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Tuesday,  June 18, 2024 9:28 PM 

On Location: “She’s a beauty”: Norwegian Prima makes North American debut, dazzles trade

On Location: “She’s a beauty”: Norwegian Prima makes North American debut, dazzles trade
From left (of NCL): Katie Kania, regional sales & marketing manger, ON; Cindy Girard, sales manager, home-based agencies, Canada; Sabrina Greca, regional sales & marketing manager, QC & Maritimes; Derek Lloyd, VP, agency sales, North America; Chris Posada, senior manager, key accounts. (Pax Global Media)
Ming Tappin

Ming Tappin is a cruise industry expert and is the owner of Your Cruise Coach.

Norwegian Prima made her North American debut over the weekend, hosting media and travel partners from Oct. 6-10 on a four-night roundtrip sailing from New York to Halifax.

The first of six ships in the Prima class and the 18th ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) fleet, the Prima is an amenity-filled vessel that wow’d passengers.  

After NCL launched three highly-successful Bliss-class vessels, there was high anticipation to see what the next series – dubbed “Project Leonardo” – would bring, and NCL did not disappoint with the Prima.

At 143,535 tons, the 3,100-guest Prima is smaller than the Bliss class, which exceeds 167,000 tons and holds 4,000 guests.

Norwegian Prima made her North American debut in New York City. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

In a world where every brand is launching larger new builds, why did NCL make such a bold move by going smaller?

According to President and CEO Harry Sommer, who spoke at a Q&A during the inaugural sailing, the company’s fleet currently consists of ships that accommodate 2,000 and 4,000 guests.

READ MORE: “There are so many beautiful spaces" – PAX reports from Prima's NYC inaugural

So, the Prima class now fills the gap, offering large-ship choices yet retaining the ability to access small ports that mega-ships can’t reach.

Prima's pool area with the three-level Speedway in the background. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

The North American inaugural unfolded as Canada’s cruise market sees a rebound, according to Derek Lloyd, NCL’s vice-president of agency sales, who was seen on board this past weekend.  

“Canada’s bookings were actually fairly steady through the pandemic,” Lloyd told PAX. “Clients were rebooking after every suspension. People kept their optimism.”

Despite its smaller size, the Norwegian Prima packs a powerful punch. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

Like a high-end residence hotel

Despite its smaller size, the Norwegian Prima packs a powerful punch.

The ship’s design team created a ship that looks and feels like a high-end residence hotel, with smaller and intimate venues instead of cavernous lounges and shopping mall-like concourses.

Decor-wise, the Prima is contemporary with neutral colours throughout. Her sun-filled lounges and vast outdoor spaces connect the traveller to the ocean and the destinations it visits.

The three-storey, multi-level Penrose atrium is perhaps the biggest success story on the Prima – here, passengers linger instead of just passing through.

The Penrose atrium has an asymmetrical design, bars, and plenty of seating that entice guests to gather and linger. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

The Whiskey Bar, a Starbucks, and the Penrose Bar (with live musicians) anchor each level, with plenty of seating and surrounded by shops. The place is packed all day and night!

Outside on Deck 8, the star of the show is the 44,000-square-foot Ocean Boulevard which wraps around the entire deck.

Found here are outdoor dining spaces, an all-new outdoor sculpture garden, and the new Infinity Beach with sun loungers and infinity pools on both sides of the ship.

A new feature on Prima is Infinity Beach, an outdoor sunning space on both sides of the ship with an infinity pool. (Pax Global Media)

Accommodations that shine

Prima’s staterooms are bright and airy. Beautiful and artistic designs adorn the feature wall, and the bathroom is one of the most spacious we have ever seen.

The Prima also sees a redefined Haven, where for the first time, all suites are located in the ship’s aft, linked by private elevators.

The 107 Haven suites represent nearly seven per cent of Prima’s capacity (the highest ratio to date).

The Prima’s cabins are light and airy, adorned by a feature wall with colourful art. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

Endless entertainment & activities

Debuting on the Prima is Tony Award-nominated Broadway hit Summer: The Donna Summer Musical and Noise Boys, which tells a rousing story through rapping, tapping, and beat-boxing.

We loved the energy at The Price is Right Live, an authentic but condensed version of the popular game show where audience members can win prizes.

