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Norwegian Prima – North American Debut – Day 3

It was day three of our 4-day cruise on the brand-new Norwegian Prima, and our ship was heading into Halifax, Canada, for the only stop of the trip. We had a full day in the town and had an early 8 am meet time for our excursion. 

Day 3 Overview

Surfside Cafe for Breakfast

Knowing we’d be gone most of the day, we wanted a hearty breakfast. So we decided to check out the buffet rather than the light breakfast offered in the Observation Lounge or Indulge Food Hall. 

On the Prima, the main buffet is called the Surfside Cafe. It replaces the Garden Cafe found on most other Norwegian ships but serves the same purpose. It’s located mid-ship on deck 17, right off of the main pool area. 

It was my first time eating there all cruise, although I’d been in the buffet many times. Why? Because the only way to get from the pool area to the activity areas is to walk through the buffet, using it like a hallway. It’s a really poor design choice. The walkway is next to the food, a potential safety concern in the post-pandemic era. Also, every time we walked through, they’d ask us to wash our hands, which was understandable if we were eating, but we were just trying to get to another part of the ship. 

norwegian prima seaside cafe buffet line
This main corridor not only has all the food lines, but is also used as a passthrough to get to other parts of the ship

The Surfside Cafe is also noticeably smaller than most other Norwegian buffets. I couldn’t find out the official capacity, but looking at deck plans, it’s about half the size of the ones found on other ships. They were hoping people would check out the Indulge Food Hall so they could split the crowds between the two venues. As I mentioned yesterday, though, many people didn’t venture to Indulge for breakfast. 

Even though it’s smaller and traffic is routed directly through it, the venue itself is beautiful. It has floor-to-ceiling windows, with almost every table having a great ocean view. The countertops and furnishings are all white and light wood, giving the space a light and airy look but not sterile. 

In the Seaside Cafe the entire left wall is lined with different stations and cuisines. Because it was such a long line of food, it didn’t have a flow, and people would jump in and out of line at will. However, even with the sub-optimal layout, the food serving part of the restaurant handled the crowd well. There was rarely a line for actually getting the food. 

buffet breakfast in seaside cafe
There wasn’t a lot of seating in the Seaside Cafe, but the seats they had offered amazing views

The seating, on the other hand, struggled to keep up with the demand. The tables and stools were almost always packed full. The servers cleaned tables as soon as people left, but there were too many people and too few tables. So to help accommodate the demand, they opened the sitting area in the restaurant next door, Food Republic, providing additional capacity. Servers were circulating in that area bringing coffee, water, and juices, but if you wanted more food, it was a bit of a walk back to the buffet. 

There are two other options for seating here. As you enter the buffet, there are tables outside. They are fully covered and have heaters built into the ceiling. The heaters made it a usable space on this 60-degree morning. 

norwegian prima surfside grill
Surfside Grill is a weird add-on room at the end of the buffet. It is always depressingly dark compared to Seaside Cafe (it was noon on a sunny day during this picture).

There was also the “Surfside Grill.” This odd, little room had extra seating at the back of the Surfside Cafe. It was really dark in there, and had another food station similar to what was on the main buffet. This space was bizarre. My guess is that it was supposed to be exclusive food for The Vibe Beach Club, which is right next door, but they had to stop that idea because the buffet itself was too small. 

Overall, the food in the buffet was delicious though. It was fresh and constantly rotated. It had all your usual American breakfast staples: eggs, bacon, a variety of breads, fresh fruit, and omelets (premade and made to order). A bunch of juice and coffee dispensers were strategically placed throughout the space, making it easy to get refills. 

Exploring Halifax

I won’t get too much into Halifax, as this cruise was all about checking out the Prima. However, I will say Halifax waterfront was walkable and easy to get around. We made an hour’s trip out to Peggy’s Cove to see a lighthouse and then a hop-on/hop-off tour of the city which was basically like a shuttle with a tour guide.

