Is the new Norwegian Prima cruise ship worth it? Here’s what to know

The highs and lows of the first Prima-class ship.

Photo of Megan duBois

Editor’s note: Megan duBois was a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line which paid for the trip. All opinions expressed below are entirely hers and were not subject to review by Norwegian Cruise Line. 

I love cruise vacations. Not only do they allow me time to disconnect from social media, work and everything else that compels me to stare at my phone, but they also allow me to see parts of the world I may have never gone to through independent travel.

My most recent cruise was on Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Norwegian Prima, and it was my first time sailing with the company. Like many cruisers, I have some brand loyalty to certain cruise lines, so I was excited to try Norwegian to see what it was like.

I sailed on the Prima for three nights, with one stop at Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, as our only port day. It may not be the biggest cruise ship you ever step onto but the Prima is beautiful, with a three-floor atrium where lively bars invite guests to sit down and relax, stunning staterooms that have some of the biggest at-sea bathrooms I’ve ever seen, and unique "attractions" that will draw in families cruising with teens. But there were also a few drawbacks that may hinder the trip for some travelers.

Keep reading for the highs and lows of Norwegian Cruise Line's new Prima ship. 

A view of a two-bed stateroom on the Norwegian Prima. The beds in this image can either be pushed together or spread apart.

A view of a two-bed stateroom on the Norwegian Prima. The beds in this image can either be pushed together or spread apart.

Megan duBois

Norwegian Prima's staterooms are small but exude class

After I was given my room assignment, I discovered I was staying in a family balcony—which is meant to sleep four people—but I found that hard to imagine. The room was 231 square feet, with a balcony that measured 45 square feet. The sleeping configuration of the room included two lower beds that could be converted into one queen-size bed and a sofa that could be converted into a double sofa bed.

A view of a two-bed stateroom configuration onboard the Norwegian Prima. The beds being so close to the outdoor patio area made getting out there a bit of a chore.

A view of a two-bed stateroom configuration onboard the Norwegian Prima. The beds being so close to the outdoor patio area made getting out there a bit of a chore.

Megan duBois

The bed configuration was awkward

The beds on the Prima were comfortable and I appreciated that the lower beds were raised off the ground, allowing me to roll empty suitcases underneath them while sailing. Since I brought a guest with me on the trip, the main beds were divided into two lower beds with a bedside table between them.

While I would normally appreciate this, the bed closest to the balcony door blocked most of the walkway to the balcony and made it difficult to actually get out the door. If you’re traveling with people you don’t mind sharing a bed with, I would suggest asking for the queen bed configuration to avoid this.

The bathroom onboard the Norwegian Prima offered more space and amenities than most cruise ship bathrooms.

The bathroom onboard the Norwegian Prima offered more space and amenities than most cruise ship bathrooms.

Megan duBois

The bathroom was my favorite part of the room

Bathrooms on cruise ships are notoriously small, but I found the one in my stateroom to be the best part of my lodging. It was spacious, with a single sink and ample counter space. Above the counter was a set of small shelves where I placed things like medicine and headbands. Underneath the sink was a large cubby for storage, and next to the sink was a small drawer. The shower was one of the biggest onboard a cruise ship that I've seen, and it featured a sliding glass door in lieu of a traditional shower curtain, which was a nice upgrade.

Room storage was limited

There were only two main closets in my stateroom, which were narrow and the doors often got caught on hangers that were just slightly too big for the space. There was a third storage space next to the closets with three shelves, but only one could actually be used because pillows and blankets for the pull-out couch were stored on the other two shelves.

The main vanity in the living area of the room had one small drawer for storage, but it was partially taken up by a safety guide. While I did like the room overall, thinking that it somehow slept four comfortably seemed like a stretch. Even if I was traveling in a group of two adults and two kids, I think the storage in the room would be too limited and someone would inevitably have to live out of their suitcase during the journey.

Sushi from the Commodore Room on the Norwegian Prima.

Sushi from the Commodore Room on the Norwegian Prima.

