NCL are my favourite cruise line by a million miles. I love the freestyle dining and general fun feel of the ships. The food is incredible and the entertainment is amazing. Below are 8 things you definitely should know before taking your first NCL cruise.

1. Freestyle dining – no table sharing.NCL Norwegian Cruise Line Main Dining Room Food

On NCL there are no set meal times and no dress code (hooray!) I love the flexibility of freestyle dining which means that you can eat whenever you are hungry. You also never have to share a table which is brilliant, you just show up whenever you want and get seated, much like a normal restaurant on land.

NCL usually have the option of 2 or 3 main dining rooms which are large and offer the more traditional cruise dining experience (minus the dress code). They usually all have the same menu which changes each day.

There is also a buffet and a pub type restaurant, usually called O’Sheehans or the blue lagoon. O’Sheehans has the best buffalo wings in the world, on my last 7 night NCL cruise I had them 6 times.

I have always found the food on NCL to be brilliant, it is not as ‘posh’ as on some other cruise lines but I much prefer this as it means you get larger portions. There are some speciality restaurants which require you to book at busy times. To read more about NCLs freestyle dining click here: Freestyle dining explained.

2. Book the shows on newer ships.

They have some brilliant shows on NCL. There is a variety of performances in the theatre and have something on every night. They always have dancers and singers, usually have a magician or comedian too. Each cruise they have a broadway style theatre production and they’re normally really good. It blows my mind how they can perform and dance as they do on a rocking ship!

The best show that I have seem by a mile was Priscilla Queen of the Desert, I loved it so much that I went back the next night. When cruising with NCL you must pre book the shows. In the past I have arrived onboard to find that some of the best shows are already sold out. Ideally book the shows before you cruise, you can do this on the NCL website. If not try to book them on your first day onboard. You can do this through your stateroom TV or through the phone app. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t go, they just give away your space to somebody else). When you get to the theatre your room keycard is scanned to check that you have booked, you can go into the theatre around 30 minutes prior to show time. If you haven’t booked you are made to wait outside until ten minutes before the show when they give away the remaining seats. You more than likely will still get a seat like this but they’re likely to be the worst seats in the theatre.

NOTE: You only have to book shows on the newer ships, of Epic class or higher. (Epic, Getaway, Breakaway, Escape, Bliss, Escape)NCL Norwegian Epic Priscilla queen of the desert

3. Jam packed schedule!

NCL are one of these cruise lines that fills every inch of the ship with stuff to do. If you like waterslides/rock climbing/ropes courses/bowling etc then NCL is ideal for you. I have been on other cruise ships where I have been bored *gasp* but that definitely never happens onboard NCL.  Every night a ‘freestyle daily’ will be placed your bed letting you know what is happening the following day. There are events going on from way before I get up until way after I go to bed. One of the things which I particular enjoy about NCL is that you can just go for a wander and you are sure to find something going on somewhere, there is constantly musicians playing around the ship and there are a number of gameshows/talks on everyday.
NCL Norwegian Epic top deck water slide

4. There is a corkage charge

On other cruise lines you are able to bring on alcohol without a corkage charge providing that you don’t take it into the restaurants. However this isn’t the case on NCL. You can bring onboard corked wine but that is subject to a corkage fee which is $15.00 for a 750ml bottle. This has never seemed worth it to me so I haven’t ever brought wine onboard. You cannot bring on any non alcoholic drinks, beers or liquors. (They do make brilliant drinks onboard though, I’d whole heartedly recommend the ultimate beverage package). More about that here: NCL’s Ultimate Beverage Package.

NCL Norwegian Getaway Ultimate Beverage Package Raspberry Mojito

5. No free room service or laundry

I have been on other cruise lines which provide free room service. However this isn’t free on NCL ($7.95 per order). There also is no free room where you can do laundry. When you reach the higher tiers of latitudes you do get a free bag of laundry though which is brilliant.

