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Norwegian Prima photos: We got early access to Norwegian Cruise Line's first new ship in nearly 3 years

July 31, 2022
16 min read
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free trip to the shipyard in Italy that is building Norwegian Prima in order to get an early look at the vessel. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by the line.


Get ready for a new era at Norwegian Cruise Line.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the world's fourth largest cruise operator is debuting a new class of ship, and — as we saw on Friday during a sneak peek at the first vessel in the series — it's likely to be transformational for the brand.

Scheduled to begin sailing later this month in Northern Europe, the 3,215-passenger Norwegian Prima is smaller, and in many ways, more elegant than the ships Norwegian has been unveiling in recent years -- a vessel clearly designed to draw a more "premium" customer to the line than in the past, to use the cruise world lingo for cruisers drawn to more upscale big ships.

As you can see in our first-look array of Norwegian Prima photos below, it’s a vessel with lots of what Norwegian executives are calling "elevated" touches. Its central atrium has a sophisticated, almost sculptural feel. Its bars and restaurants are stylish and upscale. Its accommodations are heavy with suites. (In fact, the whole back of the ship is a giant suite zone).

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Perhaps most notably, Norwegian Prima feels more spacious than many of Norwegian's 17 existing vessels. And, indeed it is. It was built with a higher ratio of space to passengers. It also has a higher crew-to-passenger ratio than many Norwegian ships.

Both measures are often used as shorthand for the luxury level and service level of a ship.

TPG was one of just a handful of media outlets to get an early look at the nearly complete Norwegian Prima on Friday at the Fincanteri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, where it has been under construction for more than two years. The tour came in the hours before it was officially delivered to the line during an onboard signing ceremony.

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The nearly-complete Norwegian Prima at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

The tour only extended to parts of the ship, including its central atrium, casino, theater, and some restaurants and bars. It didn't include a look at the vessel's suites or cabins, spa or most decktop areas. But it was enough of a glimpse to confirm that Norwegian is upping the bar in its ship design with the Prima class, as it had promised to do when the series was announced.

As you'll see in the photos below, some areas of the ship aren't quite finished. That's not unusual given the vessel's first voyage with paying passengers is still nearly four weeks away. Norwegian Prima's maiden voyage, an eight-night sailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Amsterdam, is scheduled to begin Aug. 26.

TPG will be on board the maiden voyage of Norwegian Prima (and at its christening, which will take place Aug. 27 in Reykjavik, with singer Katy Perry serving as godmother) and posting lots more first photos then.

Penrose atrium

At the heart of Norwegian Prima is the Penrose Atrium, a soaring, three-deck-high space that serves as the vessel's central gathering point and a gateway to its many restaurants and bars. Designed by Miami-based Studio Dado, it has a sophisticated, almost sculptural feel with an asymetrical layout, curving balconies and hidden entrances. At one end, a glass wall rises three stories and — once the ship is at sea — will surely offer stunning views of the ocean.

The Penrose Atrium offers central access to more than a dozen restaurants, bars and entertainment venues that spread across the three floors to which it connects (decks 6, 7 and 8). Within the atrium itself, you'll find several venues for food and drink including a Starbucks coffee shop, a whiskey bar and the Penrose Bar — the latter featuring video poker machines.

The Penrose Atrium is the first three-story atrium on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
A large-scale chandelier at the top of the Penrose Atrium was inspired by the constellations and features moving light fixtures that weigh more than 7,300 pounds. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Sculptural spaces and artistic lighting are a signature of the Penrose Atrium. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Restaurants

Norwegian is launching several new upscale restaurant concepts on Norwegian Prima as well as bringing back quite a few of its signature eateries. Among the newcomers is Hasuki, an elevated hibachi-style Japanese restaurant concept for Norwegian, and Nama, a sushi and sake bar that Norwegian says will also be elevated compared to the sushi bars it has offered before.

Also new will be Palomar, a Mediterranean eatery. Among the venues from earlier Norwegian ships that are making a comeback is Cagney's, the line's signature steakhouse, and French eatery Le Bistro. In both of the latter cases, though, the restaurants have striking new contemporary interior designs (see below).

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

Le Bistro, in particular, is a showstopper. The restaurant's design is built around three massive crystal chandeliers costing nearly $100,000 that hang down all the way to the floor, and it boasts gold leaf wallpaper lining its booth seating — elements that its designers said were meant to give it the feel of a Parisian apartment. Even without finishing touches such as tableclothes and tableware, it had an elegant ambiance. Cagney's features a concrete patterned ceiling meant to evoke the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and striking chartreuse chairs that pop off a geometric black-and-white carpet laying over wood floors.

Also on board Norwegian Prima will be a version of Norwegian's signature Asian-fusion eatery Food Republic; high-end Italian eatery Onda by Scarpetta, which first debuted in 2019 on Norwegian Encore; and premium Mexican outlet Los Lobos. TPG didn't get to see the latter three eateries during our tour on Friday.

Cagney's steakhouse on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Cagney's steakhouse on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Cagney's steakhouse on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Cagney's steakhouse on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Le Bistro on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Le Bistro on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Nama sushi restaurant on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Nama sushi restaurant on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Hasuki Teppanyaki restaurant on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Hasuki Teppanyaki restaurant on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Indulge Food Hall

Another major option for eating on Norwegian Prima will be Indulge Food Hall, the first food hall ever on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Located at the back of the vessel on Deck 8, it'll feature 11 venues that include a tapas-serving food truck, an Indian eatery, a noodle shop, a barbecue outlet and a rotisserie chicken outlet. In all cases, passengers can order at the specific food stations or from their table (either through a waiter or via tablets that will be at every table).