Indulge Food Hall for snacks

indulge food hall podium
Indulge Food Hall became a go-to for between meal snacks

We got back on the ship at 5 pm. We had dinner reservations at 8, so we decided to get a snack in the Indulge Food Hall. It was busy in there but not overly packed. One thing I noticed is that the area doesn’t have a lot of tables for two. Most tables were full, but a lot were 4-tops taken by two people. So because of that, it felt full even though it was probably at half capacity. 

The menu for dinner was different from lunch, with quite a few new options. I went with the short rib dosa, crab tostada, and totopos (a kind of nacho). We hit the order button, and the first dish arrived at our table in less than 3 minutes. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but the speed was impressive. 

The food was also delicious. It was the second time I had the nachos, and it was just as good. I also loved the short rib dosa. It’s not something I’d ever order at home, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the unique Indian spices that made the short rib so much different from what I had tasted before. 

Pre-dinner drinks at Metropolitan Bar

We went back to the room to relax and change, then headed out for pre-dinner drinks. For this evening, we decided to check out one of the only bars we hadn’t been to yet, the Metropolitan Bar.

In the initial press releases on this ship, Norwegian talked up the new sustainable offerings available here. The bar has a completely unique menu where bartenders craft many of the cocktails from ingredients repurposed from food waste on the ship. For example, old, stale croissants were turned into syrup for a mai-tai. For another cocktail, banana peels were infused into a syrup used to flavor it. It piqued my interest, and the bar was high on my list of things I was looking forward to on the Prima. 

Metropolitan Bar sticks out like a sore thumb

norwegian metropolitan bar at day
Having the Metropolitan Bar right off a main hallway makes it feel like an airport bar

The first thing I noticed about the Metropolitan Bar was how much it stuck out from the rest of the ship. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they designed this venue. Located in a hallway between the Penrose Atrium and Hudson’s, it resembles a bar you might find in an airport concourse. During the day, the lights are turned up to 100% and feel way too bright. They turn down the lights at night, but it has an odd feel to it. It’s almost like you’re in an abandoned mall corridor. 

The bar also feels nothing like the rest of the ship. No cozy seating nooks for socializing. No warm tones or homey feeling. It had plenty of chairs and bar stools, but it was all very cold and clinical. A pop of color or some dividers would have gone a long way to optimizing the space. 

norwegian prima metropolitan bar at night
No warm tones, no intimate spaces. This bar doesn’t feel like the rest of Prima at all. But they had really interesting drinks

I later found out why this space, and the Belvedere Bar, stuck out so much from the rest of the ship. They weren’t created by the same design firm that worked on the rest of Prima, Studio Dado. Instead, they were done by another design firm that was not on the same page. It was a big misstep by Norwegian, but I could see how it happened. The spaces looked great when looking at the renders, but when you’re actually navigating the ship and walking around, the difference is jarring. 

Trying the Metropolitan Bar cocktails

The Metropolitan Bar doesn’t have a paper menu; instead, you flip through iPads with descriptions of the drinks. Unless they plan on changing the drinks frequently (they didn’t change on our sailing), the iPad doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to see all your drink options and tell the difference between some cocktails. I know they wanted it to look trendy, but in reality, the iPad menus were probably just a big waste of money. 

We tried quite a few drinks at this bar, and while I didn’t enjoy all of them, they were all unique and not something you’d necessarily find elsewhere. 

My favorite drink here was the croissant mai-tai. It was borderline too sweet, but that sweetness balanced well with the other flavors. I was also excited to try the signature drink, the Prima Donna, but was sorely disappointed. All I tasted was booze. I thought it was just me, but looking down the bar, I saw several guests got one and never finished it. 

Another unique drink was the Watermelon Twist. It had a chili liqueur, and the bartender rimmed the glass with a chili-salt mix. It wasn’t spicy but had the distinct flavor of chili powder. It wasn’t my speed, but I could see why someone would enjoy it. 

