Norwegian Cruise (NCL)

Posted on August 10, 2022 by Julie Crews

A complete guide to cruising on Norwegian Cruise Line including food, entertainment, activities, kids programming, cabins and destinations. Also, I break down what you get for free with the cruise fare and what experiences cost extra.

Jersey Boys on Norwegian Cruise
Jersey Boys is available on the Norwegian Bliss ship. Picture by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian ships are floating mega resorts packed with amazing features like go-karts, waterslides, Broadway shows, and 20+ dining options. The cruises appeal to all types of travelers, from couples to families with kids, seniors, and everyone in between. Newer ships are especially large (over 4,000 passengers and 1,700 crew members).

Norwegian is one of the cruise industry’s big three brands (Carnival and Royal Caribbean are the others) so it's an established brand with loyal customers.

What makes Norwegian cruises different

Entertainment is a notch above other lines. Guests can catch popular Broadway shows like Footloose, Kinky Boots, Choir of Man, Rock of Ages, and Jersey Boys. Best part is there is no extra charge to see these shows

Freestyle cruising’ means do as you please. There was a time when all cruises had rigid mealtimes and formal dress codes. While many lines have done away with those rules, Norwegian was the first and focuses on vacations with less formality. Travelers can eat when they want (although reservation is required), and dress how they want (no formal nights).

With 20+ restaurants per ship, it’s impossible to dine at every restaurant on a typical 7 night cruise. There is a lot of variety! Guests can choose from casual (buffet, 24 hour diner) to elegant fine dining across lots of cuisines (seafood, steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, among others). Note, some restaurants are included in the cruise fare, while others are extra (more on that below).

Teppanyaki on Norwegian Cruise
Teppanyaki is both entertainment and dinner. Picture by Norwegian Cruise Line.

What is included in the cruise fare?

  • Dining at Main dining rooms (no reservation needed), Buffet, and O’Sheehans (open 24 hours) is complimentary. Pro tip: don’t miss the seafood buffet typically served once during a voyage.
  • Main dining room on Norwegian Cruise
    Surf & Turf in the Main Dining Room.
  • Entertainment options include live music, dueling pianos (Howl at the Moon), and the excellent Broadway shows.
  • Daily activities for kids and teens (more below).
  • Activities on board including waterslides, pools and hot tubs, rock climbing wall, gym, sports courts (basketball) and a ropes course.
Rock climing wall on Epic
Rock climing wall on Norwegian Epic.

What costs extra $

  • Specialty dining options include a Brazilian steakhouse, upscale French eatery, Japanese Teppanyaki, and upscale seafood with raw bar among other options.
  • Alcoholic drinks, soda and espresso coffees (most ships have a Starbucks).
  • Room service.
  • Casino has slot machines and all of the popular table games including blackjack, poker, and craps.
  • Spa and treatments such as massage. Pro tip: Get a discounted day pass to the spa when the ship is in port and the spa is relatively empty.
  • Wi-Fi (yes it’s fast enough to stream your favorite shows).
  • Go-karts, laser tag and virtual reality gaming.
  • Go Karts on Bliss
    Go-karts on Norwegian Bliss.
  • Shore excursions.
  • Gratuities for the very attentive crew are $15.50 per day per person.
  • Adults only areas for sunning and hot tubs.
  • Vibe Beach Club
    Adults only area - Vibe Beach Club.
  • Babysitting services.

Activities for younger kids (ages 3-12)

  • Daily free supervised activities at Splash Academy
  • Kids club Splash Academy
    Splash Academy on Norwegian Epic.
  • Late night (after 10:30pm) activities (extra charge)

Activities for older kids (ages 13-17)

  • Teens-only club to hang out with other teens and play video games. Also has daily free supervised activities.

What are the cabins like?

  • Inside cabins are the cheapest (no window) and are about 135 square feet. Oceanviews include a picture window and are about 160 square feet.
  • Balcony cabins include a balcony / verandah and are about 175 square feet. Family specific balcony cabins can fit up to 4 guests. The balcony itself is big enough to hold 2 chairs and a small table. Pro tip: order room service breakfast and eat on the Balcony.
  • Balcony Cabin
    Balcony cabin.
  • Suites typically include a living area and start at about 500 square feet and go all the way up to 3 bedroom villas that are over 6,000 square feet (fits up to 8 people). Learn more on NCL’s site.
  • If you want to really live it up (YOLO), newer ships offer The Haven which has a private pool and restaurant, and upgraded cabins.

Tell me about the destinations

  • Norwegian sails to popular ports in the Caribbean and Bahamas, Europe, Alaska, and Bermuda from major North American ports such as Miami, Orlando, Tampa, New York City, Boston, San Juan.
  • Pro tip: For a relaxing beach day, look for cruises to Norwegian’s private island in the Caribbean, Great Stirrup Cay.
  • The only line that cruises in Hawaii.

Note on cruise prices

Cruise pricing can get a bit confusing so let’s break it down. The prices you see online are per person assuming 2 people in a cabin. Also, the price does not include taxes, port charges and other fees (like gratuities).

For example, if you see a 7 night Caribbean cruise for $499 (yes, you can find these on the app), the actual fare will be $499 x 2 people = $999. Next, add on port charges and taxes (assume $250 per person) for a total of $1,500. Adding in gratuities and you’ll get a total of about $1800.

When you consider you are getting a floating hotel with meals and entertainment, it’s a pretty good value!

Cruise prices, like airfares, are continuously changing. To get notified of the latest deals, set up a price alert on the app and let us do the hard work.


Overall, Norwegian is a great choice for families with kids, couples and seniors who don’t want too much structure in their vacation, enjoy Broadway shows and want a large amount of dining options. Also, for those high rollers who want an upscale experience, they can do that by upgrading to the Haven.

What is the Haven? It's an exclusive area hidden on the ship. These are the Norwegian ships that have the Haven.