My cruise on NCL Prima: ‘Sitting in a hot tub, mimosa in hand, looking out to sea’
What’s it like to take a cruise for the first time, and after Covid-19? The new Norwegian Cruise Line ship is a great place to find out...
After your passport is checked, the standard Covid-related questions are asked, and you’re given your room key (which will be essential for checking off and back onto the cruise if you exit at various ports of call), you see the sheer size of the ship and are left astonished.
Or at least I, who had never been on a cruise before, was astonished.
With my jaw dropped and eyes wide, taking in just how enormous Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Prima actually is, I probably looked something like curly red-haired Annie seeing Daddy Warbucks’ mansion for the first time.
Here are some stats to give you an idea of the immensity that I’m referring to. Built in 2022 as the first of a new class of NCL ships designed to feel like floating resorts, Prima has a guest capacity of over 3,000, as well as a staff ratio of almost 1:2 to accommodate their needs.
There are 1,600 staterooms, 20 decks, 18 dining venues offering a variety of different cuisines, plus 17 bars and lounges with a range of designs and atmospheres.
That means you can enjoy a bellini by the pool, a pint in The Local, or some Champagne while listening to classical music, all in the space of one day and one place.
It’s smaller than some other NCL ships, but Prima also boasts a three-story theatre-nightclub, a space that transforms as it alternates between putting on Broadway shows and hosting old-school disco nights — and those are just a couple of options for your evening activities. Our group had the pleasure of listening to Motown music in the serene Atrium before heading down to karaoke (we treated fellow cruisers to renditions of The Cranberries and The Corrs, naturally). We also saw a brilliant Fleetwood Mac tribute act, and one late night, a friend and I played roulette in the casino until 4am — this thanks to her being Lady Luck, not so much me.
There’s plenty for children or kids at heart too — between a water play area, the Galaxy Pavilion virtual experience, darts booths, a mini golf course, and tables where you can play beer pong, table tennis, and foosball. Most impressively, there is a three-level racetrack called the Prima Speedway with go-karts.
The only downside is that some of these activities are not included in the overall cost and can get quite pricey (go-karting is $20 for 10 laps or $199 for unlimited go-karting for your cruise; it’s $15 per person per game for mini golf; and $45 for a darts booth for 45 minutes).
Alternatively, you could whip out your bathing suit and spend your day at the pool. Prima has an infinity pool, which wasn’t as impressive as one would hope (likely for health and safety reasons, being on a ship), but the hot tubs were fabulous. There is a spa onboard as well, but the cost of treatments is similarly expensive.
There are also wet and dry slides aboard, some billed as 10 storeys tall - The Drop and The Rush corkscrew down the side of the ship. I didn’t venture on these myself, but if you’re braver than me, I’m sure they’re great fun!
I’d wondered what it would be like on a cruise, but there is something quite magical about being in a new country every day. For our voyage, we departed Amsterdam, stopped off in Zeebrugge to spend a lovely afternoon in Bruges, and our last stop before flying home from London was Le Havre in France.
Le Havre didn’t boast much, being one of those minimalist port towns, but then that provided the ideal day for just hanging out on the ship itself (Prima next makes its way to the Caribbean so that will be an even more exciting spot to take a cruise from).
If you’re thinking of a cruise for the first time, I would recommend that you plan your trip so that you get a couple of days where you experience the ship itself (perhaps for less exciting stop-offs or longer docking days) as well as time where you disembark to explore what’s ashore — so you get the full value out of your trip.
Despite the high prices, I was surprised to see that the clientele on Prima was so varied. The cruising stereotype tends to be elderly couples with retirement dosh to splash, but there were groups of young people and middle-aged couples on board as well. There was a good ambience too.
I would have no complaints about the food as the options were diverse, plentiful, and delicious. Aboard Prima is a buffet that’s open all day, which I found ideal for a hearty breakfast — and they have a Starbucks for your coffee fix (not included). On one of the evenings, I had some steak frites while looking out at the view as we pulled out to sea from one of the harbours. It was simply heavenly.
The restaurants offer Mediterranean, Mexican, Asian tapas, Italian and French food, and there is a steakhouse, sushi house, and a hibachi-style restaurant where chefs make your food in front of you and make a fun-filled show of it. There is even a spot for late-night pub grub if you feel like chicken wings before bed.
Packages tend to include food and drink, and I’d experienced something similar having done all-inclusive holidays in the past. It always amazes me how much of your time and money is saved when you have food and drink covered.
Altogether, we were aboard for three days, which felt quite short, but I can also imagine feeling restless eventually. A five-day to week-long trip would probably have been ideal.
I would highly recommend that everyone go on a cruise at least once in their lifetime, be it in the company of friends, family or a partner. After all, you never know, you could find yourself a total convert, and if not, you’ll have the satisfaction of having done a travel experience that’s quite unique.
For me, the absolute best part of the trip was sitting in a hot tub, mimosa in hand, looking out to sea as the water moved gently below. Where else could you experience something like that?
Deirdre was a guest of Sunway, which has several cruises on NCL Prima next year (01 231-1800; sunway.ie).
A seven-night Caribbean cruise next February starts from €1,106pp full-board, for example, or €1,745pp with flights. It includes a one-night hotel stay pre-cruise.
A seven-night Bermuda to New York itinerary in April costs from €1,164pp full-board, or €2,118pp with flights.
Add €149pp for a premium drinks package, Wi-Fi, shore excursion credit or speciality dining package.