice. Aptly named after the Penrose triangle, the atrium is designed as a meeting place for conversation – whether that’s over coffee or a signature cocktail. 

Le Bistro, one of the line’s signature specialty French dining options, has three stunning floor-to-ceiling chandeliers that act as a focal point of the restaurant.

There are plenty of intimate public space areas, each thoughtfully decorated according to the mood. For instance, the Syd Pour Bar on Deck 7 has neon Budweiser lights, Jack Daniel’s barrel top and pictures of The Ramones, Jim Morrison and The Doors; while at the Observatory Lounge the walls and shelves display gold-plated hands, bone-laid wooden boxes and thick art books.

NCL has long been at the forefront of specialty dining which can be seen in the previous class of ships. Some of the regular favourites such as Le Bistrot, the line’s French restaurant, Onda by Scarpetta, which serves traditional Italian fare, and Cagney’s Steakhouse return on Norwegian Prima and don’t fail to impress. 

But perhaps the dining venue which has tongues wagging and mouths salivating is Palomar, a Mediterranean seafood restaurant where guests will find freshly shucked oysters with a mignonette of finger limes, whole salt-baked fish, grilled langoustines and lobster. Nama, the sushi and sashimi restaurant, is located opposite Hasuki, a teppanyaki-style eatery where the chefs put on a show of flying spatulas, eggs, and salt and pepper shakers before serving you an assortment of grilled meats, seafood, seaweed salad and fried rice. 

The most impressive and innovative addition to Norwegian Prima, which hopefully will be on her sister ships, is the Indulge Food Hall. Guests step inside the busy area which is sectioned off into different cuisines and sit at countertops to order from menus on iPads. A variety of classic dishes are available, including Spanish jamon and melon from Tapas; pad Thai and Singapore noodles from Nudls; and, my personal favourite, chicken tikka masala from Tamara which even has a tandoor oven.

The accommodation

There are 13 different stateroom categories with most featuring a lounge, large bathroom and ample storage space, as well as a desk. Decorated in hues of greys and blues, the rooms are spacious, but perhaps nothing to write home about. Norwegian Prima, though, has more solo cabins than any other ship in the NCL fleet, including a separate singles area. 

But the real achievement of Norwegian Prima is The Haven. The brainchild of Piero Lissoni accommodates just six per cent of the ship’s guests and looks more like an upscale boutique hotel with its clean lines, expansive Italian white sofas and rich velvet cerulean and bottle green armchairs.

Not only is there the exclusive Owner’s Suite in The Haven, but guests of the area have access to a private dining room and bar, as well as an outdoor area on the ship with a sumptuous infinity pool and dreamy cabanas.

race track norwegian prima

“Here you get the best of both worlds,” said Sommer. He points out that “the more affluent get the concierge, key card access, a private restaurant, their own pool, but their children and grandchildren” can visit the waterslides and the racetrack.

The thrills and spills

There are more games and activities on board than ever, including the addition of two dry slides where screams can be heard all down the 10 decks as passengers drop. 

The Galaxy Pavilion is where you’ll find an assortment of VR games – you can practise your golf swing, drive F1 cars or shoot zombies. There are also outdoor attractions including mini golf, foosball, pickleball and more.

NCL’s pièce de résistance, the Speedway go-kart track, has been developed far from the original concept. The racetrack now spans three storeys and drivers can opt for single or double karts, depending if they want to race alone or bring the kids with them. The track is designed for more speed and the chance to overtake. And guests can now shoot the top of the go-karts with laser guns to give their friends and family an extra turbo boost of speed. For those in the need for speed, the line has added a single-rider experience called “You and the Track”, where you can zip around with no one else on the course. 

Entertainment on Norwegian Prima

By evening, the bars come alive with live music, comedy acts and the highlight in the Prima Theatre is Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. It’s a masterful achievement with NCL’s production team remaking the beloved Broadway show. Once the singing and dancing are over, the seats in the Prima Theatre retract, revealing a dance floor where guests can disco the night away. 

On your way to the Prima Theatre, visit the Metropolitan Bar which uses food scraps to make the liqueurs and syrups that go into the specialty cocktails. For instance, the Sustainable Spritz, which looks and tastes like an Aperol Spritz, is made with rosemary-stem-infused vodka, surplus champagne, soda water and half an orange wheel.

If all of this is a taste to come of what we can expect from NCL, sign me up for the next five ships. 

Insider tip

Most people will head to the purser’s office to book onboard activities and specialty dining. But on Deck 6 and Deck 7, use the interactive TV screens near the Penrose Atrium to book your activities. Just swipe your card and you can secure a spot on the Speedway Track or a seat to watch the musicals. 

What should I pack?

If you are sailing around the Caribbean or similar warmer climates, make sure you bring a few pairs of swimmers to make use of the plentiful day beds at Infinity Beach on Deck 8 where there are also two infinity pools. 

NCL has relaxed dress rules but it’s best to bring some light cocktail dresses, dress slacks and shirts, particularly if you’re heading to the specialty restaurants. 

Favourite meal

The food was generally exceptional on Norwegian Prima – everything from the complimentary dining to the specialty restaurant. But do visit Indulge Food Hall for a meal at Tamara – the paneer, dahl and chicken tikka masala should not be missed.

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