Norwegian Viva, the second ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Prima Class of ship, quietly debuted in the Mediterranean last week. A near carbon copy of Norwegian Prima, Viva continues the line's move towards a more upscale, sophisticated style of cruising.
While the line was unable to make any largescale changes to the ship – anything more than a tweak will come with Prima Class III – the line did make some changes that improve the overall experience.
"We learned a lot from Prima," said Marzena Slodyczka, cruise director onboard Norwegian Viva, at a Q&A for media during the inaugural sailing. "We knew that we wanted to make it better for our guests, a better experience and make things even bigger."
Here are the six changes NCL made, along with three things we wish they had changed.
What NCL changed
1. More Capacity in Indulge
Indulge Food Hall, NCL's new dining concept with standalone eateries in a large food hall-type space, has been a hit. So much so, that space, especially on sea days, is at a premium. To help with congestion, NCL removed Starbucks from the space (there's a larger Starbucks on Deck 7) and added more tables.
"It [Starbucks] was not as popular as we expected," said Nelson Martins, general manager onboard Norwegian Viva, during the Q&A. "It was taking a lot of space so we removed that and have increased the capacity, almost by 90 seats."
When we double-checked the number, we were told, it was only 31 new seats that were added.
A handful of seating outside Indulge was also added, off to the side of Soleil Bar.
There's also a new ice cream "palace," where cruisers can enjoy self-service soft serve ice cream any time Indulge is open.
2. Rotating Dining Room Menu
One change that NCL made when Norwegian Prima debuted was to switch the main dining rooms to a single set menu that never rotated. It was controversial from the get-go, with several advisors on Prima telling us it was something their clients weren't going to like.
The change has since been scrapped and Norwegian Viva is back to a traditional rotating menu, offering plenty of selection for everyone, including several vegetarian options at every meal.
3. Minor Cabin Tweaks
For the most part, the cabins on Norwegian Viva are identical to those on Norwegian Prima (excepting different art work). However, NCL was able to make a few minor tweaks, two as a result of cruiser feedback from Prima.
Most notably, cruisers will find a brighter vanity table light and better water pressure, Martins said.
NCL also updated the mattresses on Viva to be even more comfortable.
4. More Capacity in Syd Norman's and Improv
Norwegian Viva (and Prima) were built based on a design concept that emphasizes more, small spaces over larger lounges and bars. This includes secondary entertainment venues, like Syd Norman's Pour House and Improv at Sea.
On the one hand, this provides a great lively intimate atmosphere for those who get into shows. On the other hand, it limits how many people can get in, making popular interactive rock-n-roll shows at Syd Norman's, in particular, standing room only.
As at Indulge, NCL rearranged the space at both Syd Norman's and Improv at Sea to make more room for additional capacity. It's not a lot and both still get quite crowded.
5. Opened Pool Deck Space
Changing the footprint of the pool deck wasn't possible for Norwegian Viva, but NCL was able to reconfigure the layout of the deck chairs. In particular, the line got rid of some bolted down high chairs, allowing the crew to open up the space around the pool for more dancing during deck parties.
6. Covered Outdoor Smoking
Another change that was a result of passenger feedback was to the Deck 18 smoking area. On Norwegian Prima, it's an open air space with no weather protection.
"We realized guests that smoke, they still need comfort," Martins said.
In addition to some new seating, NCL put a roof over the space and a glass partition to protect smokers from rain and wind.
What we wish NCL had changed
1. No More Metal Baskets
We said it on Prima and we'll say it again. We are not a fan of the metal baskets that NCL is using instead of drawers in the closets.
They're simply not practical. You have to be careful what you put in them, as the metal can snag on delicate fabrics, and things like socks can easily fall through.
Even just swapping out two of the four metal baskets for two drawers would have been an improvement.
2. The Local Bar & Grill Split
On Norwegian Prima and Viva, the Local Bar & Grill has literally been split into two separate venues, divided by a wall.
To one side the Grill has tables (inside and out) for sit-down service of The Local's casual – and complimentary – 24/7 menu. On the other side, a hallway-style bar has several TVs showing sports games. There is comfy seating in booth-like spaces opposite the bar (people pass between the bar and the seating to get to and from Indulge). People sitting in these areas can order from The Local menu, but there's only one server and depending on how far away from the bar you are, you may have to chase the waiter down to get service.
All in all, the split design robs the NCL staple of the pub vibe NCL loyalists love.
Sadly, even knowing that NCL will be able to make larger changes on the third Prima Class ship, there's not much that can be done to bring this space together, simply because of the ship's super structure that requires the wall in between the two venues.
Instead, we'd love to see NCL either relocate The Local Bar & Grill to someplace else, or rename the bar area and officially sunder the two.
3. Bigger Main Pool, Free Adult Only Space
There's a trend among several of the premium cruise brands that's seeing the main pools shrink, and Norwegian Viva (and Prima) are no exception. Very simply, on the third Prima Class ship, we'd love to see the size of the main pool grow by a few feet. While the days of six feet of social distancing are behind us, it'd be nice to get some space back in what's often a too-packed pool.
And while we're at it, can NCL make one of the two infinity pool adults only? What should be a relaxing spot to soak away a day in port isn't very relaxing when a bunch of kids are splashing about and jumping into the small pools.