Spacious designs, spectacular views, and stellar entertainment are great reasons to consider booking the NCL Prima for your next ocean cruise.
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Meet the NCL Prima
Last fall I returned to cruising by booking itineraries on the NCL Encore to Alaska in October, the NCL Jade through the Middle East in November, and the NCL Escape to the Caribbean in December. That may seem excessive to some, but at the time Norwegian was offering great fares for solo travelers with zero-to-low single supplements on some amazing itineraries.
Aboard those ships I first heard about the NCL Prima, Norwegian’s newest ship scheduled to launch within the next year. Little did I know that I would be invited to join a special sailing during the Prima’s inaugural season. It would be a 4-night out-and-back cruise from New York City to Halifax, plus two days at sea.
Jerry and I had not cruised together since our 2018 sailing on the Viking Sea to Norway and the UK, but this time the planets aligned, and we booked our spots.
Constructed by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, the NCL Prima is the first of six in the new Prima Class of ships. Onboard spaces were designed by architects including Piero Lissoni, the Rockwell Group, SMC Design, and Studio Dado.
At full capacity the vessel carries 3,100 guests at double occupancy, plus 1,506 crew members. The ship godmother is pop singer-songwriter Katy Perry.
There was a lot to love about the sparkling new NCL Prima, and for the record I selected nine unique features that set the Prima apart from other ships afloat.
Who knows? These facilities and amenities just may inspire you to book an NCL Prima cruise of your own.
Our balcony stateroom was pretty close to perfection in my book. The balcony was roomy with comfortable chairs. Although not a heavenly Princess bed, the pillows, mattress, and linens were soft and luxurious. The TV was installed opposite the bed, as it should be, not tucked up in a corner as on some ships I have sailed.
There was plenty of closet and storage space, and all the standard amenities were present, such as electrical outlets and USB jacks for bedside mobile device charging.
The bathroom featured a large sink and huge glass-enclosed shower with plenty of room to move around, unlike the shower on the Island Princess, where I could barely spin on a dime.
Comfortable Interior Spaces
Exploring the Prima was an adventure, and navigating the ship required frequent use of the elevator, or “lifts,” as the British female digital voice repeated on every ride. We were not the only passengers fascinated with the “to infinity and beyond” light feature on the elevator back wall. It reminded me of the scene in Star Wars where the Millennial Falcon traveled at lightspeed through hyperspace.
We got in our steps walking the non-stateroom decks from stem to stern. On other NCL ships I have cruised, the carpet designs along the stateroom passageways depict schools of fish that swim perpetually toward the bow. Because I frequently get turned around onboard, this is a feature I appreciate. The Prima has departed from the traditional design, replacing the fish with blue and gold triangles that always point toward the fore of the deck.
Gone are the opulent neo-baroque designs of the atria on older ships in the fleet. The Prima’s three-story glass-walled Penrose Atrium is a fine example of contemporary understated elegance. I am no architectural expert, but it actually reminded me of the clean Scandinavian motif of the Viking Octantis atrium.
Although the NCL Prima is a new class of ship, designers retained the concept of my favorite space on the NCL Encore. The U-shaped Observation Lounge on Deck 17 wraps around the bow, nearly enclosing the Galaxy Pavilion.
As the Encore’s Observation Lounge gave stunning views of Alaska’s Glacier Bay from its warm and cozy space, the Prima’s Observation Lounge offered panoramic views of Manhattan prior to departure.
The indoor lounge chairs invited me to kick off my shoes to take it all in, and I accepted the offer.
Whatever the weather, the Observation Lounge is a scenic space, protected from the elements at sea.
The Mandara Spa
I am not much of a thermal spa person, and it’s not because I don’t recognize their value. It’s just that I bore easily. I typically do not report on ship attractions that I do not use, such as casinos, but I know there are readers who love the creature comforts of shipboard spas.
The NCL Prima’s fee-based Mandara Spa is an architectural wonder, unlike anything I have ever seen. It makes a dramatic statement from its point of entry at the top of a sweeping marble staircase. A two-story waterfall extends the full length of the wall along the vitality pool, salt floatation pool, and hot stone loungers.
Dozens of additional loungers and daybeds await around the corner in a relaxation room with bow-facing ceiling to floor windows.
The adjacent thermal suite features six detoxifying zones: the aromatic steam room, charcoal sauna, Finnish sauna, salt room, infrared sauna, and ice room.
