I’m an enthusiastic cruiser who’s taken about 20 cruises on four major cruise lines (Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival) in my lifetime. A friend and I recently completed my first Norwegian cruise on the Norwegian Spirit and compiled a list of Norwegian Cruise Line pros and cons (good and bad features).
Good things about Norwegian cruise line:
- The decor and color scheme throughout the ship, in the lobbies and in the rooms, was elegant and beautiful.
- You can buy bottles of water in quantity at a discount and have them delivered to the room, then store them in the mini-frig (we saved about $2 a bottle doing that because we always buy a water bottle when we go on shore excursions).
- They had fountain sodas (not soda in cans) — yay!
- The Spirit is a small ship, which had some advantages, including making it easier to find your way around.
- The layout of the informal dining area was good.
- There was no waiting in lines for anything.
- The room stewards created some unique towel animals we hadn’t seen on previous cruises — is this a rat?
- Self serve ice cream machines had pointy sugar cones (not in this photo, though — sometimes they switched out with flat-bottomed cones).
- The informal dining area had lots of cool carved veggies – flowers, etc., on display in the food counters.
- The free ship tour early in the cruise provided excellent tips! (for example, that carpet colors denote what part of the ship you’re in — fore, aft, or midship — which was extremely useful!)
- Deck 7 had a very nice enclosed walking path on both ends of the ship so there was no “walking-into-the-wind” problem that you find on other ships.
- They had true freestyle dining. We went to dinner fairly early but never encountered a long line.
- We were invited to bid for a room upgrade and got a balcony cabin for an incredibly low price!
- Warm towels were provided when we came back onboard after shore excursions in cool weather — and they felt great.
Bad things about Norwegian cruise line:
- The reservation process was horrible; you’re assigned a certain reservation clerk and can’t deal with any others. Ours was incompetent and made a bunch of mistakes. He moved the cabin we carefully selected without our permission to a different floor, moved someone who was going to travel with us and wanted a room next to us to a different area without permission, didn’t return our calls, etc. Ultimately we found he was “no longer with Norwegian” and we were left on our own.
- The cruise line’s airfare process was also bad. They wouldn’t let us provide any input into the times, layovers, etc., we wanted. And if we didn’t like what they picked – which we could only see a short time before departure – we had to pay $50 to change anything. We also discovered that Norwegian is the only cruise line among those I’ve used before that doesn’t pay to get you to the ship if you book airfare with them and miss the ship — and that’s the primary reason we always have booked transportation with the cruise line in the past. We ultimately chose to book transportation and hotel arrangements for a one-night stay after the cruise with AAA and, although that was somewhat painful too, the outcome was great.
- The phone system was antiquated and worked poorly. Many times we couldn’t place wake up calls, and with the many time changes while traveling around Europe and Africa, our Fitbit watches and smart phones didn’t update time automatically while at sea. As a result, we never knew exactly what time it was when planning for the next morning’s shore excursion. It was heartbreaking, frustrating (and embarrassing!) to wake up two days at what was actually 4:45 a.m. to be told we were an hour too early when we arrived at the excursion departure area!
- The Norwegian cabin was the smallest cruise cabin we’d ever seen! We had to walk sideways to pass each other and there were very few clothes/toiletries storage areas (we are not light packers, either!) — just the closet, these cubbies and three tiny drawers under the frig.
- The single beds we requested were within an inch of each other, separated only by a ridiculous pole lamp that didn’t work! We’re good friends, but we didn’t want to sleep this close!
- We got no advance notice about a number of cancelled shore excursions; they cancelled four shore excursions and only told us about one.
- The shore excursion office reprinted tickets after an itinerary change forced us to change shore excursions, and didn’t deliver them; we finally came down to the desk and asked for them. There was lots of confusion in the shore excursion area…
- The cabin contained only a single (one) electrical outlet in the cabin — for two people with Fitbits, smartphones, curling irons, cameras, etc. Luckily, my friend thought to bring an outlet adapter, but we could only fit two items at once and were afraid to use it while we weren’t in the room for fear of starting a fire.
- The room steward didn’t introduce himself until the second day.
- The dining room had few large tables (which we asked for and never got seated at), where we like to sit to meet and talk to lots of other cruisers; most were four-person tables and we were usually seated with a couple.
- On one occasion, a customer service rep had an attitude that she wanted to prove she was right more than she tried to solve our problems.