6. Teenagers and kids

I have been cruising on NCL since I was 11. When I was a child I attended the kids clubs and spent time in the teen lounges when I was a teenager. From personal experience would say that NCL are one of the better cruise lines when it comes to kids, they have a lot of events going on for them everyday and most ships have a teen lounge where teenagers can hang out away from parents. When I would go to the teen lounge with my friends we would play the playstation or pool. I met many people in the kids/teen clubs onboard, many of whom I still are friends with to this day! (Well Facebook friends.. that counts right?). If you have kids or teenagers I would definitely recommend NCL as a cruise line to consider.

7. A lot of things cost extra onboard.

There are a lot of hidden extras. After paying your cruise fare you must factor in gratuities (although this is true for most cruise lines). I have written a post about cruise line gratuities here: Cruise line gratuities infographic. There are then a number of things which cost extra…

More about the extra costs here: Hidden costs of cruising.

8. Younger passengers

It seems, to me anyway, that NCL has a younger audience than other cruise lines which I have been on. It tends to attract many young adults in their 20s and 30s as well as young families which may not like the more traditional cruising experience offered by other cruise lines. The unlimited drinks packages and water slides may have something to do with that!. There are of course a lot of more traditional cruisers onboard too but in general the vibe is much younger and more energetic than certain other cruise lines that I won’t mention. *cough cough Cunard*.

NCL Norwegian Getaway top deck water slides swimming pools
Have you ever cruised on NCL? Got anything I should add to the list? Please let me know in the comments.

If you’ve booked an NCL cruise and want to carry on reading about them please check out the NCL section of my blog where I provide tons of hints and tips! NCL


I'm Emma, a 23 year old travel blogger based in the UK who strongly believes that cruising isn't just for old people!


  1. We have not sailed with NCL but would love to in the future. Interesting about the booking for shows as we have never had to do that on other cruise lines, though I guess wouldn’t be too much of an issue, we would probably book ahead and cancel if you changed your mind. The dining options too are very relaxed which we would like, however our elderly Dads who we do cruise with like a set table, set time and the same waiters. Interesting post thanks for sharing your experience!

    • emmaleteace Reply

      Thanks for commenting! I am definitely primarily an NCL cruiser so to me the freestyle dining is the norm. I don’t mind having a set time for dinner but I do like being able to sit wherever I like, sitting in the same corner of the same room night after night is a little dull I think.

      It is quite annoying about the shows, completely fine if you know to book. I book them up and then can always not go, your seats get given away if you don’t show up on time.

      If you guys ever cruise without your dads I definitely would recommend trying NCL some time 🙂

  2. We’ve sailed with Thomson, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival & Princess and never done traditional set dining w same tablemates – Anytime dining is available on most cruise lines 🙂 Last time on RC we were usually sat in table served with same waiting staff (same area each night, not same table) to build rapport/continuity of service. Never sailed on a ship where you had to book for shows but hear it happens on NCL and some bigger RC ships.

    • emmaleteace Reply

      Wow that’s a pretty impressive list! The whole traditional dining thing doesn’t appeal to me at all, a lot of cruise lines still do it though. I honestly prefer to have different waiters.

      Booking shows is definitely something you have to watch out for on NCL, only on the newer ships though. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

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  6. A great blog and very seems that NCL is more suited to younger people. I like that there is no dress code for evening meal. If you are going on your own, you’d feel a bit daft getting all dressed up and turning up on your own! I also like that you have to book in advance to see a show. I went with P&O and it’s a first come first served so unless you get their early then you could miss out. Or you end up standing on the side which isn’t comfortable. One thing though I would like to know about NCL, what’s their doctors/ emergency services like – how much does it cost if you need to use them? I guess if you haven’t used them then you’re unlikely to know, but I needed a doctor for my grandad on P&O and they came to the room very quickly and were brilliant – cost was £35.00.

