I recently had the opportunity to sail Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Viva, on a special three-night christening voyage out of Miami. This was my first time experiencing the Prima Class, as I haven’t sailed sister ship Norwegian Prima. As such, my first impressions of Norwegian Viva will not only be my impressions of the ship itself, but also of the Prima class as a whole.
For additional reference, I have previously sailed three other NCL ships: Norwegian Star, Joy, and Encore. I’ve also taken cruises on multiple other lines, including main competitors Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
My First Impressions of Norwegian Viva
Interior Design and Architecture
One of the ways Norwegian Viva shines the brightest is in its interior design and architecture. The ship’s design team included big names in the interior and architecture industry including Miami-based Studio DADO, Rockwell Group from New York, London’s SMC Design, and Italian architect Piero Lissoni… and it shows. Everything you’d expect from modern and trendy restaurants, bars, and hotels can pretty much be found on Viva.
Something I really love is that even though furnishings are very much modern and on-trend, they’re still approachable. You won’t see a chair you aren’t sure how to sit in or a couch that feels like a rock. The marriage of comfort and style is exceptional on this ship.
I also loved the use of texture, color, and unique artwork in various spots around the ship — especially in Indulge Food Hall and The Local. Indulge Food Hall really impressed me. Each food station area had its own unique theme, and there were lots of different seating options.
I also noted the use of curves throughout Norwegian Viva, both indoors and outside. So many aspects of the Penrose Atrium feature curves, from the ceiling lighting design to the cutouts on each deck and the furniture that inhabits the space. The Improv comedy club features circular ceiling lighting, and there’s a wavy lighting element in the spa’s thermal suite. Cabins feature a number of curved design elements as well. This adds a softness to a space that often (and does) feature a lot of corners and straight lines.
It’s hard to really give you a full impression on a ship’s layout when I only got to spend three nights on board. However, I’m going to say that Viva’s layout isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not one of my favorites. I think it’s just too easy to get turned around and not be able to easily find your way from one end of a deck to the other.
One day I was trying to get from one end of the casino to something on the other side, and got to the closed-off smoking room. Apparently, that side of the casino didn’t connect to the rest of the ship; I had to go to the other side. I wish it was more obvious somehow.
Another time, I was on an outer deck trying to go back inside and was going in circles trying to find a door. I barely spent any time on the lido deck because for me it just didn’t seem like a place I naturally had to be or pass through very often (which is odd because it’s such a common space to be in on most cruises). And I forgot the ship even had an observation lounge until a day or two in because I hadn’t yet found it during my explorations — it is tucked behind the Galaxy Pavilion, a virtual reality gaming area.
With all of this in mind, I recognize these aren’t major issues. The layout could be better in spots, but I don’t think it’s awful by any means. The ship takes some getting used to, but there are interactive screens with deck plans near every main elevator bank — a very welcomed feature.
Having never sailed NCL’s Prima Class before, I didn’t know what to expect when walking into my family balcony cabin on Norwegian Viva and was not disappointed upon opening the door. I can honestly say that my stateroom on Viva was one of my favorites I’ve ever had.
There’s a built-in closet with lots of hanging space, some shelving, and metal drawers. There’s also a great desk/vanity area with a lit mirror, soft stool, and mini fridge. A full-size sofa bed, a queen bed that can convert to two twin beds, two nightstands, and a large flat-screen TV complete the indoor furnishings.
I especially appreciated the four hooks on the wall. These provide a great spot to hang purses, hats, sweatshirts, and anything else that you don’t want taking up space elsewhere.
The bathroom was perhaps the biggest highlight of the cabin. I thought the blue, white, and soft brown tones worked perfectly. The bathroom overall and the shower specifically are larger than many you’ll find on cruise ships. And the shower (thankfully!) features a glass door. The sink is large as well, and a small counter area plus three upper shelves and two lower shelves provide more than enough bathroom storage space. The vanity features a vertical wooden design that warmed up the space nicely.
Onto the balcony: I thought it was great. The depth was more than enough space, and the chairs were a nice surprise. They were more trendy and modern than the standard chairs you’d see on most cruise balconies.
The one complaint I’d note about my cabin is that the bathroom door closed (or almost closed) on its own. Even after opening it as far as I could, it would still swing shut. But this is a small issue and doesn’t take away from how much I loved this stateroom. I think NCL should use this template for all of their balcony staterooms moving forward.
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Dining on Norwegian Viva
During my three-night cruise, I had the opportunity to try several dining options on the ship. I will only be touching on the ones I tried. There are many more restaurants that I didn’t get a chance to dine in due to the nature (and length) of this voyage. I dined at one of the main dining rooms, Hudson’s, as well as Indulge Food Hall, The Local, the buffet, and the French specialty restaurant Le Bistro.
It was my first time dining at Le Bistro and Indulge Food Hall — all of the other venues I’ve experienced on other ships. Le Bistro was very nice – with its light color scheme and multiple huge floor-to-ceiling chandeliers. I’m not a big French food person, but for what it was the meal was great as well. I’m sure someone with more sophisticated taste buds would have been very pleased.