In addition to a full menu of spa treatments, the Mandara Spa offers a full-service salon, as well as gender-specific locker rooms.
The front-facing Pulse Fitness Center adjoins the spa and its use is complimentary for all guests.
Frequent readers know and understand my passion for old-school promenades. For me, there is nothing like a broad covered outdoor deck for walking on days at sea or for lounging with a good book or cocktail, or both.
Sadly, new ship designs no longer include classic promenades, which is one reason why I typically gravitate toward older ships.
That said, I was intrigued with the concept of the NCL Prima’s Ocean Boulevard, and I was anxious to explore the outdoor wraparound thoroughfare on Deck 8.
At 44,000 square feet, Ocean Boulevard encompasses twice as much space as The Waterfront on the much larger Breakaway Class ships.
I was immediately impressed with the diverse furnishings around the boulevard, outfitted with a variety of group seating arrangements in shady alcoves and semi-private nooks.
No less than seven bars and restaurants line the boulevard, offering guests the option of al fresco drinks and dinner.
Infinity Beach is a wet area positioned at two locations on opposite sides of the ship. Each “beach” includes an infinity pool and two cooling pools.
For sun worshippers, the open deck is furnished with a fine selection of lounge chairs and daybeds, with plenty of open spots to spare.
The Concourse is a section of the boulevard that features six art installations. Norwegian invested over $6 million on works by more than fifty world-renowned artists.
Observation viewers magnify the ocean and horizon. You never know what you may find. While sailing the waters of the North Atlantic, Jerry and I spotted dolphin pods and countless spouting whales from our stateroom balcony. I also happened to catch a view of the Enchanted Princess, the ship that carried me on a transatlantic voyage to Europe earlier this year.
Also located on both sides of the ship, The Oceanwalk is a glass walkway that extends over open water.
The various segments of Ocean Boulevard flowed seamlessly each into the next around the perimeter of ship, and I was quite taken with the thoroughfare’s function and design.
Although it is possible to circumnavigate the ship by walking Ocean Boulevard as one would a promenade, I don’t recommend it. The multiple attractions and movements of guests along the thoroughfare makes it difficult to maintain an active pace.
Upper Decks Recreation
Decks 17 and 18 are all about recreation, boasting some pretty amazing attractions at that.
The Prima Speedway is the first three-level racetrack at sea, but we did not take one of the fee-based go-karts for a drive. Jerry later had regrets, but I did not. I am not an adrenaline junkie. In fact, I am a great big ole fraidy-cat, and I could envision myself taking a curve, driving right off the track, and into the ocean.
I used my iPhone’s ultra-wide lens to fully capture the above photo of the massive racetrack, and I noticed that it made the main pool area appear much larger than it really is.
A shot of the pool area from a level perspective realistically depicts how the space allocated to the main pool deck is surprisingly small. I do not understand the reasoning behind this design. I travel on lots of ships that have not one, but two large pool areas, and they are typically filled to capacity on good-weather days at sea.
The Drop and The Rush are marketed as “the first freefall dry slide[s] at sea with more g-forces than an accelerating F1 race car.” Jerry went for a ten-story spiraling ride, and I did not.
Guests who want to get wet can head over to the Tidal Wave water slide. And yes, I witnessed guests who were water sliding in spite of the North Atlantic’s frigid air.
The Galaxy Pavilion
Previously introduced on the NCL Joy and NCL Encore, the fee-based Galaxy Pavilion gaming suite brings virtual reality onboard the NCL Prima.
Jerry went for a virtual drive on the 7-D 4X4 pickup. Judging by the way the hydraulics were jerking and slamming, I am pretty sure he crashed.
Guests on the VR Starship ride were screaming, and I noticed at least one passenger had removed his goggles.
My affinity for video game arcades and theme parks faded years ago, but I have to admit I was dazzled by the quality of the NCL Prima’s virtual indoor experiences. So when I spotted the Epcot-style flight simulator ride, I let down my guard and claimed a spot.
Food & Beverage Selections
Dining options and quality have been consistently good and often great on all of my Norwegian cruises, and the NCL Prima was no exception. I would even go out on a limb and say that food service has ramped up ship menus starting with its complimentary dining venues.