Megan duBois

Norwegian Prima's dining options are virtually limitless

One of my favorite things to do on a cruise is try all the different dining options, especially if there’s a restaurant onboard that's aligned with a celebrity chef or a generally unique dining experience. Luckily for me, there were plenty of such dining experiences on the Norwegian Prima. These are the one’s I experienced over the three days I was sailing:

Surfside Cafe & Grill (included)

Surfside Cafe & Grill is the main buffet on the Norwegian Prima. Here, I tried breakfast and lunch, though it’s also open for dinner. Breakfast was a casual affair with all of the expected basics, like a bagel bar, fresh fruit, an omelet station and various hot dishes. Lunch was a better option to me since the menu changed each day. The salad bar, with a variety of cold salads that went beyond basic greens, was always fun to explore. There was also a carving station at lunch, which offered a delicious flank steak one afternoon.

Hudson's, one of the main dining areas on the Norwegian Prima, features a panoramic view of the ocean.

Hudson's, one of the main dining areas on the Norwegian Prima, features a panoramic view of the ocean.

Megan duBois

Hudson’s and The Commodore Room (included)

Hudson’s and The Commodore Room are the two main dining rooms on the Norwegian Prima. Hudson’s, which provides a 270-degree panoramic view of the ocean, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. At breakfast, I highly recommend the steak and eggs, which I ordered thinking I would get a marginal cruise-ship cut but was very impressed with a tender, juicy steak that was cooked to perfection.

The Commodore Room is the second main dining room on the ship and is much smaller and more intimate than Hudson’s. The restaurant is only open for dinner and is close to the steakhouse and a bar, making it a hot spot starting at 5:30 p.m., when the doors open.

The one downfall I found with the main dining rooms is that the menu stays the same throughout every cruise, with only one chef’s special dish changing each night. When I sailed, the specials included prime rib and lamb chops. On longer sailings, I would suggest dining here twice, otherwise, the menu may become repetitive.

The Local Bar & Grill (included)

The Local Bar & Grill is Prima's take on a neighborhood sports bar at sea. While on our voyage, this became a hot spot for those looking to watch NFL games or catch other televised sporting events. As expected, the selection here is bar fare, but it did serve some of the best sweet Thai chili chicken wings I’ve ever had—at home or on a cruise ship.

The Norwegian Prima's Indulge food hall is one of the most creative dining spaces on the ship. Diners use tablets to order from an array of themed stations and await as each course is delivered.

The Norwegian Prima's Indulge food hall is one of the most creative dining spaces on the ship. Diners use tablets to order from an array of themed stations and await as each course is delivered.

Christian Santiago/Norwegian Cruise Line

Indulge Food Hall (included)

One of the most creative dining options on the Norwegian Prima is Indulge Food Hall. The bustling restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the menu at each meal service is different. Around the restaurant, there are tables with tablets, which are used to order food from a variety of “stations,” like an Indian station where there are two tandoori ovens firing chicken tikka and fresh garlicky naan, a noodle station that makes everything from pad Thai to spaetzle, and a Latin station that makes delightful tuna tostadas. When the food was ready, a waiter brought it to our table to enjoy, sometimes just a plate at a time, but it was always fun to see what was coming next.

If you eat here, don’t make the mistake I did my first time—if you sit at the bar of any station, you can only order food from that station. To avoid this, find a table that’s not attached to any single station and enjoy the full experience.

Onda by Scarpetta (specialty dining)

The only specialty dining restaurant I was able to try during my trip was Onda by Scarpetta, which is priced a la carte. When I originally went to find the restaurant before the ship set sail I loved how bright and light the room felt, but when I arrived for my reservation, I was a bit let down to find the restaurant turned into a moody space where my plate needed to be in just the right spot on my table to be visible.

My guest and I shared two appetizers, two dishes of pasta, a pizza that our server insisted we try and two desserts. Overall, the dinner was just OK, but with a total cost of $120 for what we ordered, I would recommend trying one of the other specialty restaurants, or heading to the main dining room, which I found had better service and more flavorful food.

The interior of Belvedere Bar, onboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Prima. The bar has great service, delicious drinks and a relaxing lounge atmosphere.

