Norwegian Prima photos: We got early access to Norwegian Cruise Line's first new ship in nearly 3 years
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Located just off the Penrose Atrium, Norwegian Prima's casino (called, simply, the Casino), will offer a mix of table games and slot machines.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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