Jerry and I both agreed that our best meal of the cruise was at Hudson’s, the complimentary main dining room. Jerry ordered a Beef Wellington, and I designed my own pine nut pesto with angel hair pasta. Both entrees were excellent. But the winning creations of the meal were our appetizers, a California roll and crab cakes. The cheesecake in a jar dessert was ambrosial, and the perfect ending to a fine dinner.
The NCL Prima’s Commodore Room serves the same menu as Hudson’s, although minus the 270° ocean views.
The Surfside Café and Grill—the NCL Prima’s complimentary buffet—offers something for everyone. The most memorable selections for me were the boiled shrimp and rustic pizza. I am a huge fan of Viking’s muesli for breakfast, and I discovered that NCL’s recipe—although different—is equally delicious.
The Indulge Food Hall makes its debut on the NCL Prima as the brand’s first open-air food marketplace. Eight outlets under one roof feature a wide range of international cuisine. Tapas, The Garden, Nudls, The Latin Quarter, Texas Smokehouse, Seaside Rotisserie, and Tamara are all complimentary outlets. The desserts at Coco’s are served up a la carte.
It took us a minute to learn the protocols, but here’s how it works. If you pull up to the bar of any single outlet, you are only able to order from that outlet’s menu.
However, if you sit at an indoor table, you are able to order from any of the outlets by touchscreen, and a waiter will deliver your selections to your table.
If you choose outdoor seating, a waiter will take your order from a curated paper menu.
Our media booking included a premium beverage package, so we enjoyed sampling a variety of spirits from the NCL Prima’s bars and lounges, nearly twenty in all.
The most innovative beverage feature on the NCL Prima are the sustainable craft cocktails, part of NCL’s company-wide Sail and Sustain ESG strategy to reduce the line’s environmental impact.
Cocktail ingredients include syrups and liqueurs made on ship from food waste such as banana peels, watermelon rind, and even croissants. The sustainable cocktails are served up primarily in the Metropolitan Bar, touted as the first sustainable cocktail bar at sea.
I would love to have sampled several of the sustainable cocktails, but unfortunately the Metropolitan Bar is immediately adjacent to the Humidor cigar lounge. Although the smokers’ area is behind a closed door, the acrid stench of cigar smoke permeates the Metropolitan Bar and central walkway through Deck 7.
I found this strange, especially since I never smelled smoke when walking through the casino and the ship’s designated smokers’ area is at a remote location on an upper deck. In my opinion, cigar smoke in the Metropolitan Bar is the result of a design issue that should be addressed and corrected.
Fortunately, I was able to try a Bananarum-ble sustainable cocktail served with a biodegradable straw while waiting to dine at Palomar, Norwegian’s first-ever Mediterranean specialty restaurant.
Starbucks fans will be happy to learn the popular franchise has an outlet that fronts the atrium on Deck 7.
The three-story Prima theater is the first cruise ship venue in the world that converts to a Vegas-style nightclub.
One of the things I love most about Norwegian Cruise Line is their commitment to investing in Broadway and West End-caliber entertainment. In line with previous NCL onboard shows such as Jersey Boys and Kinky Boots, the NCL Prima is taking the Tony Award-nominated Summer: The Donna Summer Musical to sea.
To avoid having an intermission, the production has been edited to a 90-minute show, but without any reduction in quality. As a biased Broadway and Donna Summer fan, I have to say the production was the best I have ever enjoyed at sea.
The musical features three “Donnas” from diverse periods of her life. The role of Diva Donna is played by American Idol alum Kimberley Locke. Dutch singer and dancer Valerie Curlingford plays the role of Disco Donna, and veteran performer D’Nasya Jordan fills the role of Duckling Donna.
Jerry and I attended a Q&A panel discussion with the featured artists along with cast members of the Noise Boys production. It was fascinating to travel behind-the-scenes and learn how these shows are brought to the stage of the Prima Theater.
Noise Boys is a tap dancing, beat-boxing spectacular from the producers of The Choir of Man, an unforgettable show I attended on my NCL Encore Alaska cruise.
All in all, I must say that the singing and dancing productions of both shows have wide appeal for cruisers of all ages.
Our itinerary on the NCL Prima was a 4-night cruise from New York City to Halifax, with two days at sea.
Upon completion of its inaugural season, however, the Prima is set to sail Caribbean, Mediterranean, Transatlantic, and Northern Europe itineraries, as well as immersive Extraordinary Journeys.
