Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line specializes in "Freestyle Cruising." Freestyle ships offer guests more flexibility and freedom with fewer rules about traditional formal dress and set dining times. This casual, flexible environment often suits families.

Determined to upgrade with the times, Norwegian is currently trying out new amenities, including luxury villas, Champagne bars, interconnecting cabins, bowling alleys and electronic restaurant reservation systems. Norwegian Breakaway was unveiled in May 2013. It embodies the freestyle vibe with curved staterooms, live shows, a huge water park and more than 20 restaurants, sailing out of New York City. It's sister ship, Getaway, debuted in 2014, sailing out of Miami. Norwegian is best known for its diverse dining options and noteworthy entertainment. Typically, the line offers seven-day itineraries from U.S. and Canadian ports.

Kids under 2 cruise for discounted rates and select ships offer specials on third and fourth guests. Infants under 6 months old cannot travel on Norwegian Cruise ships -- standard cruise law in most lines. If you have an infant outside of this age bracket, try the Disney Cruise Line instead, which opens its nurseries to infants as young as 12 weeks.

Ship Specifics
There are a total of 11 ships in Norwegian's fleet. Typically, ships hold about 2,000 to 2,400 passengers. The newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, is a much larger ship. In the recent years, the cruise line has started phasing out its older ships to maintain an up-to-date experience for passengers. Norwegian Dream and Majesty, pre-Freestyle ships, were retired in the fall of 2008. Now, the only ship from the old days is Norwegian Sky, which makes short excursions to the Bahamas.

Ports and Destinations
Norwegian has quite a few U.S. homeports, including New York, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston and Tampa. Vancouver and Quebec City are the cruise line's Canadian homeports. Other homeports are located across Europe in the U.K., Italy, Germany and Spain. The ships are a good place to meet fellow passengers from other English-speaking countries, like Australia and South Africa.

Norwegian has voyages that transport passengers to Hawaii, Alaska and its Inside Passage, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. Recently, Norwegian has expanded its Europe destinations to include the Baltic region, Eastern and Western Mediterranean and the British Isles. Norwegian also offers transatlantic cruises to and from Europe, as well as a "Nickelodeon All Access Cruise" that allows kids to be led around the world by Dora the Explorer herself. On these cruises, children can watch never-before-seen episodes of iCarly, Victorious and SpongeBob SquarePants. Slimy game show rounds and meet-n-greets with Nickelodeon characters are also routine. Mediterranean cruises out of Barcelona are also on the horizon and expected to debut in the summer of 2011.

Want to stay closer to home? Norwegian offers 10-night cruises to Canada and New England. Shorter cruises of three or four nights are also available from Miami to the Bahamas. Five- to seven-night cruises to Bermuda disembark from New York or Boston. Norwegian is also the only cruise line to offer year-round Hawaiian voyages that begin and end in the islands. The Norwegian ship Pride of America offers seven-day cruises around the Hawaiian islands, stopping at Honolulu, Maui, Hilo, Kona and Kauai.

Norwegian Cruise Line Staterooms
One of the reasons Norwegian has been steadily weeding out its older ships is to feature updated rooms. In fact, the Norwegian assures they offer more family-friendly staterooms and suites than any other cruise line. Families receive more privacy and space when staying in interconnecting staterooms or family suites.

Norwegian boasts some of the largest suites known to the cruise world. Norwegian Dawn features 5,750-square-foot Garden Villas with three bedrooms, private outdoor patios, dining areas and hot tubs. These villas are a dream come true to larger families or reunion groups. Norwegian Epic offers two-bedroom Family Villas that sleep up to six guests with separate bedrooms, living rooms and butler service. If these options are too extravagant for your needs, try a Family Balcony room. Set near the onboard kids' areas, these rooms feature two beds and curved walls. Inside staterooms, without windows, are also available for the budget-conscious family. These contain two beds, a living area and unique bathrooms with separate sink, shower and toilet areas. Families can also arrange for a crib by calling in advance to request one.

Norwegian Cruise Line Dining
Norwegian is known for its high-quality cuisine and plentiful amount of dining options. The focus is on the food with unconventional, relaxed dress codes, no assigned tables and no set dining times. Basically, guests eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Guests choose from restaurants, grills, buffets, cafes and dining rooms. Buffets offer indoor and outdoor seating. Kid's cafes provide special menus with kid-friendly favorites. Restaurants range from French bistros to steakhouses to sushi bars. Some are open 24 hours a day. Another recent dining development is Norwegian's guarantee to serve lobster at least one night in every dining venue on each ship.

As many as 10 dining options are included in the cruise fare. Specialty dining costs extra -- a $10 to $30 cover charge per guest applies and a la carte dishes range from $8 to $25. Reservations are required at these theme restaurants. Norwegian Epic also provides complimentary private dining at The Epic Club. Room service is also available.

Norwegian Cruise Line Activities
Known for its prestigious entertainment options, Norwegian hosts Broadway-style musical productions, Second City comedy shows and variety of bands, singers and dancers. The ship is equipped with libraries and game rooms with shuffleboard and ping-pong. Art auctions, perfume seminars, port talks and gaming lessons are held throughout the cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line "U" offers interactive immersion activities, such as digital photography and destination education.

Many pools are on the ship, including children's-only pools. Also, a substantial water park with slides, arcades with Wii consoles and two-story video game screens are also onboard. Kids can frequent bowling alleys and sports courts. Complimentary activities are offered every day of the itinerary, including pajama parties and craft painting. Norwegian recognizes that a family vacation can be spent, together, too. Some activities for the entire family are Family Pizza Making, Family LEGO Creations, Family Movie Night and Family Friendly Face-Off Game Show.

Norwegian has partnered with Nickelodeon to offer Nickelodeon at Sea -- a family program that offers activities for kids and parents to enjoy together. Kids can compete in the popular messy game show "Slime Time," join in pool activities during Nick Live Poolside or eat breakfast with SpongeBob SquarePants or Dora the Explorer. The kid-friendly program is currently available on Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Jewel.

Kids' Clubs
Trained counselors run the Kids Crew Program on Norwegian cruises. Children and teens are split into different age groups between age 2 and 17, so they won't be bored or feel out of place. Programs are complimentary and run from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. while at sea, excluding the first morning and afternoon of embarkation, which is reserved for child registration. To keep track of kids, children receive a bracelet that quickly identifies their age group. The Kid's Crew areas are noted as "Parent-Free Zones." Pick up a Youth Program Activity Booklet on Embarkation day for more information.

At Kid's Crew, three different kids' clubs are available by age group. Juniors (age 2 to 5) engage in developmental activities, storytelling, treasure hunts and parades. First Mates (age 6 to 9) play spy games and attend dance parties or specialty classes. Navigators (age 10 to 12) play Wii video games, go on scavenger hunts and do team-building challenges. Kids can also play with younger or older friends during Freestyle Free Play Activities, when groups are brought together.

Teens enjoy their own hangout center where they can meet new friends. The Teen Center is for youth between the ages of 13 and 17. The center offers air hockey, foosball, televisions, a dance floor and Wii video games. Activities and games vary per ship. Teen's Crew meets at the center for organized parties, sports events, team contests and teen-only meals.

For Mom and Dad
Parents are provided with childcare via the Kid's Crew Program. Norwegian offers group babysitting for children ages 2 to 12 from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. babysitting is also available in port. Private, one-on-one babysitting is not offered, but as the children's club runs all day and into the night, you may find you don't need it.

More on Family Cruising
Family Cruise Ideas
Norwegian Breakaway

Written by Whitney Rife


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