Cruise

Cruises 101

by Sherri Eisenberg

Norwegian Cruise Line

Number of ships: 13
Ship capacity: 1,078 to 2,394 passengers
Price range: Inexpensive

The audience: This line attracts a varied bunch of couples and families with its rock-bottom deals, especially in the Caribbean. After all, it's hard to resist a one-week Caribbean cruise for less than $500.

Strengths: NCL has done a lot to change the way cruises operate today. Its "freestyle" cruising concept—which did away with dress codes and assigned tables—was radical in 2000. Other lines have followed, but none offer as many restaurant choices, everything from a Hawaiian restaurant to sushi bars, teppanyaki grills, and tapas bars (quality varies, however). The entertainment is equally creative: NCL consistently one-ups the competition when it comes to stage shows, including comedy acts by Chicago's Second City troupe and Bollywood-inspired productions complete with contortionists and fire-eaters.

Weaknesses: The fleet is large, and ships vary from new and impressive to old and, well, old. (Guess which ones you get for the cheap, short sailings?)

Insider tip: The top-of-the-line villa suites on the new Pride of Hawaii have a private courtyard, pool, and Jacuzzi tub in a gardenlike atmosphere that feels truly exclusive. If you have expensive taste, but a limited budget—or want large-ship amenities—these are worth a look.

Itineraries: After 9/11, Norwegian launched a Homeland Cruising concept, moving its ships to U.S. ports such as New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Los Angeles. These are still popular, as are Alaska, Caribbean, and Hawaii sailings, such as a seven-day round-trip cruise from Honolulu (from $679 per passenger; villa suites from $1,749 per person).

Norwegian Cruise Line
Tel: 866 234 0292

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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