I leave you with a moonrise over the North Atlantic, my favorite photo from our NCL Prima cruise captured from our stateroom balcony.
Our brief sailing was fun and fulfilling, and I welcome the opportunity to sail on the beautiful NCL Prima once again in the months and years to come. Perhaps you, too, have discovered one or more reasons to consider the NCL Prima for your next cruise.
Be sure to check out the following NCL reviews and travelogues on Backroad Planet. Or click here to access all of our ocean cruise content.
- Cruising with NCL: An Insider Guide
- 15 Things to Know About the NCL Bliss Cruise Experience
- 15 Things to Know About the NCL Dawn Cruise Experience
- My NCL Alaska Cruise: A Norwegian Encore Travelogue
- My NCL Middle East Cruise: A Norwegian Jade Travelogue
- My Eastern Caribbean Cruise: An NCL Escape Travelogue
Click here for hotel booking options on TripAdvisor!
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with Backroad Planet readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Do you have plans to sail the NCL Prima? If so, I would love to hear about your plans. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!
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I didn’t like this cruise ship. The layout seems to lead to countless dead ends, venues too small to accommodate 3,000 cruise passengers ( you’ll end up waiting in lines for everything.) They nickel and dime you to death, even the upgrades have upgrades, like the drink package and the sucky internet. Not going back on this ship again.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Jenny!
I agree with you, Jenny. I, too, did not like the Prima. I’ve been on several other NCL ships and this one does not compare even though it is the newest of the fleet as of this writing. We cruised to Bermuda on 4/16/23. While we found the food to be very good, especially in the specialty dining rooms, most other things were not to our liking. Exceptions were the staff, who were very pleasant and accommodating, and our balcony stateroom. The Prima’s gathering rooms were too small for the size of the ship e.g. the Penrose Atrium and many of the complimentary dining venues, e.g. The Local and Indulge. Indulge felt nearly claustrophobic as it is so packed with seating of varying kinds and the ceiling is so low. The buffet dining option was ridiculously small. It appeared to be about a third of the size of other NCL ships. While we sailed in April and had no interest in the main pool, it too is incredibly small. Lastly, the internet was positively awful. Texts were delivered late, and at no time was I able to directly call our traveling companions. The only option was to leave a message and hope they’d get it. We love NCL, but will not return to this ship. Unfortunately, this is the new class of ship NCL is building. The second in this class is due to sail this summer, the Viva.
SO nice to find your latest adventure in my mailbox this morning. I love the way you write, Howard. And, hot damn, this ship looks like somethin’ else! 🛳
A Fellow Central Floridian
Hi MRD, and thanks so much for your kind words!
Thank you for the review! I booked the Prima for a January 15, 2023 sail over two years ago. I can’t wait for this ship. She seems elegant and more upscale than the Breakaway Class that I love. We have a Spa Balcony, The Vibe. and 7 nights of specialty meals. Can’t wait!
Hi Victoria! Glad to hear you enjoyed our report on the NCL Prima. It sounds like you have your ducks in a row, and I have no doubt that you will have a wonderful cruise. Bon voyage!
Once again, a wonderful and helpful review! We will be cruising on NCL’s Prima in January 2023! I was delighted to read that the Prima has an Observation Lounge like the one on the Encore. When we cruised to Alaska a few weeks ago, it quickly became one of my favorite spaces to relax and watch the world go by! Looking forward to seeing her in person in January!
Thanks for your kind words, Pam! It means so much when readers find our content helpful. Have the best time cruising the Prima!
Very helpful and encouraging post! We are grateful for the opportunity to see the Prima through your eyes. We have learned to trust your insight and trust your observations. Backroad Planet is our favorite travel blog, written by our favorite travel blogger. Thank you Howard!
Thank you, Peg! You are so sweet, but I think you might be the tiniest bit biased. Love you guys!
Thank you for this wonderful review. We are sailing on the Prima in less than 2 weeks, and your review was just what we needed to hear about the new ship. Can’t wait to board her! Happy travels! 😊
Hi Sarah! Glad to hear you found our report helpful. Have a blast on your NCL Prima cruise, and bon voyage!
Does this cruise line require vaccinations for sailing? Also do they require the wearing of masks? I love to cruise, but haven’t done so since 2018 because of this, and I fear my cruising days may be over indefinitely. ☹️
Hi Beverly! Covid protocols are constantly changing, so the best way to find out current requirements is check Norwegian’s website.