As soon as you step aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, a butler escorts you past the bustling promenades, speciality restaurants and eateries to an unassuming elevator. Only the cognoscenti know this is the gateway that will take guests to The Haven, accessible by keycard to only a few select guests.

On Norwegian Encore, the doors open to The Haven’s concierge, ready to fulfil your every wish. The lobby area opens into an expansive plush seating area filled with cream armchairs, velvet sofas and a long marbled bench with bartenders to greet you. Champagne, perhaps? It’s on the house.

This private enclave, designed as a retreat for high-end NCL guests, has all the offerings of a luxury vessel, but within a larger, premium ship. Norwegian Encore also boasts the best entertainment, restaurants and activities at sea for the entire family – something you don’t get access to on a smaller luxury vessel. So it’s the best of both worlds.

NCL first pioneered the idea of a ‘ship within a ship’– an area that has its own suites, restaurants, spa and private pool, but with the option to explore and access the rest of the ship’s fabulous amenities – in 2005. In 2011 it adopted the moniker The Haven, which can now be found on 11 of the line’s 17 ships, including its new Prima-class vessels.

The Haven on Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva will be located at the aft of the ship, a first for NCL, which typically located the area at the bow. The 107-suite area will be more sumptuous and decadent than guests will have ever previously experienced. And the design of the space will be more open to the sea than ever before. For the first time, every common area in The Haven offers stunning sea and destination views.

The Haven Courtyard on Norwegian Prima has been transformed into an expansive Haven Sundeck, boasting a stunning new infinity pool overlooking the ship’s wake and a new outdoor spa with a glass-walled sauna and cold room.

Pushing the boundaries of exclusive design within the reimagined exclusive space, all public areas and suites in The Haven have been designed by Piero Lissoni, one of Italy’s pre-eminent designers. Lissoni provided an elegant and sophisticated design to The Haven Sundeck, The Haven Restaurant, The Haven Lounge & Bar and the Outdoor Spa: Sauna and Cold Room.

The beauty of staying in The Haven is that you enjoy privileges both inside and outside this special area. Butler service is included in the fare and they will organise priority seating at shows, embarkation and debarkations and dining reservations at the ship’s specialty restaurants. The Haven guests are also given promotional perks such as unlimited beverage packages, included meals at speciality restaurants, shore excursion credit and an internet package.

Elsewhere on the ships, Norwegian Prima and her sister Norwegian Viva will have a bigger focus on the new Ocean Boulevard, which will have a greater variety of experiences and dining options, so guests feel better connected to the sea. As part of the experiences offered on Ocean Boulevard, NCL introduced the first-ever upscale open-air marketplace with Indulge Food Hall.

Fine-dining options include Onda by Scarpetta, a fabulous Italian eatery offering beautifully fresh dishes like tuna crudo, melt-in-the-mouth beef short ribs, mushroom ragout with polenta and hand-made pasta, and Los Lobos Cantina, a Mexican restaurant offering a modern take on traditional favourites like guacamole prepared tableside, enchiladas de mole and hand-crafted margaritas.

Onboard my last sailing on Norwegian Encore, The Haven was located at the front of the ship, a good spot to take in the sights as we sailed into port. In the Observation Lounge on deck 15 on our first evening, the waiters mingled and served canapés of vol-au-vents with smoked salmon and crème fraîche, and glasses of champagne appeared in front of guests at the ornate circular bar. People lounged on the opulent chaises, some reading books from the extensive library. It sounded, and felt, like a luxury cruise.

This private area of the ship has its own sophisticated restaurant serving the clientele with breakfast, lunch and dinner designed just for its suite passengers. For breakfast, you’ll find smoked-salmon frittata as well as the decadent fruits de mer in brioche – who ever said lobster and scallops was too much for breakfast?

The cabins are luxurious and extremely spacious. Accommodation ranges from spa suites with Jacuzzis, which have priority access to the Mandara Spa™ and other themed spa-themed activities; family suites, which cater for parents with children; penthouses for guests who love to entertain; and, of course, Deluxe Owner’s Suites with balconies and private sitting areas. Each suite comes complete with luxury bath products, a welcome bottle of sparkling wine and fruit and bottled water on embarkation day.

NCL continues to push the envelope and innovate with the premium guest experience firmly in mind. If you’re a luxury-lover, it’s time to consider The Haven by Norwegian.