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Norwegian Cruise Line Review

U.S. News Travel
  • Overall Rating: 4.0stars 3.8 3.8
  • Expert Rating:4.0stars 3.8
  • Traveler Rating:3.5stars 3.5
    • Couples: 3.5
    • Families w/ young children: 3.3
    • Families w/ older children: 3.4
    • Singles/Friends: 3.5
    • Groups: 3.3
  • Health Rating:

Norwegian Cruise Line Overview

How it Ranks: Norwegian has been ranked based on an expert evaluation of the line's level of luxury, as well as an assessment of user reviews and health ratings. Norwegian Cruise Line appears on the following ranking lists:

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its fun, laid-back ambiance and inventive "freestyle cruising" concept, which promotes no enforced dress codes, no fixed dining times and comes with a plethora of onboard entertainment and family-friendly activities. Norwegian's 12-ship fleet (soon to be 13) sails all over the world, with voyages lasting anywhere from one to 42 days. The cruise line's most popular routes include Hawaii, Alaska and the Caribbean, with home ports in U.S. cities like Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Seattle. The line has also gained more of a European presence in the past few years, and more cruises scheduled to depart from European cities like Dubrovnik and Barcelona in 2014. While docked at different destinations, you can take part in a wide selection of shore excursions like 4x4 Jeep adventures in Dominica, luaus in Kauai and gondola rides in Venice. During your voyage, you'll stay entertained with live performances from The Second City comedy troupe or the Blue Man Group (only featured on the Norwegian Epic) while youngsters take advantage of the waterslides and kids programs. When it comes to dining, Norwegian's options are notably varied; the cruise line's "freestyle dining" program allows you to chow down in globally-inspired eateries like French bistros and Japanese teppanyaki restaurants, along with traditional cruise buffets and formal dining rooms. Norwegian's ships fairly large, carrying between 1,936 and 4,100 passengers. While Norwegian's vessels can feel crowded, they maintain a ratio of approximately one staff member per every two or three passengers, even when ships are filled at double occupancy.

Pros & Cons

  • No fixed dress codes
  • Wide variety of onboard restaurants
  • Some ships offer stateroom options designed for solo travelers
  • Long lines may occur at dining venues and theaters
  • Some onboard activities are not included in cruise rates
  • Meals at specialty restaurants cost extra

On Board

Norwegian Cruise Line caters to families, offering age-appropriate programming geared toward younger passengers. On cruises that take place over the winter holidays and during the summer months, you'll likely find more families. Conversely, far-flung itineraries tend to draw an older crowd. Some ships also offer studio rooming options for those traveling alone, with special discounts and social events for solo travelers. Because many of its home ports are based in the United States, Norwegian attracts a primarily American clientele.

More about the onboard experience»

On Shore

At many ports of call, you can disembark and explore the surrounding area through one of Norwegian's planned shore excursions. There are more than 1,600 excursions to choose from, and they vary based on itinerary and region of the world (Norwegian cruises to 10 distinct regions, including Alaska ...

More about the on shore experience»

Before You Book

  • Individuals younger than 21 must be accompanied by a passenger 21 years of age or older. Underage cruisers must also stay in the same (or an adjoining) stateroom as an adult.
  • All Norwegian itineraries require passengers to be at least 6 months old. On voyages that include three or more consecutive days at sea, infants must be at least 12 months old to travel.
  • All cruises require a per-person deposit, the value and due date of which depend on your cruise type and stateroom category. Deposits range from $50 to $400 per person.
  • If you are traveling alone and staying in a Garden Villa, Courtyard Villa or Specialty Suite, you may be required to pay a "single" deposit of $500 to $5,000.
  • Final payment for cruises must be paid between 60 and 90 days prior to sailing, depending on your itinerary and travel dates. If you choose to stay in a Garden Villa, Courtyard Villa or Specialty Suite, your final payment is due 90 days before sailing.
  • Women who have entered or will enter their 24th week of pregnancy before the cruise ends are not allowed to sail with Norwegian.
  • If you have booked a one- to five-day cruise, you must cancel at least 61 days prior to sailing to receive a full refund (76 days if your cruise is over a holiday). If you have booked a cruise that will last six days or longer, you must cancel at least 76 days prior to sailing to receive a full refund (91 days if your cruise is over a holiday). If you miss these deadlines, you will forfeit your entire deposit or a set percentage of your cruise fare, whichever one is higher. The amount you lose will depend on how close the cancellation date is to the date of departure. And if you cancel your cruise less than 14 days before your cruise sets sail, you will receive no refund.
  • If you have booked The Haven or Norwegian Suite on any cruise, you must cancel at least 120 days prior to sailing to receive a full refund. Cancellations on a Haven or Norwegian Suite made with 55 days or less remaining before a departure date will not be eligible for a refund.
  • Passengers with medical issues or special needs should call the Ship Coordinator Department 1-800-327-7030 at least three weeks prior to departure to coordinate bringing medical equipment aboard and other requirements. Guide dogs for the vision-impaired are allowed on Norwegian ships.

Before You Board

  • You must carry all necessary travel documents (e.g., a passport and/or a birth certificate, an original certificate of naturalization or an original U.S. citizenship certificate if you are visiting non-U.S. ports of call), as well as proof of vaccinations for infectious diseases and visas, if required. Visit the World Health Organization's website for a list of routine vaccines.
  • If you are traveling to Bermuda, you should bring a passport that will be valid for at least six months after the last day of your cruise.
  • If you plan to check in online using My NCL, you must do so no later than one day prior to your scheduled departure date.
  • If you have completed your online check-in, you should arrive at the terminal no later than one hour before your scheduled cruise embarkation. If you have not completed the online check-in, you should plan to arrive two hours before your scheduled sail time.
  • Norwegian allows cruisers to bring up to two pieces of luggage on board. Suitcases may not exceed 50 pounds each.
  • You can book shore excursions starting approximately six months prior to your scheduled sail date on Norwegian Cruise Line's website or by calling 1-866-625-1167.
  • You can make reservations at specialty restaurants for parties of up to eight people on Norwegian's website before you board. To reserve dining for larger parties, call 1-800-327-7030.

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Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship's Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 24 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship's Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.