Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
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Ships:Norwegian Cruise Line revolutionized the industry when it introduced "Freestyle Cruising," which allowed passengers greater freedom to dine when they like, with extended restaurant hours; where they like, with a number of alternative venues; with whom they like, with open seating; freedom to dress as they please, with a "resort casual" dress code at night – and other relaxations of the usual cruise ship procedures. One of the most appealing freestyle elements is Norwegian's disembarkation procedure, which is far more relaxed and pleasant than is usual on other large vessels.
The Norwegian Epic and the Norwegian Breakaway have more than 20 dining venues (with electronic reservation systems), luxury villas, interconnecting cabins, family-suitable suites, multi-purpose indoor and outdoor spaces, huge waterparks, bowling alleys, champagne bars, ice bars, solo cabins (the first in the industry) and superior live entertainment.
Two new "Project Breakaway" builds are scheduled: for fall 2015 and spring 2017.
At a time when air travel is becoming increasingly unpleasant, especially for families, Norwegian offers departures from a number of U.S. homeports, including New York, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston and Tampa. Also appealing: the line often advertises excellent discount deals, such as $99 children's fares and complimentary onboard credits.
NCL is the only cruise line that offers year-round Hawaii cruises.
Adults and families who want a fun and lively cruise experience where there are few rules or fixed schedules. Solo travelers who don't want to pay a single supplement.
Atmosphere and Experience Onboard:
There is so much to see and do aboard Norwegian's newer ships: Latin-inspired dance productions by Burn the Floor, The GRAMMY® experience at sea, world-class magicians, really good comedy shows, fireworks at sea, a "hot" ice bar – and a wealth of dining options to satisfy any foodie, along with an outpost of The Cake Boss's Carlo's Bakery.
There's generally a surcharge for specialty dining and reservations are necessary (savvy passengers hit the electronic reservations asap to avoid disappointment). Regardless of the event or dining venue, no one is ever required to put on formal dress; resort casual is fine for restaurant dining and the usual shorts and flip-flops are okay for almost everything else.
Norwegian ships feature full-service Mandara spas, which also offer popular specialties like teeth whitening.
A mix of age groups, including the usual mature travelers, but also young families and couples, both straight and gay. Mostly American but also other English speakers from the U.K, Australia and New Zealand.
Policies regarding children onboard:
Children under six months of age may not travel on Norwegian ships. The Splash Academy program accommodates and engages kids from six months to 12 years old. (For the six month to three-year-old group, at least one parent must attend with the child.)
Norwegian doesn't offer babysitting service, but it does have Group Sitting Services for kids ages three to 12, every night from 10:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. and on port days when the ship is docked.
On most sailings, the line offers heavily discounted rates for the third to eighth guest, which should appeal to families traveling with multiple kids.
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