Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Stands Out as an Outlier Among the Major Cruise Lines (Carnival and Royal Caribbean)

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is a major player in the cruise industry, and it certainly stands out from its competitors, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. When you step aboard an NCL ship, you’ll notice a distinct atmosphere that sets it apart. The newer NCL ships, like the Prima class, offer a more upscale and modern feel, emphasizing a connection with the sea and outdoor spaces. However, it’s important to note that NCL has some unique policies and expenses that may impact your experience. For example, they have stricter rules about bringing soda or water onboard, which means you may have to purchase drinks on the ship. Additionally, NCL tends to have higher costs and prices compared to other cruise lines, with additional charges for dining and activities like go-karts. On the bright side, they do offer special perks like the “Free at Sea” offer which includes extras like Wi-Fi, dining, and drink packages, although the cabin price may be higher. NCL also caters to solo cruisers with studio cabins and dedicated lounges to meet fellow solo travelers. These are just some of the things you ought to know before sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line!

NCL’s Different Atmosphere

When it comes to the major cruise lines, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) stands out as an outlier among the likes of Carnival and Royal Caribbean. NCL has a different atmosphere compared to its rival cruise lines, making it a unique choice for travelers. This difference in atmosphere is especially noticeable on the newer NCL ships, such as the Prima class, which offer a more upscale and modern feel. If you’re looking for a cruise experience that veers away from the traditional and embraces contemporary luxury, NCL is the way to go.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Stands Out as an Outlier Among the Major Cruise Lines (Carnival and Royal Caribbean)

NCL’s Private Island – Great Stirrup K

NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup K, is a highlight of their itineraries. However, it’s important to note that there is a higher threshold for porting compared to other cruise lines that have a dock available. While other cruise lines can simply dock at their private islands, NCL ships anchor offshore and passengers are tendered in. This means that porting at Great Stirrup K is subject to weather conditions. On windy days, the tendering process may be delayed or even canceled altogether, impacting your plans for the day. It’s essential to keep this in mind when visiting Great Stirrup K and be prepared for potential changes to your itinerary.

Restrictions on Beverage Policy

One aspect of NCL’s policies that may come as a surprise is the prohibition of bringing soda or water onboard. Unlike most other cruise lines that allow passengers to bring a limited amount of canned drinks or cartons, NCL does not permit any outside beverages. This can be disappointing for those who prefer to have their favorite drinks readily available. As a result, passengers are required to purchase drinks on the ship, which can lead to additional expenses. It’s essential to factor in this restriction when planning and budgeting for your NCL cruise.

Emphasis on Connecting with the Sea

NCL places a significant emphasis on connecting with the sea and provides unique experiences to enhance this connection. From the design of their ships to the focus on outdoor spaces and scenery, NCL creates an environment that allows passengers to fully immerse themselves in the maritime experience. The newer NCL ships, in particular, feature large outdoor promenades on lower decks, bringing passengers closer to the ocean. Dining is also a unique experience on NCL ships, with thoughtfully designed outdoor areas that make eating outdoors enjoyable even with factors like wind and sun. If you appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the sea, NCL’s emphasis on connecting with the ocean will undoubtedly enhance your cruise experience.

Boarding Process with NCL

When it comes to boarding NCL ships, it’s important to consider the potential waiting times for early boarding. NCL encourages passengers to arrive early for the boarding process, but this can lead to extended waiting periods. You may find yourself sitting in a crowded terminal room until the ship opens for passengers, or even boarding early but having to carry your luggage around until your room is ready. To avoid these potential inconveniences, it’s advisable to board later in the day if you’re sailing with NCL. This way, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free boarding experience.

Higher Costs and Prices on NCL

One aspect to be mindful of when booking an NCL cruise is the higher costs and prices compared to other cruise lines. NCL generally has higher price points and additional charges for dining in most standalone restaurants and participating in certain activities. Even amenities like go-karting on newer NCL ships incur extra fees. It’s important to consider these additional expenses when planning your budget for an NCL cruise. However, it’s worth noting that NCL does offer various packages and offers, such as the “Free at Sea” offer, which may include extras like Wi-Fi, dining, and drink packages. These packages, while adding value to your cruise, can also result in a higher cabin price compared to the basic “Sail Away” price. It’s essential to weigh the costs and benefits of these offerings to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

NCL’s ‘Free at Sea’ Offer

NCL’s “Free at Sea” offer is a popular promotion that includes extras like Wi-Fi, dining, and drink packages. This offer can be an excellent addition to your cruise experience, providing you with additional perks and amenities. However, it’s important to note that the cabin price for the “Free at Sea” offer is higher than the basic “Sail Away” price. While you may be getting more value with the inclusion of these extras, you are also paying more upfront. It’s crucial to do the math and compare prices to determine if the “Free at Sea” offer is the right choice for you.

Gratuities on Package Prices

In the United States, NCL requires gratuities to be paid on package prices for specialty dining and the drink package. This means that even if you opt for a package that includes these offerings, you will still need to factor in gratuities. For example, the free drink package may have a daily service charge of 20% added to the overall cost. It’s essential to be aware of these additional charges when considering package prices and budgeting for your cruise. While gratuities are customary and expected, it’s necessary to understand their applicability to ensure you are prepared financially.

NCL’s Focus on Solo Cruisers

NCL stands out in its focus on solo cruisers, offering accommodations specifically designed for single travelers. Studio cabins are available at a lower cost compared to regular cabins, allowing solo cruisers to enjoy their own space without the added expense of paying for double occupancy. Additionally, NCL provides a small lounge area for solo travelers to meet and interact with fellow solo cruisers. This emphasis on solo travelers sets NCL apart from other cruise lines and provides a unique option for those looking to voyage alone without compromising on comfort or social opportunities.


In conclusion, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a different atmosphere compared to its major cruise line competitors. NCL’s newer ships, with their upscale and modern feel, provide a unique experience that sets them apart. However, it’s important to consider the potential restrictions on bringing beverages onboard and the potential for higher expenses when dining and participating in activities. NCL’s focus on connecting with the sea and outdoor spaces enhances the cruise experience, while their boarding process and costs should be taken into account when planning. The “Free at Sea” offer and special accommodations for solo cruisers further demonstrate NCL’s unique positioning in the industry. Ultimately, NCL offers an exceptional cruise experience, but it’s important to be aware of its standout characteristics and position among major cruise lines.

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