Hudson’s main dining room for dinner

We had reservations at one of the main dining rooms for dinner this evening. The Prima has two main dining rooms, Hudson’s and the Commodore Room. Both had the same menu, but they had different decor and layouts. Unlike other cruise lines, there is no set time dining available. Instead, everyone just queues (either in person or using the NCL app) when they’re ready to eat and you’re seated, just like a regular restaurant. 

norwegian prima hudsons dining room entrance
The entrance for Hudson’s give you a peak at the level of elegance you’re going to get for dinner

Walking up to Hudson’s, it’s obvious Norwegian went above and beyond for this dining room. You’re greeted by a large gold podium standing against a dark blue wavey wall, which hides the entire dining room from general view. As the host seats you, you round the corner and are treated to the beautiful venue. It looked more like a high-end specialty restaurant than a standard dining room. Unique gold light fixtures dot the ceiling, looking like a cross between a flower and a butterfly. The entire restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows, with nearly every table having an ocean view. The place just oozed elegance and class. 

norwegian hudon's dining room with light fixtures
There is not a bad seat at Hudson’s, with every one offering ocean views

The service was also 5-star, with our waiter promptly arriving and explaining the menu. Starting on the Prima, Norwegian decided to try a new main dining concept. Previously, and on most other cruise lines, the main dining room menu rotates every night. On the Prima, it will be the same menu every night. Norwegian said they did this to increase the quality of the dishes as the chefs and suppliers can focus on just the ingredients on this menu. They also repeatedly said that’s how restaurants are at land, in defense of the pushback they received. 

The menu was pretty broad, with a selection of beef, chicken, pasta, and vegetarian options. I definitely could see myself eating there a few nights in a row and not having a problem. But also, I have a 10-day Mediterranean cruise booked on the sister ship, the Viva, in 2024, and I can’t imagine eating there for ten days back-to-back. Sure, I could try one of the specialty restaurants on board, but I only got one meal with my Free at Sea package (another cutback by Norwegian). Overall, it’s hard not to see this as a cash grab, but I will vouch for Norwegian; the food here was top-notch. 

norwegian prima hudsons dinner menu
Hudson’s Dining Room menu doesn’t change, it’s the same offerings every day, and the same as the Commodore Room

Come on down for the Price is Right

norwegian price is right name card
The Price is Right is one of four game shows that will eventually be playing in the Prima Theater

For this evening, we scored tickets to a live-action version of The Price is Right. It was a hard ticket to get, as there were only two performances on our short cruise, and everyone was talking about it. 

When you walked up to the theater, you’d sign in with your room card and get a yellow nametag, just like on TV. They would then put your name into a randomizer. Over the course of the show, ten people would be called down to play the game. 

This show wasn’t just a half-hearted attempt to make a game show. Norwegian went all out with this production. They had contestant row podiums, real-life games, and moving signage. They got every detail right, even down to the special microphone the host held that was just like Bob Barker’s. 

The players had a chance to win real prizes too. Guests on our cruise won Tumi luggage, Beats by Dre headphones, and $450 in cash.

The energy in the room was so high and people were really getting into it. The host had a bit of stand-up comedy as they went through the show and fed off the player’s energy very well. During the set swaps, they’d have video interludes about the show’s history and highlights from the different hosts. 

norwegian price is right theater
Pre-show at Price is Right (pictures weren’t allowed during). The energy in the audience was through the roof

During the roughly 45 minutes, there were three different rounds of contestant row games. I’m unsure if the games rotate, but during our show we had Cliff Hangers, Race Game, and everyone’s favorite, Plinko. I can’t even describe the energy in the room when the stage screen went up and revealed a real-life Plinko game. Once players completed those rounds, the host brought out the signature wheel for contestants to spin (no one fell down while spinning this one). 

