By Gerry Barker
This month, Miami welcomed Norwegian Prima, the first of six new Prima-class ships planned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. It made its way here from its naming ceremony Aug. 27 in Reykjavik, Iceland, where the ship’s godmother, singer Katy Perry, gave it a star-studded send-off.
The occasion was a personal debut as well. In a dozen years as a travel journalist, this would be my first cruise on a Norwegian ship.
Docked at NCL’s new Terminal B, Prima made an imposing first impression. At just under 1,000 feet in length, and 20 decks tall, she is gleaming, showroom-new and ready to accommodate up to 3,200 passengers and an additional 1,500 crew. With less than 72 hours on the clock, we dived right in.
We learned Prima’s mission was to “elevate the guest experience,” creating a virtual “resort at sea” that would not only wow their existing clientele but also draw more first-time cruisers. In that regard, they packed in features that will appeal to all ages.
For starters, the ship itself is beautiful. From the staterooms to the public spaces, designers have utilized a blue/biege palette to create an environment that is both contemporary and stylish. They even added an extra directional touch: Those solid arrows in the carpeting are pointing the way to the front of the ship.
Of course, once onboard the first thing most guests want to do is find the newest food and drink. Prima offers lots of options for both. Complimentary dining choices include The Local, a 24-hour pub on Deck 8, Surfside Grill and Cafe (Deck 17), an all-day buffet, and two main dining rooms — Hudson’s (its floor-to-ceiling windows provide a 270-degree view) and The Commodore Room. There’s also Indulge Food Hall, featuring 11 different types of cuisine grab-and-go, food truck-style, which was wildly popular.
There are also eight specialty restaurants as well, including NCL’s first Mediterranean seafood eatery, Palomar. On our cruise we dined at three of them: The aforementioned Palomar, Food Republic (Asian fusion) and Le Bistro (French). We especially liked the Dover Sole at Le Bistro and the Branzino for Two, prepared tableside, at Palomar. Be aware items at specialty restaurants are priced a la carte, so you might want to pre-purchase a specialty restaurant package before you cruise.
When we were ready to relax and enjoy a martini, we liked the Belvedere Bar on Deck 6 for its dark, night club vibe and the bar in the Observation Lounge on Deck 17. In fact, when it wasn’t closed for private events, the Observation Lounge became our go-to place to chill and relax.
Speaking of relax, I had a day pass to the Mandara Spa and Salon on Deck 16 that gave me access to the thermal pools and heated lounges. With its multi-level wall of water, it will lower your shoulders by just entering. For the exercise-minded, all the way forward is the Pulse Fitness Center.
Somewhat surprisingly, the main pool on Deck 17 is small by cruise ship standards. But the ship’s designers decided to spread the wealth by creating additional infinity pools and lounge spaces along Ocean Boulevard on Deck 8. This wrap-around promenade is one of the best we’ve seen, combining a glass-bottom walkway, outdoor dining, cabanas, bars and a million-dollar sculpture collection on the Concourse.
If you hear what sounds like cars racing, you heard right. On Deck 18 aft is a three-level go-kart track, where for $15 you can do your best impression of driving at Le Mans in an electrically-powered go-kart. I tried it, and while I didn’t set any speed records, it was fun.
But the fun is only getting started. In that same area is The Stadium, with games like pickleball and shuffleboard, Bull’s Eye (interactive darts) and Tee Time (immersive golf). Some of the games are extra-charge, so be aware.
You also no doubt will notice the two long winding tubes on each side of the ship. Called The Drop and The Rush, it’s an adrenaline-charged trip through a dry slide from Deck 18 to Deck 8. We decided to be spectators.
One floor down is the Galaxy Pavilion, featuring a range of interactive, VR experiences. I strapped on the VR headset and killed zombies in “Dark Ride,” then hung on to my seat while riding a rollercoaster trying to avoid flying arrows and fire-breathing dragons.
If you like shows, Prima has raised the bar there as well, offering Broadway-quality productions like “Noise Boys” and “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” But for sheer fun, we had a blast at the Disco Party, where the Prima Theater first-floor seats were removed and we got to shake our booty to the best of 80s disco.
We had a family balcony stateroom on Deck 13, where you’ll also find the 100-plus suites for guests in The Haven, Prima’s private retreat that features a sundeck, infinity pool, restaurant and 24-hour concierge. Haven passengers even have their own private elevators.
In the Photo Gallery area there’s the Imagination Wall, where you can be part of an interactive video with a choice of topics. We went with “Jungle,” and got to “pet” parrots and “play” with monkeys. It’s fun, and free, and you can share the video with your friends on social media.
Other things to note include an Aqua park for kids, the Wave waterslide and the Vibe Beach Club, where for an extra charge you can enjoy a sundeck/bar for adults only.
Our 72 hours passed quickly, as they often do. Our takeaway in terms of an elevated experience? Prima hits the bullseye.
After a brief stint in Miami, Prima will next head to Port Canaveral for the Caribbean season. In late 2023, the next ship in the Prima class, Norwegian Viva, will launch.
PHOTOS by Gerry Barker