Cruise Ships

Norwegian Viva Welcomes Its First Guests

Today, the Norwegian Viva welcomed its first guests on board for a 9-day sailing from Venice to Lisbon, Portugal. Norwegian’s 19th ship will sail Mediterranean itineraries through October. It’ll then reposition to Puerto Rico for Caribbean sailings through May 2024 before returning to Europe. 

norwegian viva

Norwegian Viva is nearly identical to Norwegian Prima

If the pictures and videos look familiar to you, that’s because the Viva is a nearly identical copy of the Norwegian Prima, which launched last August. That’s both a good and a bad thing. 

the concourse on norwegian viva
The Concourse on the Viva has new art installations from the same artists as the Prima. (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

The good – high-class design with an intimate feel

The Viva sports the same modern design with a high-end feel that the Prima had. From the beautifully designed Penrose Atrium to the sophisticated art walk called The Concourse, the Viva continues to elevate the Norwegian cruise experience. Almost every venue on board feels intimate and quiet. Even the seating area in the lobbies and Observation Lounge have nooks and coves that give you a peaceful escape. 

penrose atrium on Norwegian Viva
The Penrose Atrium is the heart of the ship (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Like the Prima, the staterooms on Viva are spacious and filled with light. The Viva’s cabins have new artwork, which is more understated than that on the Prima, but maintains the contemporary feel. These cabins still have some of the biggest standard bathrooms and showers available at sea and ample storage. 

balcony cabin on Norwegian Viva
Like the Prima, the Viva’s cabins are spacious and modern, but have new artwork. (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

You’ll also find plenty of restaurant and bar options on Viva, including the excellent Indulge Food Hall, which boasts 11 different foot stalls to order from, and the Metropolitan Bar, which makes sustainable cocktails (see the menu here). 

metropolitan bar on norwegian viva
The Metropolitan Bar still has great sustainable cocktails, but also has a new interactive, art installation.

For people who want a bit more action, The Viva also has the thrilling Drop and Rush dry slides, The Wave water slide, the Galaxy Pavilion virtual reality arcade, and a 3-level race track.  

the rush slide on side of prima
The rush slide on side of Norwegian Viva

The bad – missed opportunities for improvement

Usually, when the second ship in a class debuts, the cruise line uses learnings from the first ship to improve the second one. Sometimes it’s minor changes; other times, it’s brand-new features. 

With only one year between the launch of the Prima and the Viva, there wasn’t much time to make structural adjustments. In fact, when the original Prima debuted, Norwegian was already underway with designing the fifth ship in the Prima-class. That means some of the shortcomings of the Prima, like a cramped pool area and ridiculously small comedy club and music venue, carry over to the Viva. 

main pool area with video screen and loungers
The Viva has the same cramped main pool design and poor screen placement as the Prima.

Still, with 12 months between debuts, you think it’d give time for minor changes like furnishings. Looking at pictures and videos provided by Norwegian Cruise Line, there seem to be extremely few changes between the Prima and Viva. While major structural changes would be hard to make, Norwegian didn’t seem to attempt even simple fixes. 

primrose atrium performance
This odd area in the Penrose Atrium blocks the live musicians from the audience. Taking these out would have greatly improved the space’s functionality. (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

For example, the Penrose Atrium is beautiful, but when there’s live music, it’s behind this weird display case of vases and ceramics that looks like it’s in a Pottery Barn. It kills the space’s flow and makes it less accessible for music. 

norwegian prima penrose atrium at night
On the Prima, half of the space of the couch couldn’t be used because it was too wide. New furniture would have made a big improvement.

In the same atrium, there’s a huge couch in the middle of the room. It looks fantastic for pictures, but seeing how it’s used throughout the day is a big waste of space. The couch is too oversized and doesn’t have sections that make it easy to share, so this large space in the atrium is taken up for just a handful of people. Better-designed furniture would make a huge difference here. 

Land-intensive itineraries for the Viva

When the Viva returns to the Mediterranean in May 2024, it’ll offer amazing itineraries. Norwegian Cruise Lines took advantage of the ship’s smaller size, when compared to mega-ships like the Oasis of the Seas, to visit a variety of new ports. These sailings treat the ports as the destination, not the ship. Guests on these cruises will have fewer days at sea and an average of 10.5 hours in port. It’s a great way to explore distant ports throughout Europe and only have to unpack one. 

athens at sunset
Viva’s Mediterranean cruises offer an average of 10.5 hours in port so guests can immerse themselves in the culture Greece, Athens (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Our take: Norwegian Viva is great for certain cruisers

Make no mistake, I’m excited for the Viva. I had the opportunity to sail on the Prima last October (read here), and I was really impressed by the high-end look and feel. In fact, I’m booked on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise in 2024 with a group of friends, and the Viva is perfect for it. We’ll get to explore Italy, Turkey, and Greece and have only one sea day. That means it’ll be an action-packed vacation through Europe which we’re all excited about. 

The ship’s high-end feel is great for the group I’m traveling with, who will also love all the food and beverage choices on board. With all the different lounges and venues both inside and out, we’ll have plenty of spaces to get together and discuss our European adventures. It’ll be perfect for us.

ocean boulevard at night on norwegian prima
Ocean Boulevard at night provides a perfect place to catch up with friends while taking in the scenery.

Still, the Viva has shortcomings, and it’s not right for everyone. You have to consider the itinerary. The Viva has tons of outdoor space, but if you’re sailing in cold weather, like some Iceland cruises the Prima has done, the ship will feel crowded because everyone’s stuck inside. The Viva has pools on the main deck and the exterior promenade, but they’re not large enough to accommodate everyone on a sea day. On a 7-day Caribbean sailing with three sea days, you might be disappointed. Also, a very small kids club and few kids’ areas mean this ship isn’t the best for families with small children. 

CruiseSpotlight is an Amazon Associate. We may earn a commission when you click links to retailers and purchase goods.

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.