Finally, there was the Showcase Showdown where contestants could win a real car (although it was just a picture on a screen, so the audience seemed confused about whether it was a real prize). It’s going to be challenging to win, though. To get it, you have to be within $100 of the value of the Showcase, and it’s tough. 

Overall, Price is Right was a hit with the audience, and I bet it’ll be a hot ticket to get on future sailings. In the future, the ship will also have Supermarket Sweep, Press Your Luck, and Beat the Clock, but I don’t know if any of them will see the same hype as Price is Right. 

Sid Norman’s Pour House for live music

After The Price Is Right, we headed back into the ship. It was abuzz with energy this evening. Everyone was out and having a great time. We headed to Sid Norman’s Pour House, the Prima’s rock music venue, to hear the band playing. 

I had been to Sid Norman’s a few times already during the cruise for media events, but I had not yet had a chance to see it functioning as a music venue. During my previous visits, I was impressed with it. It had a very authentic feel, like you went to a little hole-in-the-wall venue at home to hear your favorite band. The space felt very homey, with lots of couches and chairs. A stage for the band took up a sizeable portion of the front of the venue.

norwegian prima syd norman's
During the day, I really enjoyed the vibe of Syd Norman’s. It had a real authentic feel to it

While the space worked great at events during the day, it was really bad at night. It was one of only two places where live music was playing, the other being the atrium, so everyone was there. I don’t have the actual capacity for the room, but it was wall-to-wall people.

The venue has two heavy glass doors that separate it from the main hallway. It’s incredibly effective at isolating the sound and stopping the music from bleeding into over venues, but it also made it harder just to stop in and see what was happening. If you entered using the right door, you walked right into the bar section, which was packed with people trying to get drinks. The left entrance was easier to get into and at least find some space. 

This evening Sid Norman’s was being used as a dance club, but there wasn’t a dedicated dance floor. People were just dancing in place around wherever they could find room. The big heavy couches and chairs were still in the middle of the floor, killing the flow. 

norwegian syd norman's pour house dance club
A packed dance club at 11 pm at Sid Norman’s Pour House.

This bar is probably one of two or three venues where I have no idea what Norwegian or the designers were thinking. You would never see a successful live-music venue of this size on land. It was just way too small. I know the intention for Prima was to go small and intimate, but that doesn’t work when you have only a handful of places for live music, and it has to accommodate hundreds of people looking to enter the space. Royal Caribbean has a much better implementation of this concept with their Music Hall on their Quantum-class ships. They use a two-story setup to make the place still feel intimate while allowing plenty of space for guests. 

Live music in Penrose Atrium 

Since Sid Norman’s was too busy, we headed to the atrium to check out the action there. You’ll notice that unlike much of the other coverage of the Norwegian Prima, we didn’t start with the atrium. And that’s because I wanted to get a feel for what it was and how guests would use it before I made a verdict. 

The Prima has a grand 3-story space in the center of the ship called Penrose Atrium. It’s where you initially enter the ship, and you pass through it countless times throughout the cruise since it’s right in the middle. 

norwegian prima penrose atrium head on
Penrose Atrium reminds me of something out of a sci-fi movie

When I first entered the ship, I wasn’t too impressed by the space. Later on, I realized it was because of its lack of grandeur, but visiting throughout the cruise, I learned to appreciate it. 

The designers utilized asymmetrical shapes, lots of curves, and glowing white LED lights to create an otherworldly experience. It resembles a spaceship of the future. My favorite part was the oddly shaped staircases that you could traverse between levels, which felt like you were walking through actual art. 

norwegian prima penrose atrium stairs
Curving stairs in the Penrose Atrium felt like you were walking through art

Like the rest of the ship, the 3-levels of the space are filled with various types of seating. You had a variety of benches, couches, chairs, and tables, so you could sit down and chat with friends.

There are some shopping opportunities throughout the three levels, like watches, jewelry, and duty-free liquor. The first floor was home to the Penrose Bar (which serviced the casino and guests on the first floor). During evenings, the bar was packed and had some of the hardest-working bartenders. I watched as two bartenders worked together to bang out six drinks simultaneously in a flurry of activity. 

