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7 Things You Should Know Before Your First Cruise With Norwegian Cruise Line

If you’re taking your first cruise with NCL below are 7 things that I think you should know.

I love Norwegian and have been cruising with them since I was 11 when I was lucky enough to cruise to Alaska on the Norwegian Spirit.

NCL’s cruising style is all about relaxation and being able to do things on your own schedule.

Knowing the following 7 tips will help you get the most out of your cruise!

Emma cruises Norwegian prima Hudson's
Hudson’s main dining room on Norwegian Prima

1. Freestyle dining – Means No Table Sharing

No Set Meal Times or Dress Codes

On Norwegian, there are no set meal times and no dress codes.

I love the flexibility of “Freestyle dining” which means that you can eat whenever you are hungry.

You never have to share a table which is brilliant. You just show up whenever you want and get seated, much like a normal restaurant on land.

I usually cruise in a group of 2 and 4 and I don’t recall ever having to wait for a table. I do dine pretty early though.

When the restaurant is busy you will be given one of those pager things that vibrate so you can go and get a drink.

You can also book restaurants via the Norwegian Cruiseline App.

You don’t need to buy the ship’s WiFi To use the Cruise ship’s app. Find out more about that here:

You Don’t Need to Pay For Wi-Fi To Use a Cruise Line App – Here’s Why

Main Dining Rooms

Norwegian usually has the option of 2 or 3 main dining rooms, which are large and offer the more traditional cruise dining experience -minus the dress code.

They usually all have the same menu which changes each day.

The restaurant on the Norwegian Spirit has HUGE windows which span the length of the restaurant which I really loved.

Norwegian Spirit Little Emma and Libby
My cousin and I standing by the Norwegian Spirit, you can see the large windows at the back

Buffet/O’Sheehans/ The Local

There is also a buffet on all ships and a pub-type restaurant, usually called O’Sheehans or The Local on more modern ships.

The Local Bar and Grill
The Local Bar and Grill – Image Norwegian Cruise Line.

Speciality Restaurants

There are also a number of speciality restaurants which cost extra, these can get quite busy and you do have to book to dine in these.

You can book Speciality Restaurants easily and quickly via the cruise ship App

Speciality dining is sometimes offered as part of a booking perk, for example as part of their “Free at Sea” package.

norwegian prima speciality dining palomar food
Norwegian Prima Speciality Dining Palomar Mediterranean Restaurant

There are many speciality restaurants onboard Norwegian ships.

They have an additional cover charge per person, or you can buy a “Speciality Dining Package” at a reduced rate if you want to try a number of different restaurants.

Go medium-rare at Cagney’s Steakhouse, savour délicieuse French cuisine at Le Bistro or try succulent Brazilian barbecue meats at Moderno Churrascaria. The choice is yours and the flavours endless!

Norwegian Cruise Line
Teppanyaki norwegian cruise line NCL dining

I have always found the food on NCL to be brilliant, it is not as ‘posh’ as on some other cruise lines – but I much prefer this as it means you get large portions.

You’ll never go hungry on an NCL cruise, there are so many options that there is something to suit everybody.

To read more about NCL’s freestyle dining check out this post:

Freestyle dining explained.

2. Book the shows on newer ships

They have some brilliant shows on NCL. There is a variety of performances in the theatre and there is something on every night.

They always have dancers, and singers – and usually have a magician or comedian too.

Each cruise they have a Broadway-style theatre production, and they’re normally really good.

It blows my mind how they can perform and dance as they do on a rocking ship! 

I recently sailed on Norwegian Prima. The shows onboard didn’t disappoint. To find out more about that amazing ship, watch this video next:

Booking Shows

When cruising with NCL, check to see if you must pre-book the shows. In the past I have arrived onboard to find that some of the best shows are already sold out.

You only have to pre book Theatre shows on the newer Norwegian ships, with more passengers

Ideally, book the shows before you cruise, you can do this on the NCL App. If not try to book them on your first day onboard.

You can do this through your stateroom TV or through the phone App. It doesn’t matter if you don’t end up going, they will just give away your space to somebody else.

When you get to the theatre your room keycard is scanned to check that you have pre-booked, you can go into the theatre around 30 minutes prior to show time.

If you haven’t booked you are made to wait outside until ten minutes before the show when they give away the remaining seats.

