Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line
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Norwegian Viva Review

Our Ship Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

If Norwegian Viva has a case of second-child syndrome — living in the shadow of an older sibling, in this case Norwegian Prima, the first-in-class ship introduced in 2022 by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) — she needn’t worry. As an almost exact replica of Prima, save for some interior and exterior artwork, Viva has the same contemporary flair, which makes the 3,099-guest ship an equally great option for couples or families seeking to explore historic ports in the Mediterranean or island-hop in the Caribbean. There’s plenty of outdoor deck space and a range of excellent dining options, five of them complimentary and eight that require an added charge. Like her sister, Viva delivers a cruise experience that’s a notch above the typical mainstream cruise ship, although there are a few caveats for avid sun-worshippers and for guests with dietary restrictions.

The overall design of NCL’s Prima Class ships means Viva offers a more elevated ambiance than the cruise line’s larger Breakaway and Breakaway Plus predecessors. Public spaces are more intimate, and the sophisticated décor features details that are eye-catching rather than flashy. Many of Viva’s restaurants have outdoor seating areas along deck 8’s Ocean Boulevard and the ship’s bars and lounges — which include the convivial Whiskey Bar, the chic Belvedere Bar, the panoramic Observation Lounge, and the Metropolitan Bar (which serves sustainably-sourced craft cocktails and features a striking 52-foot-wide interactive digital art piece) — are posh in an understated and appealing way. 

That’s not to say that tweens and teens (and grown-ups who are kids at heart) won’t have fun onboard Viva. Decks 17 to 20 are home to activities that include Galaxy Pavilion with its virtual-reality gaming and Escape Room, the Viva Speedway racetrack, interactive mini golf at Tee Time, The Rush and The Drop corkscrew dry slides, and The Wave waterslide. While the slides are free the other activities incur a charge (generally between $10 and $15).

Adult guests interested in tossing back a few beers while watching sports also have a spot to call their own. The Local Bar & Grill with its big screen and pub-style menu is open 24/7. Late-night revelers can also check their NCL apps or the Freestyle Daily print schedule to see when the Viva Theater & Club is hosting a midnight dance party with a live DJ and Vegas-style lighting effects. During nights when the club isn’t open, however, entertainment tends to be more low-key, consisting of comedy acts at The Improv and live rock performances in Syd Norman’s Pour House. There are also sometimes midnight DJ sessions in both venues and an ‘80s dance party on the pool deck. 

The Viva Theater is the setting for the ship’s major production shows, including the Broadway version of “Beetlejuice The Musical.” Unfortunately, the show wasn’t ready during Viva’s inaugural sailing on August 10, but was scheduled to debut later in the month. 

Bottom Line: Viva has a cool vibe, but isn’t always as vivacious as some of NCL’s Breakaway Class ships. 

What We Love

The Airy Stateroom Design: As with Prima, Standard Balcony Staterooms are 231 square feet and feature a sleek, almost Scandinavian design in neutral taupe and ecru hues with splashes of blue in the artwork and throw pillows. Unlike Prima, whose wall décor featured a new-age crystals and goddesses motif, Viva’s wall treatment is more abstract and modern. The bed, which can become two twins, is quite comfy, and the roomy bathroom — with its glass-door shower with rainfall showerhead, large sink, and ample storage space — ranks among the best in the mainstream cruise category. 

Indulge Food Hall: Introduced on Prima and offered as one of five complimentary dining venues, Indulge Food Hall is a winner. It’s located aft on deck 8, offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and features several dozen dishes that are ordered via an on-table tablet from a variety of outlets: Nudls (for assorted noodle dishes, including yummy Pad Thai), Tamara (for flavorful Indian cuisine that’s just spicy enough), The Latin Quarter (for Mexican specialties, including tasty tostadas), Q Texas Smokehouse (for barbecued ribs and brisket with Southern-inspired sides), Tapas (for Spanish small plates), The Garden (for healthy salads), Sweet Desserts (for a sugar fix) and Just Ice Cream (for refreshing scoops). Indulge is open for both lunch and dinner and is worth visiting more than once, especially for lunch when the buffet-style Surfside Café & Grill can get hectic.

Penrose Atrium: As cruise-ship atriums go, Penrose has the ability to enthrall, not with glitz or big-screen theatrics but rather with a sleek and understated futuristic design. Spanning decks 6 to 8 and home to two bars — the circular Whiskey Bar on deck 8 and the larger Penrose Bar on deck 6 — as well as a popular Starbucks on deck 7 and several boutiques, this is a social space that buzzes with energy but at a level that’s never overbearing. When there’s music, it’s near the Penrose Bar at a volume that allows for a conversation on the decks above, especially at the Whiskey Bar, where the bartenders pour a selection of whiskeys, bourbons, craft cocktails, and wines. 