The interior of Belvedere Bar, onboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Prima. The bar has great service, delicious drinks and a relaxing lounge atmosphere.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Finding the best bar onboard the Norwegian Prima

After trying every bar on the ship, I found a few bars that were worth a second stop, a few that future cruisers should seek out and one that became my favorite spot to have a drink. 

Belvedere Bar

Between The Commodore Room and Cagney’s Steakhouse is where you will find the Belvedere Bar. While at-the-bar seating is limited, this area is more of a lounge, with plenty of tables and plush seating to enjoy. The bar specializes in hand-crafted cocktails that are decanted into single-serve bottles that bartenders then use to pour the drinks as they're ordered. The bottles are all pre-measured, making it quick to get your libation, but rest assured they are strong, well-balanced and delicious. The Belvedere Bar also makes for a great spot for happy hour since it’s located between two restaurants.

Infinity Beach on the Norwegian Prima is a prime spot to soak up sun and take in endless views.

Infinity Beach on the Norwegian Prima is a prime spot to soak up sun and take in endless views.

Megan duBois

Pools and outdoor space on the Norwegian Prima

There are plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy aboard the Norwegian Prima. On the pool deck, there is a small pool flanked by two infinity hot tubs, along with the entrance to the tidal wave water slide. Adults will want to head to Infinity Beach, which boasts plenty of lounge chairs, first-come, first-served day beds, and infinity pools that overlook the ocean. If you want a more private, adults-only experience, head to Vibe Beach Club, where loungers, a full bar and hot tubs await. This paid experience is $229 pre-cruise and while on board is $249 for a seven-night sailing.

If you don’t want to take a dip in the pool, there are still some outdoor seating areas, each with a distinct vibe. The Ocean Walk is a glass-bottomed walkway around the ship that lets you see straight into the waters below. La Terraza boasts lounge chairs and curved couches, where you can sit and read a book, take a nap or enjoy a cocktail.

"The Price is Right Live" onboard the Norwegian Prima. The contestants who got selected had the chance to play for actual prizes, including a new car.

"The Price is Right Live" onboard the Norwegian Prima. The contestants who got selected had the chance to play for actual prizes, including a new car.

Megan duBois

The Prima's onboard entertainment is a highlight

During my three-night sailing, I saw two of the ship's signature shows that are going to be performed onboard the Prima. On the first night, "The Price is Right Live" was performed. Yes, audience members were selected at random to “come on down” and make bids for a chance to spin the big wheel and win actual prizes, including a new car.

On the second night, I enjoyed "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical" in the main theater of the ship. The show was spellbinding, with iconic songs that everyone in the audience seemed to know and wanted to dance along to in their seat. Immediately after the musical, the theater was transformed into a dance club. This transformation did take about 20 minutes, and guests were clamoring to get to the dance floor and not stay bunched up together in the theater's small “holding area” while the changeover happened.

At night, the theatre onboard the Norwegian Prima is transformed into a dance club.

At night, the theatre onboard the Norwegian Prima is transformed into a dance club.

Rendering/Norwegian Cruise Line

Other Norwegian Prima activities: Go-karting, putting, gaming and escaping

There are activities for every person in the family on the ship. A major highlight is the Prima Speedway, the first three-level go-kart track at sea. For $15 per person per session, you can whiz around the 1,375-foot-long, 14-turn, ocean-facing track to see who really has the need for speed. Planning to spend a lot of time on the track? Guests can purchase an unlimited-ride package for $199 for the duration of their cruise. When signing up to ride, note that you will be weighed—which can feel slightly intrusive and embarrassing if you’re near the 265-pound weight limit—and may end up not being able to ride. The go-kart seats are also small, so even if you're under the weight threshold and have a reservation you may not be able to fit comfortably in the seat. 

For golf fans, Tee Time, ($10 per person, per game) is the onboard interactive mini-golf course that overlooks the ocean. After playing myself, I’m not sure I'd say it’s worth the price unless you’re really good at putting, since the last hole features a chance to win a free cruise.