You more than likely will still get a seat like this but they’re likely to be the worst seats in the theatre.

Norwegian Prima Theatre
Norwegian Prima Theatre

3. Get ready to be busy! (If you want to be)

NCL are one of these cruise lines that fills every inch of the ship with things to do.

If you like waterslides/rock climbing/ropes courses/bowling/ Go Karting etc then NCL is ideal for you!

I tried all of the water slides, slides and Go Karts on Norwegian Prima. Find out how I got on here:

Freestyle Daily

Every night a ‘Freestyle Daily’ will be placed on your bed. This paper sheet lets you know what is happening the following day.

You can also find the same information on the NCL App.

The Freestyle Daily is the timetable of where and when events are taking place around the ship. There are events going on from way before I get up until way after I go to bed!

One of the things which I particularly enjoy about NCL is that you can just go for a wander and you are sure to find something going on somewhere.

The ships are always filled with live music and there are a number of gameshows/presentations every day.

Norwegian Prima Music at the Metropolitan Bar
Norwegian Prima Music in the Metropolitan Bar

4. There is a “Corkage” Charge If you Bring alcohol onboard

On other cruise lines, you are able to bring on alcohol without a corkage charge – providing that you don’t take it into the restaurants.

This isn’t the case on NCL. You can bring onboard corked wine but that is subject to a corkage fee which is $15.00 for a 750ml bottle or $30.00 USD 1,500 ml

This charge has never seemed worth it to me, so I haven’t ever brought wine onboard.

You can’t bring on any non-alcoholic drinks, beers or liquors onboard. They will put your bags through an airport-style scanner when you board to make sure you don’t sneak anything on.

norwegian cruise line NCL drinks beverage package

5. No Free Room Service Or Laundry

I have been on other cruise lines that provide free Room Service.

This isn’t free on NCL, at the time of writing it costs $9.95 per order.

There also is no free laundry room where you can do your washing/laundry.

When you reach the higher tiers of latitudes you do get a free bag of laundry though which is brilliant.

Find out more about the laundry service on Norwegian Cruise Line here;

Norwegian Cruise Line Laundry – Price List, Services, and Packages

6. It’s Perfect for Kids/Teenagers

I have been cruising on NCL since I was 11. Below is a photo of me as a kid, in my NCL club hat!

When I was a child I attended the kids’ clubs and spent time in the teen lounges when I was a teenager.

From personal experience. I would say that NCL is one of the better cruise lines when it comes to kids.

They have a lot of events going on for them every day, and most ships have a “Teen Lounge” where teenagers can hang out away from their parents.

When I would go to the Teen Lounge with my friends we would play on the Playstation or play Pool.

I met lots of people in the Kids/Teen clubs onboard, many of whom I still are friends with to this day! (Well Facebook friends.. that counts right?).

If you have kids or teenagers I would definitely recommend NCL as a cruise line to consider.

Many cruise lines are now trying to appeal to children and young adults. Find out more about that here:

Are Cruises For Young People? Why are more young people cruising Than Ever?

7 – The Waterfront

One of my favourite things about NCL is “The Waterfront”

Most other cruise ships have a promenade deck but NCL take this idea to the next level with restaurants and bars where you can sit out and watch the world go by.

I often cruise in inside cabins so I like to treat the waterfront as my own giant balcony.

The Waterfront
The Waterfront – Image Norwegian Cruise Line

I would often would grab a drink, find a comfy chair and read a book. If you are cruising with NCL make sure you take advantage of this! I really miss it when I cruise on other cruise lines.

Before You Go

I recently sailed on Norwegian Prima, and found what i think is my favourite ever balcony cabin. Read all about that here:

I Stayed in a Balcony Cabin on The Norwegian Prima (Full Review)

Find out everything I ate onboard Prima, in the main restaurants and in the Speciality Restaurants here:

Everything I Ate on Norwegian Prima (Menus, Speciality and Included Dining)

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.


Saturday 7th of October 2017

Hi really enjoyed your blog and all the comments. We have been on 2 cruises this year (our first times) both with NCL - first one was in May on the Epic in the Haven and second was in Sept on the Star. Prior to these trips we never really fancied cruising but my partner and I are now totally hooked.

