thanks to Gene Sloan / March 19, 2019
Thinking about booking your first cruise? The sheer range of choices can be daunting. There are more than two dozen lines marketing to North Americans — no two alike.
That’s why TPG put together a quick guide to 16 of the most popular brands, from cruise giant Royal Caribbean, which operates the world’s biggest ships, to small luxury players such as Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas.
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Multi-story water slides, ropes courses and even go-cart race tracks are among the gee-whiz attractions you’ll find atop Norwegian’s giant, resort-like ships, which also are packed with eateries, bars, showrooms and casinos. If you’re looking for a Las Vegas-style resort at sea, this is your line.
Norwegian Cruise Line ships can range in size from holding 2,000 people to 4,500 at full occupancy, and the number and variety of onboard dining and entertainment options vary a lot depending on how big, and old, the ship is.
The newest ships, those that launched in 2010 or later, have many more restaurants than the older ships, Broadway shows in the main theater (as well as secondary small-venue shows) and extensive top-deck activities including water parks, rope courses and more. They're busier ships, where the ship and all it offers is as much a reason for cruising as the destination.
The older, smaller ships are more about relaxation and traditional onboard activities like trivia, bingo and poolside games. However, when it comes to dining, all the ships have multiple main dining rooms, a top-deck buffet and a 24-hour diner-type eatery.
All also have an extra-fee steakhouse, Italian trattoria and French bistro.
Unlike other big-ship cruise lines, Norwegian Cruise Line does not have traditional set-time dining on any of its ships. Cruisers can show up to any main dining room at any time they want during open hours. Large parties can make reservations if they'll need a larger table; for everyone else, there may be a wait during peak dining hours. Reservations are highly recommended for the smaller specialty dining venues, as time slots fill up fast.
The Breakaway class
Features NCL’s “Freestyle Cruising” concept that the company pioneered with the introduction of 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic in June 2010 and the launch of two Breakway class vessels, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway based in New York in May 2013 and sister ship Norwegian Getaway homeported in Miami in February 2014. The Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway weight in at 146,600 gross tons.
Norwegian Getaway 146,000 2014 Breakaway Norwegian Breakaway146,600 2013 Breakaway
Norwegian Bliss 167.700 2018 Breakaway-Plus
Norwegian Joy 167,000 2017 Breakaway-Plus Norwegian Escape 164,600 2015 Breakaway-Plus
With so much going on, Norwegian Epic is a cruise ship with broad appeal. The ship was one of the first at sea to be referred to as Las Vegas-esque and it's no wonder. With more than a dozen restaurants, shows that range from Broadway to The Beatles, an active casino and outdoor attractions that include water slides and rock climbing walls, there's enough to keep cruisers busy from sunup to well past sundown.
The Jewel class
The Jewel class is a class of cruise ships operated by the Norwegian Cruise Line and was built by Meyer Werft of Germany. The Jewel class became NCL's largest ships, until the construction of Norwegian Epic, at 153,000-GT, in 2009 at STX Europe in St. Nazaire, which is also owned by NCL. The lead ship, Norwegian Jewel was delivered in August 2005 and the last vessel, the Norwegian Gem was delivered in October 2007
Norwegian Gem 93,000 2007 Jewel Norwegian Pearl 93,000 2006 Jewel Norwegian Jade 93,000 2006 Jewel Norwegian Jewel 93,000 2005 Jewel
The Dawn Class
Norwegian Cruise Line's two-ship Dawn Class comprises Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn, each holding around 2,340 passengers. Launched in 2001 and 2002 respectively, these well-traveled sister ships are among the most seasoned vessels in Norwegian's fleet. The smaller size of the Dawn-class ships means they lack the show-stopping features found on the line's newest ships, but they do offer a wide array of restaurant.
Norwegian Dawn 91,740 2002 Dawn Norwegian Star 91,740 2001 Dawn
Norwegian Dawn is built for Freestyle Cruising with 12 different restaurants, nine bars and lounges, fitness center and spa, Broadway Theater, casino, three pools and more - making sure you never run out of things to see and do on your trip.
Norwegian Dawn is truly a beauty - you'll recognize her by the Statue of Liberty adorning the hull - and she's been New York's favorite ship since she began sailing from the Big Apple in 2003. Norwegian Dawn is built for Freestyle Cruising with 12 different restaurants, nine bars and lounges, fitness center and spa, Broadway Theater, casino, three pools and more - making sure you never run out of things to see and do on your trip. Take a break from the big city and head aboard Norwegian Dawn to the Bahamas, Caribbean or Canada & New England.
Norwegian Star was built for Freestyle Cruising, with a long list of options for every Tom, Dick and Jane out there. You'll have 13 superb choices for dining, with tempting selections that range from Asian fusion and French Mediterranean to all-American. There is a wide array of staterooms and suites to accommodate however you choose to spend your time on board, so treat yourself with a no-rules, freedom filled cruise north to Alaska's pristine waters or south to the Mexican Riviera.
The Sky &Spirit Class
Norwegian Sky is not the newest ship at sea, but it packs a big punch with a fun slate of nonstop activities, lively lounges, a good variety of dining venues and terrific short itineraries. Built in 1999, the ship is one of two in Norwegian's fleet to include a beverage package in the price of its short warm-weather cruises.
One of the smallest ships in Norwegian Cruise Line's fleet, the 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit is in a class by itself, literally — it's the only ship in the Spirit class. Norwegian Spirit is also one of the line's older ships (it was built in 1998) though technical parts of the ship were updated in 2017. And while it doesn't have the amusement park-style attractions of the line's newer vessels, these cruises are a good value, and the ship never feels crowded.
Norwegian Sun is one of two Sun-class ships with Norwegian Cruise Line, and entered service in 2001. The mid-sized vessel holds 1,936 guests and sails to Alaska, the Caribbean, South America, and the Mexican Riviera. On the Sun’s longer itineraries, you’ll find more couples and families with grown kids or adult groups on most sailings.
Norwgian Sun 78,309 2001 Sky/Sun
Norwegian Spirit 75,338 2000 Spirit Norwegian Sky 77,104 1999 Sky/Sun
Oceania has carved out a niche with relatively small, upscale ships that offer a significant upgrade from mass-market vessels but aren’t quite as fancy (or pricey) as luxury offerings. Its six ships feature a relaxed, country club-like ambiance and inspired dining that appeals to a mostly older crowd. In addition to standard itineraries, Oceania offers 180-day Around the World cruises.