Norwegian Cruise Line sets sail on a new journey this week with the maiden voyage of its latest ship, the Norwegian Prima, ushering in what the line describes as its ‘hybrid’ era.
A number of ‘firsts’ will make their debut, including a three-storey theatre which transforms into a Las Vegas-style nightclub at the press of a button; and the Prima Speedway – an evolution of Norwegian’s popular onboard electric go-kart track, which sees the raceway expand from two decks to three.
Norwegian Prima is the first of six sister ships to debut over as many years. Catering to 3,099 guests on a twin-share basis, the LNG-powered Prima is bolder and more luxurious than any other in the cruise line’s 18-strong fleet – Instagrammable at every turn.
Whereas some cruise lines opt to simply go bigger with each new ship, Norwegian Cruise Line is simply doing things differently with Prima, which on size alone barely fits inside the line’s Top 10.
Yet it’s not only the interior design that’s been enhanced, it’s the experience too.
It’s a trend being seen right across the cruise industry, particularly on newly-launched ships such as the Disney Wish and Discovery Princess, with the former introducing a large-scale virtual reality adventure led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse themselves, aimed at encouraging guests to explore more of the ship.
While the Prima has its own VR gaming space – Galaxy Pavilion – it has seen a greater emphasis on showcasing the outdoors. In addition, it introduces a fresh take on the cruise line’s popular VIP suite concept, The Haven, first introduced in 2011.
Combining the exclusivity of a small ship with the benefits of a large ocean liner, it’s ideal for travellers seeking a more socially-distanced yet still cost-effective holiday.
“Right from the outset, the vision for Norwegian Prima was all about creating a feeling of being at one with the sea,” NCL’s APAC Vice President & Managing Director, Ben Angell, shared with Executive Traveller.
The vast Ocean Boulevard is an ideal example of this.
Wrapping around the full Promenade deck on Level 8, Ocean Boulevard encompasses ‘The Concourse’ open-air sculpture garden and twin infinity-edge pools on either side of the ship. It’s designed to flow seamlessly from inside to out.
“Prima means ‘first’ in Italian, and it’s an incredibly apt name for this ship. Among the many firsts on board – Infinity Beach, Indulge Food Hall, the fastest slides and first three-story racetrack at sea [and] a multi-story theatre which transforms into a nightclub,” added Angell.
Consumer feedback and broader industry trends played a pivotal role in the ship’s design direction, with data revealing cruisers were seeking more unique experiences, intimate service and greater freedoms in terms of dining and entertainment.
NCL turned to several internationally renowned designers to bring its vision for the Prima to life. Among them, Miami-based Studio Dado, award-winning New York design firm Rockwell Group, and feted Italian architect Piero Lissoni.
Hidden in the back corner of the ship is The Haven, designed by Lissoni and accessible only via keycard entry. Within, it houses some of the most luxurious suites at sea including a two-bedroom family villa and multiple penthouses, most of which feature views overlooking the ship's wake.
Guests in these staterooms and suites enjoy a host of premium perks, such as 24 hour butler service and concierge, as well as the exclusive Haven Bar, Lounge and Restaurant.
A wide sundeck and infinity pool gaze out across the ship’s wake, while select cabins also boast large terraces with private hot tubs.
Those staying in The Haven also enjoy bespoke interiors liberally furnished in shades of cream and chocolate. That said, all of the Prima’s cabins and suites are stylish and have been designed to offer more room than you may have come to expect from normally compact cruise ship staterooms.
Deft hands at cruise design, having also worked previously on the Oceania Vista and the Seven Seas Grandeur, Studio Dado was tasked with the lion’s share of Prima’s design.
Within its charge was the three-storey glass-walled Penrose Atrium, Observation Lounge and Galaxy Pavilion VR gaming space, in addition to multiple staterooms, suites and restaurants.
“My favourite part of the ship is how well all spaces flow from one to another,” said Studio Dado Founding Partner, Yohandel Ruiz.
“Every ship is made of individual pieces and experiences, but Prima manages to be greater than the sum of its parts,” he revealed to Executive Traveller.
Ruiz says the design for Prima involved months of research and an enormous amount of coordination with the Fincantieri shipyard, as the team set forth to create spaces that, from a construction point of view, had never been accomplished on a ship.
“The atrium, which is the heart of the vessel, is a great example of this. Its geometry, location and varying deck openings needed to be carefully engineered to ensure structural stability, but Fincantieri rose to the challenge and managed to make the complexity of the space look simple, elegant and perfectly in line with our vision.”
Of the eight speciality dining venues onboard, Studio Dado was responsible for five: Onda by Scarpetta, Hasuki, Los Lobos, Nama and Le Bistro. It also designed Syd Norman’s Pour House, an interactive live music venue aimed at reinvigorating classic rock hits, and the Improv at Sea comedy club.
The team sought inspiration from ancient Rome when designing the signature Italian fine dining venue Onda by Scarpetta, which will also feature on Norwegian Spirit when she arrives for a summer season in Australia in December 2022.
In a nod to the restaurant’s name (‘onda’ means wave in Italian) it features rippling wave-like arches that flow from the ceiling to the floor.
Diners can also enjoy a double dose of Japanese fare: sushi and sashimi in Nama, and teppanyaki at Hasuki. The latter is housed in a gallery-like space filled with pottery and artworks by contemporary Japanese artists, all displayed on floating, minimalist shelves.
Speaking of art, that’s another key element of the Prima. The ship boasts a curated, mostly original collection valued at US$6 million. Its hull art is equally impressive and a Norwegian Cruise Line hallmark.
Among the 700 publicly-displayed pieces are six installations by metal artist Alexander Krivosheiw and an art wall designed by David Harber.
For a hit of excitement (not to mention a great way to avoid waiting for elevators), guests can try their hand at The Drop and The Rush – duelling dry slides which twist, turn and plunge over 10 storeys. At the other end of the adrenalin scale is the Mandara Spa – boasting a two storey waterfall, ice room, and salt pool. It’s also home to the cruise industry’s first charcoal sauna.
Prima’s inaugural season will take in parts of Northern Europe from Reykjavik to the Orkney Islands, followed by a transatlantic crossing to New York, Galveston and Miami, from which it will explore the Caribbean.