The improved Galaxy Pavilion has many motion-based rides and games. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

Fans of Galaxy Pavilion from the Norwegian Joy and Encore will love an upgraded facility with more VR fun that includes new motion-based rides, shooting games, and two escape rooms.

The Speedway is also back and better than ever, now at three levels and 1,300 feet long.

Two more adrenaline-inducing activities are The Drop and The Rush slides, both having a 10-storey drop.

The former is a single rider slide while the latter is a dual slide where friends can race each other to the bottom.

The upgraded Speedway now features a wider lane for passing. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

Elevated food & beverage

NCL has clearly benefited from the influences of her sister companies Oceania and Regent, as dining on board – both in quality and menu choices – has been elevated tremendously.

Prima features more than 20 dining venues, including four complimentary restaurants which are all exquisite.

On the specialty dining side are returning favourites Le Bistro (French), Cagney’s (steakhouse), Los Lobos (Mexican cantina), and Onda by Scarpetta (Italian).

Palomar is the new Mediterranean seafood restaurant onboard the Prima, with a la carte pricing. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

A new specialty restaurant located on Deck 17 is Palomar (seafood) where the signature dish is the Mediterranean sea bass baked in a salt crust, there are two new Japanese venues: Nama Sushi, and Hasuki Teppanyaki Grill.

Other than Hasuki (which charges US$49 per person for dinner), all other specialty venues feature a la carte pricing, we observed.

The dining venue that received rave reviews (including from PAX) is the new and complimentary Indulge Food Hall located on Deck 8 aft.  

Here, 11 food stations offer everything from tapas and salads to noodles, Indian, rotisserie and more.

Hasuki is the new teppanyaki specialty restaurant charging US$49 per person for dinner. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

Guests can order food from any (or all) stations and everything is freshly plated, delivered quickly, delicious, and piping hot.

Each food outlet features a different lunch and dinner menu, so when combined, Indulge Food Hall offers 120 menu items.

Prima also debuts the Sail and Sustain beverage program at Metropolitan Bar, where every spirit producer had to abide to sustainability qualifications in order to have their brand on board.

Here, leftover food items such as banana peels and imperfect pastries such as misshapen croissants are turned into syrups and other ingredients to create zero-waste cocktails.

The Metropolitan Bar is the first on a NCL ship to feature the Sail and Sustain beverage program. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

What advisors are saying

Spotted at the inaugural was Caroline Hay of Trevello Travel Group and Cruise CEO, who called Prima a “game-changer.”

“NCL is one of our top cruise partners. Our advisors know the product is consistent and yields high returns of repeat guests,” Hay told PAX.

With the Prima set to capture a multitude of demographics – solos, couples, seniors, and families – Hay is expecting continual growth in Trevello’s group business.

“Our advisors embrace the idea of hosting their own groups and excel at promoting multi-gen travel,” Hay said.

From left (of Trevello):  Norman Seidler, Sharon Wu, Monique Cormier, Stephanie Comeau, Patrick Cullinane, Caroline Hay. (Pax Global Media/Ming Tappin)

Trevello advisor Monique Cormier said she has Haven guests already booked to sail this January.

“She’s a beauty and a class of its own. I won’t have a problem selling this ship at all,” Cormier said.

PAX also spoke to Expedia Cruises consultant Eric Van Meter, who was sailing with Norwegian for the first time.

“The Prima exceeded my expectations,” Van Meter said. “It’s the nicest ship I have been on.”

Van Meter has an affinity group booked on the Prima in May 2023.

“These ten people have ten distinct personalities, everyone in the group likes different things. But between the fantastic food, the spa, the activities, and the entertainment, the Prima has it covered. They will be blown away,” he said.

NCL’s airfare offer

Norwegian Viva will be the next Prima class vessel to launch in late August 2023, and then a new sister ship will enter service every subsequent year until 2027.

Of special note is NCL’s 2-for-1 airfare offer, which Derek Lloyd says has been tremendously successful in Canada.

Will it stick around?

“The air promo has been phenomenal for us, with huge uptake especially from guests flying from Toronto and Montreal,” Lloyd said. “We will see it continue as long as it sells well.”

Lloyd said advisors should watch for upcoming enhancements to the air program that will be mutually beneficial for them and their clients.

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