Inside, on deck 17, the Galaxy Pavilion welcomes cruisers to play a variety of virtual reality games and figure out how to get out of the onboard escape room. I loved the entrance to the space, as a sort of virtual portal that reminded me of something out of "Wreck-It Ralph." When I walked into the Galaxy Pavilion on our sea day and on our port day it was overly full so I wasn't able to try any games, and at the time of this sailing the escape room was not yet ready for guests to experience.

Among the Norwegian Prima's many entertainment options is an onboard escape room.

Among the Norwegian Prima's many entertainment options is an onboard escape room.

Christian Santiago/Norwegian Cruise Line

Playing any of the games or breaking out of the escape room is going to add to the overall cost of your cruise. For $29 per person, you can have one hour of unlimited play; for $49 you can have an entire day of unlimited play; or for $199 you can have an unlimited amount of play for the duration of a cruise. The escape room is $15 per person.

If you’re traveling with friends or a larger family, The Bull’s Eye is a fun take on darts that's set up like Topgolf, where you rent a bay for a certain amount of time and play games at your own pace. The price is $40 for 50 minutes, for up to six people. This may be good if you’re splitting the cost between friends, otherwise, there are plenty of free things to do on the ship.

The Stadium is where guests will find complimentary tabletop shuffleboard, pickleball, subsoccer and beer pong, the latter of which, sadly, does not include actual beer. The Prima's pickleball court is sure to be a hot spot during cruises, especially since it has great ocean views.

Syd Norman's Pour House, a quaint bar onboard the Norwegian Prima. The venue hosts live music but its small size makes it tough to get a seat without showing up an hour early.

Syd Norman's Pour House, a quaint bar onboard the Norwegian Prima. The venue hosts live music but its small size makes it tough to get a seat without showing up an hour early.

Megan duBois

What could make the trip onboard Norwegian Prima better?

After experiencing most of what the Norwegian Prima has to offer, I made some notes about what I saw as a few shortcomings on this otherwise impressive ship.

My main gripe is that the onboard venues feel too small. The ship’s capacity is 3,100 guests at double occupancy. Venues like Syd Norman’s Pour House, the Galaxy Pavilion and even the family pool deck were exceptionally small for a ship of this capacity. I did make my way into Syd Norman’s one evening, about 30 minutes before the band was set to hit the stage, only to find the venue was already full. If you plan to catch live music here with some drinks, be sure to grab a table early.

I also found the ship to not be very size-inclusive with some of its venues and activities. I’m on the smaller end of being a mid-sized woman (mid-size is generally considered anywhere from size 10-16), and found the theater seats to be slightly too small. When it was my turn to sign up for the go-kart track with my guest, I felt judged by the crew member handling the sign-ups who looked at us and seemed to guess we wouldn't fit into the 400-pound capacity for a double-rider car. We didn’t, which was disappointing, since I imagine many doubles won’t fit into that weight limit, but the judgmental feelings I got from the employee were unwelcome regardless.

I could have ridden the go-kart alone, since I am below the 265-pound weight limit for single riders, but the singles cars were completely reserved for the entire sailing before dinner on the first day. While this entire experience may be challenging for some guests, including those who are self-conscious about their size, if you really want to ride you should try to sign up, but know you may not be able to due to size and weight restrictions.

The Norwegian Prima is the first ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Prima Class, the follow-up to its Breakaway/Breakaway-Plus class of ships.

The Norwegian Prima is the first ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Prima Class, the follow-up to its Breakaway/Breakaway-Plus class of ships.

Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

My final thoughts on the Norwegian Prima

Overall, I thought the Norwegian Prima was a fun ship with plenty for adults and older children to do, even if you don't want to pay extra for any activities during your voyage. The included dining options were exceptional, but next time I would try a different specialty dining option. The entertainment onboard was also fun, but it mostly catered to adults over 40, especially in the main theater.

The design of the ship felt modern and upscale, more like a luxury ocean liner than a family-friendly cruise ship, which I enjoyed. With five more ships coming out in the Prima Class, including the Norwegian Viva set to debut in 2023, guests are sure to get their fill of thrills, relaxation and delicious food onboard the Prima and beyond.

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