Norwegian Cruise Line Ships: Which one is best?

It’s important to choose the right cruise ship for a perfect cruise vacation. Norwegian Cruise Line have a huge range of ships so it can be quite difficult to pick the best one for you.

Each ship caters to a different type of cruiser. Some are great for families while others appeal mainly to adults. It’s important to choose the best Norwegian Cruise Line ship for you. It can be the difference between having a good cruise experience or a great one.

In this guide we will go through all Norwegian Cruise Line ships, explain who each ship is best for and highlight the pros and cons of each vessel.

How many ships does Norwegian Cruise Line have?

Norwegian Cruise Line has 17 ships. These are divided into 8 different types known as “classes”. Ships range from medium-sized vessels carrying around 2,000 passengers to huge mega-ships carrying over 4,000 passengers.

What is the newest Norwegian Cruise Line ship?

Norwegian Cruise Line ships new

The newest Norwegian Cruise Line ship is the Norwegian Encore launched in 2014. She is the She is the fourth Breakaway Plus-class ship carrying over 6,000 passengers and crew. The ship is the 9th largest cruise ship in the world after Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas.

Norwegian Cruise Line Ships

Let’s look at every Norwegian Cruise Line ship from the smallest to largest. We will group the ships into classes starting with the Norwegian Spirit.

Norwegian Spirit

Photo: Norwegian Cruise LIne

Norwegian Spirit, built-in 1998, holds around 2000 passengers. She’s undergone a massive 100 million dollar refurbishment program in 2020. The whole ship has transformed and features new dining venues, lounges and cabins. She is almost brand new again.

 She’s a smaller ship so much easier to get around but she still is very lively. With over 17 new dining venues and 12 bars and lounges there is plenty to enjoy onboard. She does not feature much entertainment or family-friendly features like waterslides.

Norwegian Spirit sailes in Europe and is a great ship to see the smaller ports.

Norwegian Spirits is best for people who want to enjoy smaller ship experience. There is not the features and entertainment compared to the new ship. You may not miss the entertainment. as the ship is usually found on port-intensive itineraries. 

She’s an absolute firm favourite of the fleet with Norwegian Cruise Line fans.

Pride of America

The third unclassed ship in the NCL fleet is the Pride of America. She’s very different from the rest of the fleet but does share many of the dining options found on other ships. 

Built and registered in the USA in 2005, the ship holds around 2200 passengers.

The ship has a stylish and comfortable Americana theme that reflects the different states of America. Pride of America has 15 restaurants and 12 bars and lounges meaning there’s plenty of options. But, people say the entertainment could be better as she has no Broadway shows.

Pride of America only sails around the Hawaiian islands. The itineraries are port-intensive so is perfect for those who want to see as much of Hawaii as possible. 

This is the ship is for anyone who wants to see the different islands of Hawaii. The ships are not recommended for those who want lots of entertainment of families. 

Sun Class

The Sun Class features two ships; the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun.

Both ships were built in 1999 and 2000 and hold around 2000 ships meaning they are Norwegian’s smallest ships.

They still pack a punch even though they are smaller ships. Especially with the recent refurbishments. 

You will never go hungry or thirsty. Both ships feature main dining rooms, buffet, 24-hour pub and grill. Plus several speciality restaurants. There are also over five bars and lounges on each ship.

Norwegian Sun Sun Club Casino

Neither ship has the Haven suite-only area but does feature suites. 

The main difference between the two ships is that Norwegian Sun has more amenities. It includes more bars, pools, a Starbucks and cabin types. 

Norwegian Sun Atrium

Both ships sail in the Caribbean during the winter. The Norwegian Sky also sails longer Alaska and Panama Canal itineraries. 

These Norwegian Cruise Line ships are best suited for people who enjoy a smaller ship experience. But don’t want to sacrifice on the choice of dining or evening entertainment. They are best for cruisers who can keep themselves occupied. They are great for people who have never cruised before too as the small ship feel is so much easier to enjoy.

Dawn Class ships

Dawn Cruise Ship
Norwegian Dawn – Photo: NCL

The Dawn class also features two ships, the Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn.

 These ships hold around 2400 passengers. Even though they are small ships, some passengers complain about a confusing layout. 

Norwegian Star Atrium

The ships launched in the early noughties. Despite their age, recent refurbishments have brought this duo up to date. But they still lack show-stopping features found on Norwegian’s newest ships. 

They a wide choice of restaurants. There are 5 complimentary dining venues including a grill and an Asian eatery. There’s also plenty of extra fee speciality restaurants.

You won’t find Broadway-style shows in the theatre. But you will find musical performances, live music around the ship and a DJ in the nightclub. 

Again these ships don’t have a private Haven area but do feature family and three-bedroom Garden Villas!

 Norwegian Dawn sails Bermuda, Canada, New England and The Caribbean. The Norwegian Star sails Europe in the summer and Caribbean during the winter. 

These ships are great for people who like less active vacations but with still a great dining choice. There’s a lovely relaxed atmosphere on board and there are some great short cruise and weekend options. They attract a broad spectrum of passengers who want to enjoy the freestyle way of cruising at a reasonable price.