    • emmaleteace Reply

      Heya! Thank you for your kind words, glad you’ve found the blog useful. I really like NCL incase you haven’t noticed… it’s so easy with the freestyle dining. I believe that NCL’s doctors/emergency services are around the same cost, all cruise lines, as far as I know outsource their medicial teams (to minimise liability probably). I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same company that runs the medicial department on multiple cruise lines. I haven’t had any experience with their medical team personally but haven’t ever heard anything negative about them.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂

    • I’m surprised to see how little P&O charged for the doctor’s visit – good to know if sail with them. We never travel without insurance that has cruise cover – should medical evacuation be required it will be costly..Fingers crossed – never needed to see doc 🙂

  7. Richard Pontone Reply

    I have been on 8 Norwegian cruises and it is not definitely just for young people except for the 10:30 pm dance parties. As a 65 year old man, i have noticed a lot of older people on these cruises although I have not cruised on Spring Break or when the young (younger than 18) children are out of school–usually cruise prices are higher and I do not need 500 children running around a ship.
    As for the pre booking the nightly shows, I have been exclusively on the Jewel class Norwegian ships like the Jade, and the Gem, and there is no pre-booking but I have been in Oceanview and Inside cabins. If you show up fifteen minutes before the nightly show, you can get your choice of seats, first come, first served.
    What I love about Norwegian, is that although it is a budget cruise line, the ship’s staff and crew are highly motivated to please you, and the ships, some of them over 12 years old, are always clean and well maintained. If you are a foodie, you will not get haute cuisine here. You go to the high priced cruise lines and pay twice as much for that quality type of food.

    • emmaleteace Reply

      Hey! Thanks for commenting.

      Completely agree about the 500 kids running around, I have been on some of those cruises and they can get so loud. I can’t moan though as I was once one of those cruising children. In regards to the food I suppose it is just what you like, I much prefer the NCL food to the food that I had on Cunard recently, but I guess I have simply tastes and prefer bigger portions! Always a lot of variety on a cruise so food definitely is one of my favourite parts about the whole thing.

  8. As a first-time cruiser, I’d like to say “Thanks for a very informative blog”.

    I like the idea of pre-booling shows, but how do I find out which shows are on each evening before I board the ship?

    We’ll be on the Jewel Mexican Riviera Cruise in March (5th-12th)

  9. Oops! That should be “pre-booking”, of course. I’ve never pre-booled anything (or anyone).

    • emmaleteace Reply

      Ha ha! I don’t even know what pre booled would be :’).

      Normally to book the shows you log onto NCL and select your cruise then it’ll let you book BUT… if I’m correct here, you don’t have to book the Jewel’s shows. It’s only the larger ships you have to book on, there’s normally more variety on the smaller ships so that’s good! You should still be able to see what shows are on on there though (the main ones anyway). If not head over to the forum cruise critic, they’ll have tons of reviews of the cruise I’m sure 🙂

      Thank you for commenting!

  10. I’m with you on the whole dining thing! NCL’s style just suits me ☺️ plus the blue lagoon/o’sheeans provides comfort food but still offers waiter service which is the dream 😍 A personal NCL fave of mine that was not mentioned is white hot ✨ Always my fav night on board

    • emmaleteace Reply

      I don’t think there was a white hot party on my last cruise? Think that’s why I didn’t include it…

      I do love the ncl food though, I sheerans buffalo wings are amazzzing!!!!!

      *o sheehans!! (Been listening to Ed sheerans too much my phone corrected it ha ha)

  11. Hi really enjoyed your blog and all the comments. We have been on 2 cruises this year (our first times) both with NCL – first one was in May on the Epic in the Haven and second was in Sept on the Star. Prior to these trips we never really fancied cruising but my partner and I are now totally hooked.

    Loved NCL, perfect holidays, very few children (although we did go when they were in school) and found a mixture of ages – I don’t agree that NCL is more for youngsters as we are both in our 60s – I would highly recommend them, had a fabulous time and no complaints whatsoever – well apart from the fact they weren’t long enough and we had to go home lol !!

    • Emma Le Teace Reply

      Doesn’t take much to get you hooked! So glad you’ve got the cruising bug.

      I don’t think NCL are aiming solely at youngsters, but they are more for youngsters than some other cruise lines. Having to go home is always a problem.. but I don’t think they’d let us stay on forever 🙁

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