Wed, 12 October 2022 at 11:51 am
As soon as pop princess Katy Perry waltzed on to stage – fetchingly attired as a scarlet toadstool – I knew this was going to be a ship christening like no other. Such maritime milestones invariably flow with pomp and ceremony, but Norwegian Cruise Line prides itself on bringing an individualistic flourish to these moments.
And so it was, on a cool August evening in Reykjavik, that this shiny new addition to NCL’s fleet, Norwegian Prima, became the first major cruise ship to be named in the Icelandic capital in a glitzy celebration for 2,500 invited guests.
“I’m so tickled to be here,” announced the beaming songstress – who, as Prima’s godmother, had been tasked with the official christening. “It’s pretty fancy – and believe you me, I’ve seen fancy,” she told the assembled masses, pressing her perfectly manicured finger down on the all-important launch button, then watching as a live-screen link showed the bottle smashing against the hull.
Then the party started: Katy serenading us with an energetic, hour-long set, her performance bringing out the teenybopper in all of us – even the suited executives – as Norwegian Prima pushed back from port and embarked on its journey towards Ireland, the first stop on its voyage to Amsterdam.
Over the following two days at sea, excitement aboard remained at fever pitch, heightened by talk that the mega-star was staying on after the show with her fiancé, actor Orlando Bloom, and their toddler Daisy Dove. Rumours spread of sightings, of Orlando’s daily workouts in the well-equipped gym, and Katy joining revellers during a late-night DJ set. The pair even appeared in The Price is Right game show, one of the new headline attractions in Prima’s new multi-purpose theatre.
However, it seemed they spent most of their time ensconced in The Haven, NCL’s rarefied “ship within a ship” – and considering its eye-watering plushness, private deck, infinity pool and 24-hour butler service, who could blame them?
I, on the other hand, was perfectly content in one of the lovely, light balcony staterooms, accompanied by my 20-year-old daughter Dani – though I’ll admit we didn’t spend much time there.
NCL ships are never short on action or entertainment, and this 3,100-passenger debutante – the first of six new Prima-class ships – was no exception, brimming with its own unique draws. We were determined to try them all, and top of said list was The Drop, billed as the world’s “first freefall dry slide”, twisting 10 storeys down the side of the ship.
It looked (and was) a long way down, but I tried not to think about that as I climbed into the plastic launch capsule and waited for the ominous countdown to reach zero – at which point the floor retracted, and gravity hurtled me downwards. I want to say that I didn’t scream, but I’d be lying.
My shrieks were, in fact, so ear-blistering that, as I shot out at the end, there was a burst of applause from diners trying to enjoy a peaceful meal at one of the nearby al fresco lunch spots.
I therefore tried to curb my whoops on The Rush dual slides, on which I raced my daughter to the bottom – where her resigned expression indicated I had not been successful.
Mercifully, such utterances barely mattered on the Prima Speedway racetrack, which weaves more than quarter of a mile around three decks, as they were drowned out by our go-karts. In eco-friendly fashion, these were electrically powered, but with subwoofers to recreate the engine roar that every boy and girl racer craves.
And the onboard adrenaline didn’t flag come nightfall. Prima has nearly 20 bars and lounges, not to mention a debut Donna Summer Musical. A notable highlight, it is staged in the theatre, keeping the disco vibe pumping as the seats slide away and it transforms into a nightclub in tribute to the iconic Manhattan nightspot Studio 54.
This flexibility worked well for an ace performance by legendary crooners Kool & the Gang, when Dani and I abandoned our seats, along with other die-hards, to dance in front of the stage. On another evening, we spent an enjoyable hour zapping zombies and werewolves in the Galaxy virtual gaming complex, before crowding into the pub-like Syd Norman’s Pour House to watch a Fleetwood Mac tribute act.
Of course, at some point you need to refuel. With 14 dining spots, each day aboard Prima brought new flavours – one day quesadillas and fresh guacamole at Los Lobos, another prime cuts at Cagney’s Steakhouse, or the showmanship of teppanyaki chefs at Hasuki.
There’s an extra charge to dine at these venues, but there are several complimentary alternatives, including the novel Indulge Food Hall, where we dived into a varied collection of street-food stands, devouring Mexican tostadas, pad thai and creamy chicken tikka masala – all ordered on tablets positioned at each food station.
Where ambience is concerned, NCL has taken its newcomer upmarket, with sophisticated colour palettes and a carefully curated multi-million dollar art collection. There’s a feeling of space throughout the flowing public areas, and outside too, with al fresco dining and even an outdoor sculpture park (where we posed for inevitable selfies).
Relax and retreat
Adrenaline does, occasionally, take a back seat to relaxation, too. During a stroll along the Ocean Boulevard wraparound promenade deck, the gorgeous lounging areas proved irresistible, so we stretched out on Balinese day beds, eventually prizing ourselves away to swing gently in hanging birdcage-style chairs, then to plunge first into one of the two infinity pools, then the other.
Another favourite was the Vibe Beach Club, which occupied a sheltered spot at the ship’s aft, with its own bar and twin infinity hot tubs (though this comes at a price, with week-long passes costing from $229 [£207]).
Next, I retreated to the ship’s showpiece Mandara Spa for a pampering – but recoiled in horror upon discovering that most massages were priced at more than $200. I satisfied myself with a plunge into the thermal suite instead. At $99 for a day pass, this also wasn’t cheap – but after spending an afternoon dipping into a sybaritic selection of saunas (including the first charcoal sauna at sea), pools and a spacious relaxation lounge full of heated beds, I felt I’d had my money’s worth. Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave.
And after all this, hard to believe we’d not even yet reached our first port of call – the pretty Irish port of Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown and infamously the final stop on Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage.
We hopped ashore and spent a morning exploring, overhearing a port security guard gossiping that Katy Perry and her entourage had already – permanently – disembarked. Alas, my hopes of casually bumping into her on deck fatally dashed.
In the name of consolation, we headed for a drink in the Observation Lounge, watching as we left Ireland behind us. I scanned the menu as the waiter approached.
“You know, you’re in the same chair Katy was in the other evening,” he said, conspiratorially. “She was drinking a skinny margarita.”
A kinship at last! I put down my menu. “One skinny margarita, please.” After all, it’s as close as I was going to get.
How to to it: Norwegian Cruise Line’s (ncl.com) 11-night Iceland & Norway sailing from Southampton costs from £2,365pp, including a Free at Sea promotion that includes free drinks, speciality dining, excursions and Wi-Fi (return flight from Iceland is extra), and calling at Amsterdam, Bergen and Alesund, before ending in Reykjavik. Departs August 16, 2023.