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Norwegian Cruise Line Overview

Norwegian Cruise Line (often referred to as Norwegian or NCL) has become famous for the color livery on their ships and the flexibility they offer guests.  Founded in Miami in 1966 by Knut Kloster and Ted Arison, they carried roughly 2.3 million guests in 2018 - the third highest number of any cruise line. They were also one of the first lines dedicated to cruising, and started with a cruise-ferry that carried passengers as well as cars.

Norwegian Cruise Line (the line with wavy blue logo) is one of three cruise lines owned by parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Norwegian Cruise Lines - The Basics

What NCL Says They Do Well - In Their Words

  • No schedules. No stipulations. Just award-winning entertainment and diverse dining options from the only cruise line built for versatile vacationing.
  • Enrich your cruise vacation with up to 5 Free Offers with Norwegian's Free At Sea promotion. Choose from Free Open Bar, Free Specialty Dining, Free Shore Excursions, Free WiFi and Free Kids.
  • Our award-winning ships are designed for you to enjoy as you choose while cruising to beautiful destinations around the world. Add a wide range of superb dining options and spectacular entertainment and you’ll experience your best vacation ever.

What We Think NCL Does Well

They allow guests unparalleled flexibility.  While most lines now offer options for flexible dining times and arrangements, for years now, NCL has focused on what they call, ‘Freestyle Cruising’.  This means no rigid schedules for dining and no strict dress codes.  Even the daily schedules are called, ‘Freestyle Daily’ and emphasize the idea that guests are there to vacation how they want.

Some ships include The Waterfront, a wide oceanfront promenade with access to many of drinking and dining options - a great use of space.  Some of their classic ships maintain a more traditional layout which is great at giving guests a view of the water from most venues.  Another feature the line has become known for are Haven accommodations - which are high-end suites that, while coming at a premium price, offer their own upscale dining areas, pools, sun decks, and butlers.  

In addition to having more years of experience than most other lines (and to us, it shows), their newer ships have some unique features, such as go-kart tracks and ropes courses.  Some ships and sailings also feature dinner-theater concepts in addition to other entertainment options.  NCL was also the first line to have their own private island, Great Stirrup Cay, and while most large lines have these now, we find theirs to feel the most like a tropical oasis.  Read more about Great Stirrup Cay in this live blog post.

NCL's Great Stirrup Cay
NCL's Great Stirrup Cay

While there is a big focus on the Caribbean, NCL does sail to Alaska and Europe.  With European cruises often being packed tight with sightseeing every day, their ‘Freestyle Cruising’ concept shines where other lines may not make it quite as easy to enjoy each port at your own pace without compromising on dinner and entertainment options.

Go-Kart on Norwegian Bliss
Go-Kart on Norwegian Bliss

Things to Keep in Mind about NCL

Ships in the fleet introduced since 2010 have some of the widest varieties of dining and entertainment options at sea, but to build out these options these ships don’t have nearly the public pool space that their more classically designed ships do. Balance the bells and whistles with your desire for pool space.

While your cruise fare includes food, entertainment, accommodations, and more cruise lines offer alcoholic drinks, specialty dining, internet, and other amenities at additional costs.  NCL often offers guests the ability to bundle some of these things into cruise fares which can represent big savings if you plan accordingly.

Lines Similar to NCL

The lines most likely to compete for guests with NCL are Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and perhaps MSC.  These lines generally make up what is known as the contemporary cruise lines.

Guests looking for a family vacation may also consider Disney Cruise Line (DCL), though there is a significant difference in price (and other elements) between DCL and other contemporary lines.

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