Norwegian Cruise Line
Think of these family-friendly, all-ages ships as amusement parks at sea, and you won't be too far off base. They have everything from game rooms to large gyms — and even bowling alleys. Best known for having pioneered "Freestyle Cruising" over a decade ago, this family- and budget-friendly line of mega ships was at the forefront of moving the cruise industry away from the dated traditions of the past.
Now, many mainstream lines have followed suit and offer open seating in their dining rooms as opposed to the more formal early and late options with assigned tables and tablemates. Norwegian also relaxed the evening dress codes, and you're much more likely to see casual attire in the dining rooms at night.
The result? These ships are loud and boisterous, with plenty to do all day and all night long as well as open casinos and music that echoes from one space into another.
What We Love
Water Parks and Sports Decks: Newer ships offer everything from colorful waterslides to trampolines and even ropes courses with daredevil tight wire walks that jut out over the water.
Studio Cabins: The latest ships also offer cabins designed for cruisers who are traveling alone, complete with a shared lounge area. The design on these is bright and playful, with plenty of opportunity to meet up with other travelers who are cruising alone for when you want, say, company to join you for dinner.
Specialty Restaurants Just Keep Getting Better: On the line's newest ship, Norwegian Escape, some new restaurant concepts top the line's bests. Food Republic, for example, serves up fusion comfort food from around the world, such as pastrami and sauerkraut dumplings and buffalo fried shrimp sushi rolls.
Bars Keep Getting Better Too: While we love the line's ice bars (complete with frigid temps and loaner gloves and capes) the District Brew House is our new line favorite. This cool bar offers an impressively long list of craft beers from Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company. It is, without a doubt, the best bar at sea for beer lovers. With a couple dozen taps, and more than twice as many choices in bottles, it's tempting to order drinks and snacks, and settle into the fun atmosphere (tabletop beer pong, live bands, a photo booth) for the night.
Best Known For
Flashy Entertainment: Norwegian was one of the first lines to offer Broadway-style shows, with "Rock of Ages" and "Legally Blonde" as well as a new and jazzy production of "After Midnight." Norwegian Escape also offers a fun dinner theater-style John Hughes tribute that's a treat for anyone who fondly remembers his 1980s teen movies.
Impressive Comedians: A partnership with Second City has resulted in some of the better comedy acts at sea, which take place several times a night in a dedicated comedy club.
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Who It's Best For
Families: These are big, bustling ships with entertainment designed to work well for families with children of different ages, as well as multigenerational groups.
Solo Travelers: Studio cabins mean no single supplements, which results in reasonable prices for cruisers who want to sail alone.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Specialty Restaurants Can Be Pricey: The alternative dining options on the newer ships are particularly good, including everything from a clam bar on deck to a sushi and regional seafood restaurant. That said, these upgrades will cost you. Meals at Ocean Blue, for example, are priced à la carte, and cakes by TLC's "Cake Boss," Buddy Valastro, are $50.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.