Cruise Planning Part III: The Family Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Freestyle: Norwegian Cruise Line was the first of the mega-lines to incorporate having no assigned times or tables for dinner. You do what you want, when you want.
Sky Class (can hold 1,900-2,400 passengers): Norwegian Sky /Pride of Aloha (1999), Norwegian Sun (2001)
Leo Class (can hold nearly 2,000 passengers): Norwegian Spirit (1998, acquired by NCL in 2004)
Libra Class (can hold more than 2,220 passengers): Norwegian Star (2001), Norwegian Dawn (2002)
Jewel Class (can hold 2,200 -- nearly 2,400 passengers): Norwegian Jewel (2005), Norwegian Pearl (2006), Norwegian Gem (2007), Norwegian Jade (2008)
Other ships in the fleet: Norwegian Majesty (can hold slightly more than 1,000 passengers; built in 1992, acquired by NCL in 1997), Pride of America (can hold 1,900 passengers, built in 2005)
Athens, Barcelona, Baltimore, Boston, Buenos Aires, Charleston, Honolulu, Istanbul, London (Dover and Southampton), Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Quebec City, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Santiago
Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean (Eastern, Western and Southern), Europe, Hawaii, Mexico (Mexican Riviera), Pacific Coast, Panama Canal, South America
There are four programs for the under-18 set on Norwegian: Juniors (ages 2-5), which includes storytelling and painting; First Mates (ages 6-9), which has pool parties and pizza making; Navigators (ages 10-12), which has sport activities and team building; and Teens (ages 13-17), who have their own disco and movie nights. Each of the groups also has their own "adult-free" hangout (and while there are some family activities, a parent can only attend with a child).
Norwegian puts the free in freestyle for the family with a two-story Ninento Wii screen, a bowling alley at sea , private Karaoke rooms, waterslides, rockclimbing and grabbing a sweet treat at the Chocoholic Buffet. Then when mom and dad decide they need a break, they can enjoy a show by the Second City troupe, party it up at 13 different bars and lounges, or relax at the pool's quiet zone.
Starting at $379 per person for inside stateroom to the Mexican Riviera; $579 per person for a balcony. Two-day getaway roundtrips out of Miami start at $199, or out of New York for $369. Some cruises to Alaska start at $449 out of Los Angeles.
Norwegian has several sailing deals on its Web site, including onboard credits and special rates on certain sailings. Once you've booked your cruise, you can also arrange shore excursions and check in on the company's Web site. Since the ship offers freestyle dining at its 13 restaurants, there is no need to select a dining time -- unless you want to.
Next Cruise Line: Princess