The second level featured Starbucks (one of two available on the ship) and was hopping every morning but deserted at night. Behind the Starbucks was a beautiful 2-story window that overlooked the water. It was a popular spot during the day, with many chairs looking over the water. I can’t help but think it was an odd choice to spend money on all these windows and only have them used for a handful of people who grab a coffee and then sit behind the Starbucks. 

norwegian prima starbucks window
Enjoy a beautiful view of the water at the far side of Starbucks

The third deck had the Proof Whiskey Bar. This circular bar didn’t have much personality on its own, but it was usually busy during pre- and post-dinner. The bartenders here were knowledgeable and made some great cocktails, though. Oddly, it wasn’t too busy at night even though you’d still be able to hear the live music on the first floor.

norwegian prima proof whiskey bar
The Whiskey Bar on the third floor of the Atrium had great views of water during the day, but was deserted at night

In the ceiling of the Penrose Atrium is a beautiful glass sculpture. Unlike the huge chandeliers installed on other Norwegian ships, this one is relatively flat and close to the ceiling. It was meant to resemble the stars in the sky. They wanted to focus on how sailors in the old days would navigate the seas using the stars. The lighting effects changed throughout the day, giving the space a different feel at different times. 

Not everyone will be a fan of the design aesthetic here, but it’s undoubtedly unique. It also accomplished what Norwegian wanted to do here. During our events and meetings with the designers, they said they wanted to make a place that wasn’t just a concourse or walkway as it is on many other Norwegian ships. Instead, they wanted it to be something that encouraged people to congregate. And it’s clear they accomplished that. It was one of the main places to be on the ship and created a common experience for most guests.

norwegian prima penrose atrium at night
The Penrose Atrium was a hub of activity every night

That being said, Norwegian and the designers shouldn’t pat themselves on the back too much. It’s not that revolutionary of a concept. Carnival has had successful atriums with atrium parties for literally decades. In terms of design and functionality, the Penrose Atrium wasn’t much of an evolution past Carnival’s Vista-class atriums (minus the signature LED funnel). 

This specific evening also highlighted a few at the view things Norwegian got wrong in the atrium. Every night it would be completely packed. At some points, they’d even have to bring out black metal folding chairs to accommodate the crowd. When they’d have live music performing, they would be on the first level, under the overhang of the second level, so you couldn’t see the band unless you were on the first floor. The performers were also separated by a weird divider that was supposed to make it feel like a separate section. It made it a complete failure of a performance space. 

norwegian prima penrose atrium live music performance
The designers really didn’t think through the “stage” in the Penrose Atrium for live music.

Wrap-up of day 3

Overall, day three let me fully appreciate the Prima and how it works. I finally understood how to work the ship and what it had to offer. We stayed out until 12:30 am before heading to bed. We just had one sea day left, but it felt like there was still so much of Prima to explore. 

Follow along on the rest of our Norwegian Prima cruise

Norwegian Prima – Cruise Blog - Day 1 – NYC

Norwegian Prima – Cruise Blog - Day 2 – Sea Day

Norwegian Prima – Cruise Blog - Day 3 - Halifax

Norwegian Prima – Cruise Blog - Day 4 - Final Sea Day

5 Hits and Misses on the Norwegian Prima

Norwegian Prima Bar Menus

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Randy Young

Randy Young is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cruise Spotlight. He has been in marketing for 20 years and has been cruising for just as long. Over the years, he's worked with products like TVs, copiers, light bulbs, and EV chargers, but cruising has always been his passion. There's nothing Randy likes more than the first couple of hours on a ship, exploring every nook and cranny and seeing how it's different from everything else out there. He's known for providing detailed and analytical coverage of cruising to help cruisers get a comprehensive picture of a ship's offerings.