Jewel Class ships

The Jewel Class features four ships; Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem.

 This class of ship is like the Dawn Class but a bit bigger holding around 2400 people.

 All four ships are near identical with only subtle differences. They launched in the mid-noughties and refurbished in the last few years. They are small, comfortable ships and easy to get around. 

These ships have a lovely relaxed atmosphere with lots of open spaces. There’s loads of bars, lounges and a large theatre. 

These ships take a more traditional approach to cruising. They have more traditional amenities. Such as basketball/volleyball courts, golf driving nets and large sun decks.

On a night these ships come to life. Whilst you won’t find Broadway productions, they still have productions in the theatre. There is also live music, magic, comedy and parties. 

These ships can sail in Alaska, Australia, Europe, Caribbean and out of New York. 

All these ships feature the private Haven Suite area. Complete with private pools and suite areas. 

The class is great for those who like a relaxing cruise with plenty of freestyle options. They suit cruisers who don’t need a lot of high-tech activities. You won’t find go-karts, ropes courses or big water parks on these ships. 

The longer itineraries attract older passengers. The shorter cruises attract a mix of passengers. 

They are not as suited to family cruising as some of the newer ships but are great for short trips.

Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic, built-in 2010, had a full refurbishment in 2015. She’s a larger ship holding 4100 passengers. 

She is an ugly ship from the outside, resembling a lego block, but inside she is beautiful.

There is something for everyone on Epic and the ship is really fun. It has Broadway shows, climbing walls, outdoor screens and waterslides. There are 20 dining options and a fun atmosphere all around the ship.

On top of all that, Norwegian Epic also has an ice bar, a night club with a bowling alley and a comedy club.

She has a great solo area for solo travellers, this includes a solo lounge and purpose-built solo cabins. Norwegian Epic sails in Europe in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. 

Norwegian Epic is a good all-rounder ship. The ship is popular with families, solo travellers and adults who like fun on vacation. 

Families enjoy kids clubs and activities. During school holidays you will find loads of families on-board and it can get very congested. 

The many bars and adults-only sundeck make it attractive to adults and solo cruisers. 

Breakaway Class ships

The Breakaway class features two ships; the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.

These ships launched in 2013 and 2014 and hold just under 4000 people. 

These are all fantastic, fun-filled ships. They include Aqua parks, ropes courses, mini-golf and a sports complex. There is plenty of entertainment with Broadway shows, dinner shows and a night club. 

These ships also beautiful waterfront. This is an outdoor promenade deck over a quarter of a mile long. It features outdoor restaurants and bars.

You will find loads of dining venues, lounges and bars. Including the Skyy Vodka Ice Bar, a bar made completely of ice! 

These ships feature a large Haven suite area with a dedicated pool, lounge and restaurant. Solo travellers can enjoy a fantastic solo area with a lounge and solo cabins. 

Cruisers choosing this class should prepare to pre-plan for the onboard experience. It’s essential to make reservations for shows and dining before your cruise starts.

These ships are for those who want to have fun with loads of activities and entertainment. There’s so much to do and enjoy onboard so they are great for couples, families and more active people. 

Breakaway-Plus Class

Finally, we have the Breakaway Plus class. These are the newest ships built from 2015 onward. 

This class features four ships; Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore.

These ships are essentially a bigger version of the Breakaway-class. They hold around 4000 passengers and feature many of the same features.

The newer ships; Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore, do have a few extras. Such as the amazing panoramic observation lounge at the front of the ship, a Laser tag arena and go-karts. Bear in mind that many of these activities come with an extra cost that is not included in your cruise.

Waterslides on the Norwegian Bliss – Photo: Ben & David

Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Encore also have the new Galaxy Pavilion VR playground. This has replaced the adults-only Spice H20 pool area at the back of the ship. Again, this is an extra charge and means there are less outdoor areas to enjoy.

All ships have water slides, plenty of dining, entertainment and the amazing Waterfront boardwalk.

The Breakaway-plus class sail the Caribbean in the winter and Alaska in the summer.

This class is great for those who love a fun, high-energy holiday with loads to do and enjoy. 

They are also great for families but remember that many of the activities are an extra cost. This can be expensive for families.

If you prefer a more relaxed cruise one of the smaller and older ships will suit you better.

Future Norwegian Cruise Line ships

Norwegian Encore was the last of the current Breakaway-class. So far, little detail has been released about Norwegian Cruise Lines new ships coming in 2022. Four ships will be built and will accommodate approximately 3,300 passengers. They will focus on energy efficiency and reducing the impact of cruising on the environment.

Once you have made the right choice you can relax knowing that you are going to have a great time. Still unsure if Norwegian Cruise Line is for you? Watch our Norwegian Cruise Line vs Royal Caribbean video below.

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David McDonald
As one half of Cruise with Ben & David I am a huge cruise enthusiast and have sailed on over 30 cruises. On dry land, I am a Head of Design at a digital media company based in London. I have had the opportunity to work with brands such as the Financial Times and The Telegraph.