Syd Norman’s Pour House: This intimate venue designed to pay homage to the clubs of rock music’s glory days is the setting for some of the best entertainment onboard Viva (and other NCL ships). Don’t miss night one’s “Sail Away” set as the talented house band transports you back through time with an interactive show that will have anyone who loves the music of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s singing and dancing along. Other sets are “Rock the Pour House” and “Syd Norman’s Presents Rumours,” a performance of the 1977 Fleetwood Mac album in its entirety.

Best Known For

Specialty Dining Options: While you can dine for free at five venues on Viva, including Indulge Food Hall and two main dining rooms with menus that change daily (light-filled Hudson’s with its 270-degree windows and the more traditional Commodore Room), NCL likes to tempt its guests with beautifully designed specialty dining restaurants — at an extra cost. There are eight in total with don’t-miss options that include Italian eatery Onda by Scarpetta, Mexican hotspot Los Lobos, Pan-Asian Food Republic, meat-lovers’ favorite Cagney’s Steakhouse, and Mediterranean-inspired Palomar.

Pro tip:  If you want to try them, avoid paying the rather steep a la carte menu prices by buying a Specialty Dining Package. Four dining experiences for $169 per person is a good deal for a seven-night cruise and allows you to sample half the ship’s specialty restaurants.    

The Haven: NCL pioneered the “ship within a ship” concept that offers guests who book suite accommodations exclusive spaces and amenities (such as butler service), all within an area known as The Haven. On Viva, The Haven features 107 suites, ranging from 368 square feet to 2,100 square feet, along with a private Haven restaurant and lounge and an aft infinity pool and sundeck with two whirlpools.

Studios: Traveling solo? NCL’s Studio accommodations are designed for single travelers and Viva has 73 of them. While compact at just 94 square feet, these cost-effective inside staterooms are well-designed and offer access to the Studio Lounge where you can meet other single travelers.

The Speedway: Viva is the fifth NCL ship to offer a go-kart racetrack. The Viva Speedway features 14 exhilarating turns spread over three decks as drivers race eight competitive loops. Identical to the track on Prima and 22% longer than the one on Norwegian Encore, it’s a great way to test your driving skills and enjoy some friendly family competition — with a scoreboard announcing the lap times for bragging rights.

Who It's Best For

Couples Seeking An Elevated Big Ship Experience: Viva accommodates 3,099 guests, so while it’s smaller than its Breakaway and Breakaway Plus Class siblings and most competitors’ newest mega ships, this is still a big ship. And yet with a contemporary design that emphasizes smaller indoor venues and offers appealing outdoor space, Viva rarely feels crowded. This gives it the ambiance of a more upscale vessel that doesn’t rely on flashy gimmicks to entertain.

Families with Tweens & Teens: While parents with younger kids may be disappointed by a lack of waterslides designed for smaller children (there’s only a very simple Kids Aquapark with spray fountains on deck 18), Viva offers enough onboard activities to keep tweens and teens busy. The ship also features NCL’s kids programming: Splash Academy for ages 3-12 and Entourage for teens ages 13-17.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Pool Situation Isn’t Ideal: Just like Prima, Viva has some pool issues — especially if you’re seeking adults-only time. The main pool, located midship on deck 17 between The Wave waterslide and Surfside Café, is small for a ship this size. It, and the infinity hot tubs on either side, are often crowded. Viva also has two appealing, but again small, infinity pools on deck 8’s Ocean Boulevard promenade, which for some reason are popular with families with kids. Where can adults find a reprieve? There are two options: Book a suite in The Haven to access the exclusive aft infinity pool or pay $299 per person for a pass to Vibe Beach Club, an adults-only area with a chic bar and two spacious infinity hot tubs (but no pool). 

The Spa is Striking but Flawed: If you plan to purchase a Thermal Suite Pass for the Mandara Spa, here’s what to expect. The Thermal Suite area, entered via a dramatic spiral staircase, features a long and narrow Flotation Salt Pool, moody stone tile, and a two-story backlit waterfall wall; an adjacent hallway lined with a half dozen steam rooms and saunas — including charcoal, infrared and Finnish — is also dimly lit (caution: floors can be quite slippery). Walk through an automatic door to the relaxation area, however, and the ambiance does a 180-degree turn with light woods, abundant sunlight, and an arc of sculptural heated loungers facing the ship’s wake. Ahhh. Too bad there’s a design flaw: The Fitness Center’s treadmills are positioned directly overhead and pounding footfalls can rudely shatter the calm.  

Guests With Dietary Restrictions Need to Plan Ahead: For a ship with more than a dozen dining venues, menu selections for guests who are vegetarian/vegan or who have other dietary restrictions are somewhat limited. This is especially true in specialty restaurants, where menus don’t change and you’ll be paying extra. You can, however, speak with the restaurant’s maître d’ before you dine to get the lowdown on ingredients and see what options and tweaks will work with your dietary requirements. The staff are all extremely helpful, but Viva’s menus could definitely offer more creative plant-based dishes beyond salads and pasta. Indulge Food Hall does have several delicious options.

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger
Cruise Expert