Food items will then be delivered to passengers at their tables. There is both indoor and outdoor seating.

Norwegian is promising an elevated level of food quality in the Indulge Food Hall than the typical quick-serve offerings on Norwegian ships in the past, and at no extra charge. Food from Indulge Food Hall outlets will be included in the fare.

As you can see below, finishing work continues for the venues in the Indulge Food Hall.

Indulge Food Hall will be home to Nudls, a noodle shop serving a variety of noodle dishes from around the world. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Workers were completing finishing touches at the Indulge Food Hall on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
A converted Airstream will serve as a food truck at Norwegian Prima's Indulge Food Hall. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Booths are among the sitting options at the Indulge Food Hall. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Prima Theater and Club

Norwegian has long been known for some of the best entertainment in the cruise business, and the line is promising to take its entertainment offerings to new heights with Norwegian Prima. The ship features an unusual, three-deck-high main theater that will be able to transform into four different configurations for performances, thanks to movable seating platforms. In one configuration, the seating will disappear entirely to allow the space to turn into a Las Vegas-style nightclub called the Prima Club.

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian's Latitudes loyalty program

Among several big-scale shows, the theater will be home to a 75-minute version of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical," which will end with the theater transforming into a full-scale disco for dancing to the singer's hits such as "Last Dance" and "Hot Stuff." The theater also will serve as a venue for big-production live game shows such as a version of The Price is Right where passengers will be able to win prizes as elaborate as a free car.

In its full theater configuration, it can hold 752 people.

The Prima Theater on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Prima Theater on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Prima Theater on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Prima Theater on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Prima Theater on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Prima Theater on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Casino

Located just off the Penrose Atrium, Norwegian Prima's casino (called, simply, the Casino), will offer a mix of table games and slot machines.

(Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Bars and lounges

More than half a dozen bars and lounges on Norwegian Prima will include the cozy and classy Belvedere Bar, a contemporary cocktail lounge serving crafted cocktails that is a new concept for Norwegian. Also new will be the Metropolitan, which is being billed as a sustainable bar as it'll feature "responsibly crafted" zero-waste cocktails prepared with surplus ingredients. It'll also offer a menu of "sustainable spirits" and biodynamic wines made using organic methods.

The Belvedere Bar on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Metropolitan bar on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Metropolitan bar on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

The Haven

Norwegian is taking the signature "ship-within-a-ship" luxury suite area that it offers on its vessels to a new level with Norwegian Prima. Known as The Haven, these suite areas typically are at the front of Norwegian ships and spread over just two or three decks. But on Norwegian Prima, The Haven is in a more desirable location at the back of the vessel (where it is less windy and more open) and spread out over an astounding eight decks. It features 107 suites in all, with room for around 250 passengers.

Related: How to turn a cruise on a mass-market ship into a luxury experience

Offering more suites with sweeping views than The Haven complexes on earlier Norwegian ships, the Norwegian Prima's Haven complex will feature its own private elevators to whisk passengers between its eight decks, six of which will be devoted to suites and two at the top which will be home to exclusive venues for Haven guests including a private restaurant, a private indoor lounge with a bar, and a top-of-the-ship private outdoor sun deck with an infinity pool overlooking the ship's wake — a stunning feature you won’t find at The Haven complexes on any other Norwegian ship.

Other exclusive features include a private outdoor spa with a glass-walled sauna and cold room.

The Haven was still under considerable construction at the time of our tour so we weren't able to see inside its suites.

(Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
A lounge area in The Haven on Norwegian Prima that's still under construction. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Workers put finishing touches on an infinity pool at the back of The Haven on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
A lounge area at The Haven on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
A private bar at The Haven on Norwegian Prima, still under construction. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

The Rush

Among the most notable family-friendly attractions on Norwegian Prima will be The Rush, a dual dry slide (not a water slide) that plunges 10 stories from the top of the ship to its promenade deck, twirling around the balcony areas of cabins as it does so. While we didn't get to try it during our tour on Friday, we saw it from below, and it's quite a stunning (and somewhat terrifying) sight.

The ship also will have several other major family-friendly attractions that TPG was not able to see during our visit to the ship, including the largest go-cart race track at sea. Dubbed the Prima Speedway, it'll span three decks and be 1,378 feet long — 22% longer than the current record-breaking race track on Norwegian's 3-year-old Norwegian Encore.

Norwegian Prima also will have a "tidal wave" water slide (jetting water will push you through the attraction), a kiddie aqua park, an interactive miniature golf experience and a version of the Galaxy Pavilion indoor virtual gaming complex that can be found on recently unveiled Norwegian ships.

The Rush on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Rush on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Rush on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Rush on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
The Rush on Norwegian Prima. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Coming soon: Norwegian Viva

In addition to a sneak peek at Norwegian Prima, TPG on Friday was able to get a glimpse — from a distance — of the next new ship for Norwegian, Norwegian Viva. Also under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, the second vessel in the Prima class series was visible in a dry dock just a few hundred feet from where Norwegian Prima was under construction.

As can be seen in the photo below, Norwegian Viva's exterior is essentially finished. But its interior is almost completely undone, according to Norwegian officials. The vessel is scheduled to debut in 2023.

Norwegian Viva is under construction at the Fincanteri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

Previews of cruise ships in the final stages of construction such as the one TPG received on Friday are relatively rare, and they offer a chance to see the inner workings of one of the most complex construction operations undertaken by humans.

The construction of a single big cruise ship can involve thousands of workers working nonstop for two years or more. A Norwegian executive at Friday's event said there were more than 3,000 shipyard workers working on the vessel as we visited.

From start to finish, Norwegian Prima’s construction is scheduled to take 27 months.

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Featured image by (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023