We get the first look at Norwegian Viva’s inaugural voyage — from Italy to Portugal, it is a summer to remember
I stood on the open deck, my hair whipped about by the wind blowing over from the Atlantic. On my right, Europe — the Iberian Peninsula and the dramatic Rock of Gibraltar jutting up from the azure waters. On my left, Africa looms large — the Rif Mountains, Morocco’s most northerly mountain chain. Over the next hour or so, the Norwegian Viva crossed the Strait of Gibraltar for the very first time on her maiden voyage. It was the last day of the cruise; our final stop Lisbon was almost 20 hours away. I had boarded the ship four days ago at Rome’s Civitavecchia Port and since then we had stopped at Florence, Cannes, and Ibiza, all of them glorious with sunshine, blue skies, and warm waters. It was that perfect Mediterranean summer I had always dreamed of.
I never considered myself a cruiser — I’ll do it when I’m “older”, I told myself. But when Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) unveiled their new ship and invited me along for the ride, how could I say no? Norwegian Viva is NCL’s second ship in the Prima Class, the most spacious new cruise ship at sea with the largest outdoor deck space. She has a guest capacity of 3,099 (double occupancy) and is manned by an efficient and friendly crew of 1,506. Inside, the three-deck Penrose Atrium in the centre of the ship is a gorgeous, well-lit “public square” of sorts, complete with a large Starbucks for your caffeine hit. One of my favourite features about the Norwegian Viva was the Ocean Boulevard, a 4,100 sq.mt. outdoor promenade that wraps around the entire ship, featuring the Concourse sculpture garden, several commissioned artworks, plenty of seating nooks, and the Oceanwalk — a breath-taking glass walkway where you have the sea at your feet!
Rooms and suites
My balcony stateroom was on the 12th deck, a spacious 250-sq.ft. room with a very comfortable queen bed, sofa, dressing table, a bathroom with a sizeable walk-in shower, and a balcony with two loungers and a small table. I loved its relaxed atmosphere with a blue-grey colour palette, plenty of storage space (including under the bed), and exclusively designed murals by American artist Patti Parsons. The balcony was my favourite spot where I caught all the action whenever the ship docked, or watched the incredible colours of the Mediterranean Sea change with the light, or worked (the ship’s Wi-Fi provided through SpaceX’s Starlink was excellent). The ship has rooms across several categories, including the Studio, which are compact but well-appointed cabins exclusively designed for single cruisers. But the pièce de resistance is The Haven, an exclusive enclave with the ship’s most luxurious suites with 24-hour butler service, a private restaurant, sundeck, and infinity pool.
I knew that cruises fed you well, but I was definitely not prepared for the sheer variety and excellent quality of food on-board the Norwegian Viva. There are several complimentary dining venues like Hudson’s located at the front of the ship with angled windows offering splendid panoramas. I liked having my breakfast here with table service and nicely plated dishes. Surfside Café & Grill at the top pool deck was also a great buffet option for all meals, but my favourite was Indulge Food Hall where you can choose from cuisines from around the world (including Indian) and order via the touchscreen on your table. Most dishes are made-to-order to avoid food waste.
I was particularly impressed by the specialty restaurants, whether it was the high-energy teppanyaki restaurant Hasuki (with an entertaining singing chef), or excellent seafood at Palomar, or the Mexican Los Lobos with guacamole made tableside, or Italian fine dining at Onda by Scarpetta where I had a fabulous seafood pasta paired with prosecco and later a robust Brunello. Norwegian Viva also has plenty of bars and lounges like the Metropolitan where you can enjoy Viva’s signature zero-waste sustainably crafted cocktail, El Padrino. The bar also features an AI-based LED art installation by British digital artist Dominic Harris — touch the wall as you walk by and it comes alive with hundreds of butterflies. Other bars include the poolside Waves Pool Bar, the speakeasy-style Syd Norman’s Pour House, the elegant Whiskey Bar in the atrium, and many more.
Spa and wellness
The full-service Mandara Spa located on deck 17 is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate (yes, the cruise life is hard!) Apart from multiple treatment rooms, the spa has a stunning Zen-inspired thermal pool with a two-storey waterfall, a steam room, salt room, ice room, and multiple saunas including a charcoal one. The thermal suite relaxation area offers some of the best views on the ship that you can enjoy from heated loungers. Treatments range from aroma stone therapy to seaweed massage to bamboo massage, and more. I opted for an energising 50-minute Swedish massage that was expertly administered.
Apart from a wide range of sightseeing and experiential shore excursions at each of the ports, Norwegian Viva offered a plethora of entertainment options on board, from music and comedy to games, and much more. The highlight was the three-storey Viva Speedway go-karting racetrack where 15 cars could speed along for eight laps and 14 nail-biting turns. The three slides were also very popular — the Rush twin slides where you could race a friend, or the adrenaline-pumping Drop that spirals down 10 decks or the fun Wave water slide. For more hijinks, head to the Galaxy Pavilion, a gaming zone with escape rooms, mini golf, and virtual reality games. Of course, there are multiple pool options as well as the Infinity Beach to relax at. Another highlight was the Viva Theater & Club, an innovative entertainment venue that transformed from a three-story theatre to a spectacular Vegas-style nightclub. While the hit Broadway show Beetlejuice is scheduled to start later this year, I enjoyed several musical acts at the theatre, including a foot-stomping performance of boyband numbers by The Other Guys.
In five days aboard Norwegian Viva, I had visited four cities across three countries — and had to unpack only once. As I disembarked in my fifth city of the trip, Lisbon, I couldn’t help but marvel at how convenient the cruise life was. Does that make me a cruiser? I can neither confirm nor deny!
Norwegian Viva is currently sailing in Europe, offering several Mediterranean and Greek island itineraries. The ship will be christened in Miami by “Despacito” singer Luis Fonsi in Miami on November 28 and will homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in December where she will offer Caribbean cruises. More details here.
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Prachi Joshi is an independent travel and food writer based in Mumbai. Her words have appeared in publications such as Conde Nast Traveller, Vistara, Zee Zest, and AD among others. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in a cafe sipping espressos, people-watching, and perhaps plotting her next trip to Italy. She enjoys photography and is on Instagram as @delishdirection.