Go-karting, poolside lounging, city trips and casinos — the Norwegian Prima cruise ship is a complete revelation
I was hoping for a Titanic moment, arms outstretched and staring out at the horizon from the bow of the ship — but I couldn’t gain access.
Instead, I’m standing watching the sunset from one of the top decks of the Norwegian Prima cruise ship, and find myself peering through a Perspex barrier at a fiery orange ball in the distance. Its light glows across the undulating water below.
I can feel the motion of the boat and the rhythm of the sea. It’s calm this evening, despite being a little choppy the night before: a fact I quite liked, as it reminded me that I was indeed sailing.
Such is the size and opulence of the Norwegian Prima, it’s easy to forget you’re on a ship at times. You could be in a five-star hotel in Dubai, an upmarket restaurant in France, or a lively casino in Vegas. But then you remember that you’re on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, a novelty in itself.
This is my first ever cruise and it’s nothing like I imagined. I thought of cruises as holidays for the elderly, and in particular, wealthy Americans. Images of bad cover bands and outdated decor sprang to mind.
Literally from the moment I walk the gangplank and board, however, I realise I was wrong. People of all ages and nationalities are milling around and the decor is more akin to a luxurious modern hotel than a ship.
The Norwegian Prima was only built this year and features elegant lighting, comfortable furnishings, and artwork by the Italian graffiti artist Manuel Di Rita. Sitting in the Atrium on Deck 6, you look up to see the balconies of different levels, each lit with soft lighting and with different bars and lounging areas. The ship seems to sparkle and the sheer romance of being at sea is not lost on me.
It’s the latest ship in the Norwegian cruise line fleet and its sheer size is breath- taking. It has 20 decks, 1,600 staterooms, and can carry 3,099 guests and 1,506 staff at any one time.
A moment for my cabin, which opens onto a balcony with a table and chairs and overlooks the sea. It has an ensuite bathroom and is more like a hotel room than cramped nautical quarters. An extremely comfortable double bed, a dinky dressing table and an ample wardrobe complete the set-up.
This particular cruise started in Iceland and sailed the Norwegian Fjords before landing in Rotterdam, where I board. It will take us to the delightfully picturesque town of Bruges in Brussels, where we dock for a day, and then to Le Havre in France, before sailing to Southampton and on to New York.
Luckily, the September weather is good for our voyage, being sunny enough to take a dip in the outdoor pool or lounge in a hot tub during the day, sipping cocktails.
But there’s more than lounging on offer. There’s no shortage of activities to keep you occupied on board, including a brand-new fitness centre and state-of-the-art spa. This is the first ever cruise liner with a three-level racetrack for go-karting, as well as a number of slide experiences. In addition, there’s a games centre for children.
While you could have a fabulous holiday on the ship alone, the beauty of the cruise is that you get visit other countries. The ship sails at night, so you wake up each morning in a new destination. You disembark, spend the day there and board again each evening before it sets sail.
The ship has 18 different dining venues. Each is different and features food from various parts of the world. I breakfasted each morning in the Surfside cafe on deck 17, where I could choose from a vast array of impressive buffet-style food. This offers breakfast, lunch and snacks, and is included in your package.
The speciality restaurants on offer include the Mexican-themed Los Lobos, the Italian fine dining experience, Onda by Scarpetta, a seafood speciality restaurant called Palomar, and a Japanese-themed food experience called Hasuki. My favourite was Le Bistro, serving up the finest French cuisine in a sparkling setting, designed around massive chandeliers.
Part of the appeal of a cruise is, of course, the nightlife, and the Norwegian Prima did not disappoint. There are a total of 17 bars and lounges on the ship, and each has a completely different atmosphere. You can therefore choose to dress up and go full-on glamour at night or opt for a more relaxed, casual experience.
Take the Metropolitan, the first sustainable bar on a cruise liner. Here, soft lighting and elegant seating makes for an upmarket Manhattan atmosphere. Syd Norman’s bar, a casual haunt with rock music vibes, is an altogether different experience. If karaoke is your thing, check out the Karaoke bar, where the atmosphere is second to none and you can croon along with the other passengers.
There’s also a three-storey transformational theatre-nightclub, the Prima Theatre and Club, with the type of shows you’d see on Broadway or the West End. The Donna Summer Musical was showing on our trip, which was a highlight in itself.
In addition, there are a number of different live music shows every night, and yes, some of these feature cover bands. But even these are top of the range. Comedy gigs, DJs and even an art auction take place during my cruise.
The ship also has a casino with roulette, blackjack, and slot machines. This is a major lure for those who like to gamble. Indeed, I talked to one couple who had met whilst gambling on a cruise ship and come back each year to spend their days in the casino.
For those who prefer to go VIP, The Haven is a reserved area at the top of the ship with luxurious, well-appointed accommodation as well as a 24-hour butler service, concierge service and a private sundeck, swimming pool and hot tub.
A cruise is a great option, too, for those travelling alone. There are solo cabins with staterooms and communal areas specifically for single cruisers, which makes it easy to meet other single people. There are shore excursions, dinners, and even on-board activities specifically for solo travellers.
In general, I found both staff and the other passengers to be friendly on board, perhaps because of the shared camaraderie of being at sea together. I disembarked in Southampton, which I realised is where the Titanic first set sail on April 10, 1912 — so I got my Kate Winslet moment after all.
NORTHERN EUROPE CRUISE See sunway.ie
■ DESTINATIONS include: Northe Cay and Cozumel; Mediterranean – Italy, France, and Spain; and many others.
■ THE 10-day Northern Europe – Iceland and Norway cruise is priced from €2,417, with a fly/cruise special offer of €2,988.
■ FOR more information call 01-2311800.
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