Loved NCL, perfect holidays, very few children (although we did go when they were in school) and found a mixture of ages - I don’t agree that NCL is more for youngsters as we are both in our 60s - I would highly recommend them, had a fabulous time and no complaints whatsoever - well apart from the fact they weren’t long enough and we had to go home lol !!

Emma Le Teace

Sunday 5th of November 2017

Doesn't take much to get you hooked! So glad you've got the cruising bug.

I don't think NCL are aiming solely at youngsters, but they are more for youngsters than some other cruise lines. Having to go home is always a problem.. but I don't think they'd let us stay on forever :(

Victoria Hughes

Sunday 5th of March 2017

I'm with you on the whole dining thing! NCL's style just suits me ☺️ plus the blue lagoon/o'sheeans provides comfort food but still offers waiter service which is the dream ? A personal NCL fave of mine that was not mentioned is white hot ✨ Always my fav night on board


Friday 10th of March 2017

I don't think there was a white hot party on my last cruise? Think that's why I didn't include it...

I do love the ncl food though, I sheerans buffalo wings are amazzzing!!!!!

*o sheehans!! (Been listening to Ed sheerans too much my phone corrected it ha ha)


Tuesday 10th of January 2017

Ha ha! I don't even know what pre booled would be :').

Normally to book the shows you log onto NCL and select your cruise then it'll let you book BUT... if I'm correct here, you don't have to book the Jewel's shows. It's only the larger ships you have to book on, there's normally more variety on the smaller ships so that's good! You should still be able to see what shows are on on there though (the main ones anyway). If not head over to the forum cruise critic, they'll have tons of reviews of the cruise I'm sure :)

Thank you for commenting!

Richard Pontone

Friday 6th of January 2017

I have been on 8 Norwegian cruises and it is not definitely just for young people except for the 10:30 pm dance parties. As a 65 year old man, i have noticed a lot of older people on these cruises although I have not cruised on Spring Break or when the young (younger than 18) children are out of school--usually cruise prices are higher and I do not need 500 children running around a ship. As for the pre booking the nightly shows, I have been exclusively on the Jewel class Norwegian ships like the Jade, and the Gem, and there is no pre-booking but I have been in Oceanview and Inside cabins. If you show up fifteen minutes before the nightly show, you can get your choice of seats, first come, first served. What I love about Norwegian, is that although it is a budget cruise line, the ship's staff and crew are highly motivated to please you, and the ships, some of them over 12 years old, are always clean and well maintained. If you are a foodie, you will not get haute cuisine here. You go to the high priced cruise lines and pay twice as much for that quality type of food.


Sunday 8th of January 2017

Hey! Thanks for commenting.

Completely agree about the 500 kids running around, I have been on some of those cruises and they can get so loud. I can't moan though as I was once one of those cruising children. In regards to the food I suppose it is just what you like, I much prefer the NCL food to the food that I had on Cunard recently, but I guess I have simply tastes and prefer bigger portions! Always a lot of variety on a cruise so food definitely is one of my favourite parts about the whole thing.


Monday 2nd of January 2017

A great blog and very seems that NCL is more suited to younger people. I like that there is no dress code for evening meal. If you are going on your own, you'd feel a bit daft getting all dressed up and turning up on your own! I also like that you have to book in advance to see a show. I went with P&O and it's a first come first served so unless you get their early then you could miss out. Or you end up standing on the side which isn't comfortable. One thing though I would like to know about NCL, what's their doctors/ emergency services like - how much does it cost if you need to use them? I guess if you haven't used them then you're unlikely to know, but I needed a doctor for my grandad on P&O and they came to the room very quickly and were brilliant - cost was £35.00.


Sunday 8th of January 2017

I'm surprised to see how little P&O charged for the doctor's visit - good to know if sail with them. We never travel without insurance that has cruise cover - should medical evacuation be required it will be costly..Fingers crossed - never needed to see doc :)


Thursday 5th of January 2017

Heya! Thank you for your kind words, glad you've found the blog useful. I really like NCL incase you haven't noticed... it's so easy with the freestyle dining. I believe that NCL's doctors/emergency services are around the same cost, all cruise lines, as far as I know outsource their medicial teams (to minimise liability probably). I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same company that runs the medicial department on multiple cruise lines. I haven't had any experience with their medical team personally but haven't ever heard anything negative about them.

Thank you for taking the time to comment :)