- The glass elevators were beautiful but they all had missing floor number buttons, which ruined the elegant look and made it look like we were in a run-down hotel.
- The toilet flushing was often “delayed,” we were told when we called about it.
- Norwegian does not sell Diet Cokes (only Diet Pepsi), which was a major disappointment!
- We ate in the formal dining room nearly every night and no photographer ever took our photos.
- In the first two days, we only had an embarkation photo taken on arrival.
- The customer service reps gave us a lot of incorrect and/or inconsistent info at both the shore excursion and customer service desks.
- One of the expensive African shore excursions had two really bad stops — an argonne oil shop with a very heavy-handed sales pitch, and an ancient, dusty gift shop with horrible merchandise and no prices marked on anything (nobody bought anything there).
- There weren’t very many activities offered, compared with other cruise lines. While cruising on a small ship had some advantages, the disadvantages were fewer photos, WAY less activities, MUCH smaller cabins, smaller balconies and fewer large tables in the formal dining room.
- There was no lobster night in the formal dining room. 🙁
Would I take another Norwegian cruise? Probably not, unless they had a fabulous itinerary that no other cruise line offered (which was why we took this cruise). The cons outweighed the pros…
Related blog posts:
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- Riding Camels in Tangier, Africa on a Norwegian Mediterranean Cruise
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- Norwegian Cruise to Spain and Africa: Day One
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I’ve never been on a cruise so I’ve never considered a lot of your points. It seems that a cruise tries to make the experience seamless. Your list of cons doesn’t fit with that, though. That time thing would drive me crazy.
The time thing made us feel really dumb!
Of all the cruise ships you’ve been on, which would you recommend? Trying to go to the Mediterranean but flustered with the process of choosing a cruiseline!
I’ve had good luck with Princess (my favorite), Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian (my least favorite, but they have better prices sometime). I just wouldn’t go on Carnival, unless you like a party ship.
Not sure when you were on this ship but I could not disagree more. 8 of us went on the 12 day Europe cruise and loved every minute of it. I have been on many cruise lines and NCL is my favorite mostly because of the dining freedom. But I have been on 4 different NCL ships and all of us this was a favorite. I will give you that the cabins are slightly smaller here and I could see where when traveling with a friend may have been different as we were all couples but I would never hesitate to highly recommend this shop.
I travelled with Norwegian (Getaway) in May this year around the popular Baltic circuit and the only con that matched was the Fitbit thing – had to really keep track of time. I stayed in one of the solo cabins – surprisingly roomy with lots of storage. No cancellations, great staff, great food. With NCL it may just be the ship you are on. The Getaway was large and lots of people (but never felt overcrowded), and in great shape. Only other thing was there was a bit of a hard sell on things – photos, up sell in the spa etc. but I just ignore those.
I’m with them again next year around the Med.
We have sailed with Norwegian 6 times now. I understand your frustration, but never have experienced any of those things. Last cruise we had a balcony ( never had a inside or porthole) and got a haven suite for a fraction of the cost. The private breakfast and butler service was top notch. We bought a cruise next and decided on Iceland in May. My all time favorite ship is Pride of America. It sales around Hawaii and we are going back in November.
Thanks for writing. I have a few friends who also like Norwegian, as did another woman who wrote a blog comment. If they have the right price (which they did on the cruise I took before) we’ll have to try them again! The haven suite sounds fabulous!
I have traveled with Norwegian 4 times in the past two years. Alaska, Hawaii, Mediterranean, and Southern Caribbean with little complaints. I have a great rep who calls me back on weekends and evenings. I definitely encourage reviewing Pinterest lists of what to pack. Do as much preplanning online before you go. Bring a power strip (not surge protector) with both usb and regular plug outlets. They are limited on most ships. You can ask to have your room rearranged if the configuration doesn’t suit (obviously smaller cabins have less options) Tell your server in the dining room you want pictures-they will send a photographer over. They have more of these in specialty dining. I just came back from the Caribbean 2weeks ago on the Breakaway. 5 show options. Games. Dance lessons. Teen club (didn’t see our three teens while on ship-they found friends). Rope course. Mini golf. Rock climbing. Zip lining. Water slides. Arcade. Library with games. If you are bored on this it is a choice. We booked another cabin last minute so 2 people in our group could join our excursions as they were sold out. Our problem, not their fault. We love Norwegian.