Norwegian Cruise Line: The Complete Guide

With destinations all over the globe and a new fleet of ships, Norwegian Cruise Line remains among the best.
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein 
Published
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is one of the top players in large-ship cruising, and its fleet is seeing one of its biggest refits in decades with its new Prima fleet of ships. Norwegian Cruise Line ships are also known for their colorful hull art that makes them stand out in ports around the world.

The company dates back to 1966 when it got its start as a Norwegian shipping company. Today, it has become one of the more popular mainstream cruise brands and is part of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which also includes the Regent Seven Seas and Oceania brands.

If you’re scrolling through endless Norwegian Cruise Line reviews, let this complete guide to the cruise company give you the larger overview of what sets this brand apart from the rest. There are some interesting innovations from Norwegian that other cruise lines have since adopted, but they started here.

About Norwegian Cruise Line sailings

NCL sails around the world with numerous routes from the U.S. to Caribbean destinations as well as around the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.

Its loyalty program, onboard amenities and variety of cabin types offer something for every type of traveler.

  • Cabin types: You can expect a range of different cabin sizes and layouts ranging from solo-traveler interior studios and inside cabins for as many as four people to ocean view and balcony cabins. A wide range of suites are also available. The Prima class of ships feature the largest suites, some of which have private whirlpools on the balcony and as many as three bedrooms. 

  • Main U.S. routes: NCL has plenty of North America sailings from U.S. ports to Alaska, Bermuda, Canada and New England. There are also sailings to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico and the Panama Canal, among others. 

  • Loyalty program: NCL's Latitudes Rewards loyalty program, which issues one point for every night sailed as well as bonus points for booking suites or participating in certain promotions. At each elite tier, members earn onboard benefits like discounts, laundry service and special event access. The more you travel with NCL, the more benefits you can earn. 

Norwegian Cruise Line destinations

NCL spans the globe with sailings to every continent (even Antarctica) on a wide range of ships. They leave from both U.S. coasts as well as from Hawaii — where NCL has operated inter-island Hawaiian sailing for almost two decades.

  • Africa.

  • Alaska.

  • Antarctica.

  • Asia.

  • Australia.

  • Bahamas.

  • Bermuda.

  • Canada.

  • Caribbean.

  • Europe.

  • Hawaii.

  • Mexico.

  • New Zealand.

  • Pacific Islands.

  • Panama Canal.

  • South America.

Depending on how long you want to sail and where you're going, you can find cruises as brief as two nights and as long as 21 days or more.

Norwegian Cruise Line cruise prices

You'll find lots of good deals on Norwegian, but cruise fares will fluctuate based on the destination, time of year and other variables. You’ll want to keep these factors in mind when booking a cruise, as they'll affect the price of the trip:

  • Time of year.

  • Trip duration.

  • Destination.

  • Ship class.

  • Cabin type.

You can find cruise bargains for as low as $350 on four-night cruises, but if you want to splurge and do a longer cruise, expect to pay as much as $4,600 or more (especially if you book a suite or a Haven category room).

Of course, the fare will always vary depending on which cabin type you book.

What is the best Norwegian Cruise Line ship?

(Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

When it comes to which NCL ship is best, that depends on what you're looking for in a cruise. If you're traveling with a family, for example, water slides, amusement park-style games and multi-bedroom suites may be important. This means you may prefer one of the line’s newest Prima Class ships: Norwegian Prima or Norwegian Viva.

If you're looking for a romantic vacation, perhaps you'll want a smaller ship or a cabin in The Haven, which is a hotel-within-a-hotel concept with more personalized service. The Haven is only available on select Norwegian ships, including Encore, Viva and Prima.

What is the newest NCL ship?

Norwegian Viva launched in the summer of 2023, making it the newest ship for NCL. It has special features like a three-tier race track, the fastest slides at sea, a food hall with 11 complimentary eateries and a sustainable cocktail bar.

What’s included on NCL cruises?

On any NCL cruise, these benefits are always included:

  • Accommodations in the category you select at booking.

  • All meals in snack and buffet restaurants, main dining rooms and, when available, the food hall. 

  • Free non-bottled water, juice, hot chocolate, and some coffees and teas.

  • Fitness center access.

  • Shows and entertainment.

  • Pools and kids pool play area.

  • Onboard activities.

  • Government fees and port taxes.

If you want to partake in specialty dining reservations, Wi-Fi, Norwegian cruise excursions or upgraded beverage packages, you'll have to pay fees (sometimes bundled for greater savings).

NCL firsts in the industry: What is Norwegian known for?

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered many features aboard its ships, some of which other cruise lines have imitated. These are some of the special features you'll find aboard some or all of the ships in NCL’s fleet.

  • Freestyle dining: open-seating in restaurants with extended hours and no reservations. 

  • Private island: Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas is a private island for cruise passengers. NCL was the first cruise company to offer access to a private island, and it spurred a growing trend in the industry.

  • Full Broadway theater productions.

  • Onboard internet cafe.

  • Bowling alley at sea.

  • Ice bar at sea.

  • Studio accommodations for solo travelers, with a private lounge.

  • Sustainability-focused onboard bar with zero waste.

  • Collection of NFTs from a cruise company, available for sale.

  • Race track at sea.

NCL loyalty program: Latitude Rewards

Latitude Rewards awards members with points based on each night they sail, and they can earn bonus nights when booking certain categories of suites.

