The Haven moves aft, the sea comes closer, the rooms get bigger. The Waterfront doubles in size, wraps around the deck and adds a global food hall. There are new infinity pools, glass bridges and an outdoor lounge. And, to add to the excitement, some lucky travel advisors get to sail free.
In a series of hints, tweets and press conferences, Norwegian Cruise Line ended months of relative quiet this week with one big reveal of what it has been quietly working on while the pandemic raged around it. The Norwegian Prima, the first new ship and new class in a decade, goes on sale today.
As befits a ship named Prima, it has many firsts—but the Partners First program is among the most important, chief sales officer Katina Athanasiou told me last week. “We really want to work through the new processes and protocols and make sure we get the ships ready, and we are planning to do trial or simulated voyages prior to the start of every revenue cruise,” she said. But, unlike some of its competitors, Norwegian plans to carry invited guests only on the return-to-service cruises, not volunteers.
That means “a combination of team members, travel partners, friends and family”—and a mix of travel advisors, including but not limited to top sellers, is “definitely part of that audience,” she said. Indeed, “in the spirit of our Partners First philosophy, and to underscore our commitment to the travel partner community,” for every stateroom that travel advisors sell, they will receive one entry in a drawing for one of 100 complimentary cruises.
A Series of Firsts
When it comes to the ships themselves, the design has not changed much from the schematics and architectures NCL first envisioned in 2017 and 2018. Long before “Covid” entered the travel lexicon, NCL was aiming to bring its guests closer to the sea, to focus more on outdoor spaces. “This was really about the evolution of our brand and looking to create spaces, service, styles, and designs centered around the guest-first mentality,” Athanasiou noted.
Much of the focus has been on The Haven, the popular (and highest price) ship-within-a-ship suites that add an additional layer of luxury and exclusivity. On cruise ships, the high-end and the low-end sell out first, Athanasiou noted, so The Haven now will be larger, with 107 suites. The indoor pool complex has been moved outside, to a new expansive sundeck with an infinity pool that overlooks the wake of the ship and is “more open to the sea than ever before,” offering “completely panoramic” views, she said. In what will be “the most exclusive and centralized suite complex” at sea, “we really wanted to bring in the wide open spaces and bring our guests closer to what they love about cruising,” she said. “Every space will have stunning, gorgeous views.”
Norwegian Prima will be the first of six Prima-class vessels that will roll out one per year through 2027. As its name implies, it will include “a lot of new firsts” based on four pillars:
- Space: More wide open-spaces across the ship, including the most outdoor deck space in the industry, with space ratios increased by 35% per guest and inside ocean view and balcony suites that are 50% larger, with larger bathrooms.
- Service: Elevating the service that puts the guest experience first.
- Thoughtful Design: Including remarkable hull art that extends all the way to the front of the ship, almost touching the bridge
- Experience: Providing new experiences that go beyond the guests’ expectations.
The itineraries, too, reflect new interests and adventures: “She’ll start in Northern Europe, cross over and do some Bermuda and Caribbean, and visit Galveston for the first time,” Athanasiou said. Then she will spend some extra time at Great Stirrup Cay—where “a lot of cool things” will be announced in the coming weeks.
The full itinerary is:
Summer 2022: Northern Europe and The UK
Following a string of inaugural cruises, and beginning August 2022, Norwegian Prima will embark in Northern Europe. From Aug. 17 to Sept. 13, 2022, she will sail a series of 8-day voyages from Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Copenhagen, Denmark, offering the opportunity to explore Northern Europe, the Norwegian Fjords and the Baltic region.
Fall/Winter 2022: Bermuda and The Caribbean
On Sept. 23, Prima will depart Southampton, England, on a 12-day transatlantic voyage visiting Lerwick, Scotland, with an overnight in Reykjavik, Iceland, before arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then New York. From there, she will sail a 5-day roundtrip itinerary on Oct. 10 to Bermuda. On Oct. 15, she will depart from New York on a 12-day immersive Caribbean and for the first time ever for NCL, visit Galveston, TX. She call at Willemstad, Curacao; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba, with all visits featuring between 9 and 10 in-port hours. On Oct. 31, Norwegian Prima will kickstart her Caribbean season departing from Galveston, TX, to Miami on an 11-day itinerary with visits to Willemstad, Curacao; Kralendijk, Bonaire, and NCL’s recently enhanced private island, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. From Nov. 19 to Dec. 3, she will sail from Miami offering three 7-day Western Caribbean cruises visiting Harvest Caye, the Company’s private resort destination in Belize, in addition to other ports including Cozumel, Mexico, and Roatan Island, Honduras.
Fall/Winter 2022-2023: Western Caribbean Voyages Homeporting from Orlando, Fla. (Port Canaveral)
From Dec. 11, 2022, to March 19, 2023, Norwegian Prima will homeport in Orlando, Fla. (Port Canaveral), sailing 15 roundtrip Western Caribbean voyages featuring 5, 7, and 9-day port-rich itineraries—visiting destinations including Cozumel, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, in the Bahamas.
Spring 2023: Bermuda
March 28 to May 7, Norwegian Prima will sail a mini-season of 5 and mostly 7-day roundtrip Bermuda voyages from New York. She will call at Norfolk, Virginia—the gateway to Virginia Beach and the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg; and sail to the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda, where itineraries include one or two overnight stays.
Spring and Summer 2023: Northern Europe
On May 14, Norwegian Prima departs on an 11-day transatlantic journey from New York City to Reykjavik, Iceland, visiting Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, before making calls to several immersive Icelandic ports, including Akureyri and Isafjordur, with an overnight stay in Reykjavik. From May 25 to Sept. 7, the summer 2023 season will offer a mix of 10 and 11-day Norway and Iceland sailings from Reykjavik, Iceland, and Southampton, England, featuring extensive port time. Throughout her voyage, guests will have the unique opportunity to cruise through the remarkable Heritage Fjords, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where Norwegian Prima will be one of the few ships that meet the criteria to sail in these environmentally protected waters. Other bucket-list worthy destinations include Geiranger Fjord, home to the Seven Sisters and The Bridal Veil waterfalls, as well as Olden, Norway, with access to the jaw-dropping Briksdal Glacier.
On Sept. 17, Norwegian Prima concludes her summer 2023 season with a 14-day roundtrip voyage from Southampton, England, with notable calls to Dublin, Ireland; Isafjordur and Akureyri, Iceland, an overnight in Reykjavik; and visits to Geiranger, Olden, and Stavanger, Norway.
Indeed, this is only the beginning of the story, Norwegian says. While “there’s definitely a lot more to come,” Athanasiou said, “this is the most information we’ve ever disseminated at launch. We want people to be excited and comfortable about how elevated this ship is. We want them to say, ‘100% I am booking this ship and I am booking it today.’”
Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook.
As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business and technology sectors.