I quite enjoyed Indulge Food Hall. Two aspects made it a winner in my book before I even sat down to eat: great interior design and theming, and a large variety of dishes and cuisines to choose from in the same restaurant.
Here’s how it works: you sit down and choose the items you’d like to order from a tablet at your table. Then, as the items are ready, a server brings them to you. Since I was by myself and not overly hungry, I just ordered some shrimp pad thai. It came pretty quickly and tasted great! Unlike other dishes, desserts are self-serve at Indulge, which I thought worked well.
The Local on Norwegian Viva is unlike any other Local on NCL (or O’Sheehans). No longer is it overlooking the atrium or a more run-of-the-mill sports bar and restaurant. On Norwegian Viva, The Local is off to the side on deck 8, overlooking the outdoor promenade. It’s got more lounge-style seating along with some high-top tables and the usual bartop.
I liked the interior design of this space a lot, but I felt a bit nostalgic for older versions of this venue. The menu was too slimmed-down. I more enjoyed the options on previous ships I’ve sailed like spaghetti, a reuben, or fish and chips — none of which were on the Norwegian Viva menu. I got The Pub hot dog (with sauerkraut and bacon bits) and fries, and they were just okay. My drink was great though — I had the smoked peach margarita which is on tap. Tt was perfectly smoky and refreshing.
It’s hard for me to judge Hudson’s because I only had one meal there. During a normal cruise, most passengers will dine at the MDR many times for a better idea of the food quality and service. I had no complaints though.
The ship’s buffet was great — I thought the quality and temperature of the food was everything you’d hope for. One thing I love about the buffet is how you don’t have to worry about condiments or silverware while you’re getting your food — they’re already on the table for you.
Norwegian Cruise Line is historically very serious about the quality of its entertainment, especially in the theater. I remember really enjoying it on my first NCL cruise aboard Norwegian Star, and that trend continues with Norwegian Viva.
The big-ticket production show on Viva is Beetlejuice, and I made sure to see it. It did not disappoint. This is as real of a Broadway show as it gets off-Broadway — down to actors who have really been on Broadway and incredible sets and special effects. The best part is, these shows are complimentary; you’re essentially getting to attend a Broadway show for free. I highly recommend making time to see Beetlejuice, and all of Norwegian’s big stage shows in general.
I didn’t really stick around for much live music around the ship. Yet, it was happening and people really seemed to be enjoying it. Though, I did attend a stand-up comedy show at the Improv comedy club, which was mediocre. The comic wasn’t bad by any means, but I’ve definitely seen better on other ships.
Norwegian Viva is full of activities both indoors and out. The Viva Speedway go-karting racetrack is probably the ship’s most iconic amenity. It spans three stories on Viva and Prima (as opposed to just two decks on the other ships). I got to race on Norwegian Encore in 2019 and was excited to try out this larger track on Viva. It was a lot of fun, and I continue to think it’s a neat amenity on a cruise ship.
Viva also features three 10-story dry slides: two racing slides called The Rush, and the world’s first free-fall dry slide called The Drop. I didn’t do The Drop, but I did do The Rush. It starts out fast, but I felt that it was too slow at times. Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Abyss is more thrilling.
In the Galaxy Pavilion, guests can try a variety of virtual reality games. There’s also a TopGolf swing suite and escape rooms. I did a roller coaster virtual reality experience, which involved getting into a “ride” vehicle where you actually have to wear a seatbelt. It was an insane roller coaster in the snowy mountains, but again, similar to the actual slide I rode, the roller coaster was entirely too slow most of the time.
I’ve experienced the Galaxy Pavilion on other ships, and I have to say the location on Viva makes more sense. It used to take up precious exterior-facing real estate where the windows seemed wasted when your eyes are on a screen most of the time. On Viva, it’s an entirely interior space that’s surrounded by the ship’s observation lounge.
In the ship’s Stadium area, you’ll find a high-tech mini golf course, very futuristic looking ping-pong tables, and a darts lounge. I didn’t get to try any of these things, but I saw other people enjoying them.
I have mixed feelings about Norwegian Viva. I’m very impressed with the ship’s hardware — the architecture, interior design, and variety of amenities and activities. I think food and drink quality is very good, and I loved my cabin.
However, my experience was a bit different than it would be for a typical guest. A lot of what there is to eat and do on this ship is not included in the cruise fare. Go-karting, the Galaxy Pavilion experiences, Le Bistro and the other specialty restaurants, and even mini-golf and darts come with a fee.
It’s normal in mainstream cruising for many things to cost extra. But when it comes to Norwegian Viva, you’ll especially have to consider all that you want to do, eat, and drink when creating a vacation budget.
With that being said, I think Viva is a respectable addition to the NCL fleet. And it’s a great option to consider when planning your next Norwegian cruise.
Have you sailed on NCL’s Prima Class yet? What do you love about Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva? Drop us an anchor below to share your thoughts on this new Norwegian Cruise Line vessel.