Occasional promotions also offer double-night credit. You will only earn cruise points on eligible sailings where you are paying a traditional fare; promotional sailings with a heavy discount might not be eligible, although you would still receive the benefits at your tier. Also, sailings on sister lines do not qualify for Latitude Rewards cruise points.

As you accrue nights, you earn elite status that delivers onboard benefits that grow with each status tier.

Latitude Rewards levels

The loyalty program has seven levels, from Bronze to Ambassador. The full roster of onboard amenities can be found on the Norwegian Cruise Line website. There are some extra perks that come with certain tiers.

Tier

Cruise points

Notable benefits

Bronze

1 - 19.

  • 30% discount on open bar packages.

Silver

20 - 44.

  • Discounts on open bar packages, photos, shore excursions, spa treatments.

Gold

45 - 74.

  • Discounts on open bar packages, photos, shore excursions, spa treatments.

  • Dinner for two with a bottle of wine (per stateroom).

  • Priority check-in and disembarkation.

  • Concierge service.

  • Behind-the-scenes ship tour.

Platinum

75 - 149.

  • Discounts on open bar packages, photos, shore excursions, spa treatments.

  • Dinner for two with a bottle of wine (per stateroom).

  • Priority check-in and disembarkation.

  • Concierge service.

  • Behind-the-scenes ship tour.

  • One free bag of laundry.

Sapphire

150 - 349.

  • Early booking for onboard entertainment, activities and dining (125 days before departure).

  • One-time free cabin upgrade.

  • Discounts on open bar packages, photos, shore excursions, spa treatments.

  • Dinner for two with a bottle of wine (per stateroom).

  • Priority check-in and disembarkation.

  • Concierge service.

  • Behind-the-scenes ship tour.

  • Dinner with officers.

  • Priority seating at restaurants and entertainment.

Diamond

350 - 699.

  • Early booking for onboard entertainment, activities and dining (125 days before departure).

  • One-time free cabin upgrade.

  • Discounts on open bar packages, photos, shore excursions, spa treatments.

  • Dinner for two with a bottle of wine (per stateroom).

  • Priority check-in and disembarkation.

  • Concierge service.

  • Behind-the-scenes ship tour.

  • Dinner with officers.

  • Priority seating at restaurants and entertainment.

Ambassador

700+.

  • Early booking for onboard entertainment, activities and dining (130 days before departure).

  • Complimentary 7-day cruise.

  • Special Ambassador gift.

  • Discounts on open bar packages, photos, shore excursions, spa treatments.

  • Dinner for two with a bottle of wine (per stateroom).

  • Priority check-in and disembarkation.

  • Concierge service.

  • Behind-the-scenes ship tour.

  • Dinner with officers.

  • Priority seating at restaurants and entertainment.

How to earn Latitudes Rewards points

Earn one point for every night you spend on a sailing and double points in suites or The Haven category accommodations.

How to redeem points

This program does not offer any points to redeem. Instead, you would earn benefits on future cruises related to your particular elite tier. Ambassador members (700+ points) earn a free 7-night cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line credit card

Spending on the Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard® won’t earn you Latitude Rewards points (the only way to do that is by sailing with NCL), but it will earn you WorldPoints. This currency can be redeemed for onboard credits on future sailings, Norwegian Cruise Line shore excursions and other travel experiences. The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, making it ideal for world travelers.

With the Norwegian Cruise Line® World Mastercard, you earn WorldPoints as follows:

  • 3x points on NCL sailings.

  • 2x points on eligible airfare and hotel purchases.

  • 1x point on everything else.

Earn 20,000 WorldPoints, which is good for a $200 onboard credit or discount toward a future cruise, if you spend $1,000 or more in the first 90 days the account is open.

How to redeem WorldPoints

Each WorldPoints point is equivalent to one cent, which you can then redeem for things such as:

  • Stateroom upgrades.

  • Travel discounts.

  • Last-minute cruises.

  • Onboard credits.

  • Car rentals.

  • Hotel stays.

  • Gift cards.

  • Cash.

» Learn more: The best cruise lines

Frequently asked questions

No, but you can pay for a Wi-Fi package, which starts at $29.99 per day per device.

No, but all sailings do include accommodations, activities, food and beverages, and entertainment. There is the ability to purchase extra benefits on each ship.

There are several drink package options on NCL sailings:

Non-alcoholic

  • The Unlimited Soda package includes all fountain soda drinks for $9.95 per person per day.

  • The Unlimited Starbucks package includes all Starbucks drinks for $12.95 per person per day.

  • An adult over the age of 21 could opt for a non-alcoholic drink package, but that means everyone else on their reservation must also get non-alcoholic drink packages.

Alcoholic

  • Premium offers most drinks that cost $15 and under. You can pay the difference if you choose a more expensive drink. This unlimited package costs $109 per person per day.

  • Premium Plus offers even more drink options, mostly premium and top-shelf category labels, bottled water, Starbucks drinks and energy drinks for a flat price of $138 per person per day.

  • Keep in mind that alcoholic drink packages must be purchased for all people above the age of 21 in the same reservation, and those under 21 must pay for the soda package. The policy is intended to prevent people over the age of 21 from getting alcoholic drinks for other members of their party that did not pay for the alcoholic drink package.

What is NCL known for?

Norwegian Cruise Line offers sailings at different price points to a global range of destinations. It is also known for its beautiful hull art, pioneering Freestyle Dining and adding buzzworthy amenities like ice bars and race tracks to its ships. NCL cruises are fun for all types of travelers, and its loyalty program can provide added perks along the way.

(Top photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)


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