I’m on board the new ship Norwegian Prima with one of the world’s biggest pop stars and her famous actor fiancé.
Rather than holing up in an exclusive enclave of the ship, Katy Perry (who is the ship’s godmother) and Orlando Bloom are spotted mingling with us regular folk. One passenger tells me they saw Perry dancing at the ship’s Prima Theater disco. I hear that Bloom has been spotted at the gym. Perry herself shares a post on Instagram that shows her waving the racing flag for drivers on the Prima Speedway, the first-ever three-storey go-kart track at sea.
That it can entertain the elite of the celebrity world is a testament to the lure of Norwegian Prima. The ship is Norwegian Cruise Line’s latest, a sleek 965ft- (294m) long vessel that can carry up to 3,100 guests. It’s the first of six ships in the liner’s new Prima Class – its sister ship Norwegian Viva is due to launch next year. If you’re curious about going on a cruise but daunted by the prospect of a tightly-packed ship, this may be the vessel for you. It’s designed to be spacious, with a high passenger-to-space ratio and the cruise liner’s largest suites to date.
Ailbhe MacMahon boards Norwegian Prima, Norwegian Cruise Line’s latest cruise ship, for its inaugural sailing. Above is the melt-into-the-horizon infinity pool that’s ‘hidden away’ in The Haven, an exclusive area at the back of the ship
The ship – the first of six ships in Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Prima Class – takes Ailbhe from Reykjavik (above) to Amsterdam
Katy Perry is Norwegian Prima’s godmother and spent a few days on the inaugural voyage with her partner, movie star Orlando Bloom. The pair are pictured above in a selfie Katy took after the ship had set sail that she posted to her Instagram feed
My sister and I climb aboard in Reykjavik, Iceland, for its inaugural eight-day sailing to Amsterdam. Katy Perry is on board for the christening, during which she announces: ‘We’re here to launch an extraordinary new class of this ship together, and it’s pretty fancy if you ask me. And believe you me, I have seen fancy.’
‘Pretty fancy’ is a fair assessment.
And the glamour is readily apparent moments after boarding when we step into the Penrose Atrium, a three-storey space designed by Miami-based Studio Dado with a constellation-inspired chandelier hovering overhead and a metallic ‘topographic map’ art piece climbing up one wall.
Art is a focal point of the ship. In total, more than £5.2million ($6million) has been invested into the paintings and sculptures on board – The Concourse sculpture garden alone features artwork valued at over £1.7million ($2million). And the ship’s superstructure has been turned into a canvas of sorts by Italian graffiti artist Manuel Di Rita, who has painted eye-catching blue whirls on the hull.
A ride in the ship’s golden lifts and we find this artistic sensibility applies to the cabins – a collage of crystals and butterflies covers one wall of our spacious balcony stateroom.
During the ship’s christening, Katy Perry announces: ‘We’re here to launch an extraordinary new class of this ship together, and it’s pretty fancy if you ask me. And believe you me, I have seen fancy’
Above is the Penrose Atrium, a glamourous space with a constellation-inspired chandelier hovering overhead
The Concourse sculpture garden features artwork valued at over £1.7million ($2million)
A collage of crystals and butterflies covers one wall of Ailbhe’s balcony stateroom
The ship certainly has style, but it has a playful side too. To start with, there’s a pool for every persuasion, from the hot tubs that bubble away in the adults-only Vibe Beach Club, to the infinity pools perched on the Infinity Beach sun deck.
The grandest pool of all, however, is the melt-into-the-horizon infinity pool that’s hidden away in The Haven, the exclusive ‘ship-within-a-ship’ quarter of 107 suites – some of which have hot tubs and can cost as much as £29,800 per sailing – and lounges at the back of the ship. No doubt this is where Perry and Bloom are staying.
Then there are the rides. The thrill of the Prima Speedway is in its positioning – it sits at the very crown of the ship, so sea views roll out and the wind whips around you as you careen around the multilevel racetrack.
‘There’s a pool for every persuasion,’ Ailbhe says of the ship. Above is the adults-only Vibe Beach Club
One of the 107 suites in The Haven. This uber-luxurious section of the vessel is described as a ‘ship-within-a-ship’
A bar for The Haven guests. ‘No doubt this is where Perry and Bloom are staying,’ says Ailbhe
The Prima Speedway is the first-ever three-storey go-kart track at sea. ‘It sits at the very crown of the ship, so sea views roll out and the wind whips around you as you careen around the multilevel racetrack,’ says Ailbhe
Above is The Rush – a pair of intertwined dry slides that allow guests to race one another down a 10-storey plunge
I have to work up the nerve to try The Drop, which bills itself as the first freefall dry slide at sea with ‘more G-forces than an accelerating F1 race car’. You stand in a capsule, only for the floor to give way, leaving you plummeting down 10 decks. It’s terrifying. Perry tries it too – and looks similarly scared witless, going by the video she shares of the experience. A slightly tamer alternative is The Rush – a pair of intertwined dry slides that allow guests to race one another down the 10-storey plunge.
Between rides and slides, we try out the scores of bars and restaurants on board (which number 35 to be exact), starting with the new Indulge Food Hall, which is humming with 11 different eateries that plate up everything from tapas to tacos.
Then there’s the main dining room, Hudson’s. It’s an elevated space with panoramic windows, serving dishes such as grilled Mahi-Mahi and peppery feta and watermelon salad. Our choice bar to pull up a seat at is Metropolitan Bar, a suave spot that crafts zero-waste cocktails using excess ingredients from the ship, such as banana peel and coffee granules. Their Croissant Mai-Tai, made using day-old pastries, is sweet, milky, and unexpectedly delicious.
When the sun goes down, the ship’s live shows step into the spotlight. At the Prima Theater we watch a performance of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, a Broadway production that’s bagged a Tony Award – and find that it lives up to the hype. Another night, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band serenades us at Syd Norman’s Pour House, a dimly-lit rock bar with sepia-toned pictures of Mick Jagger and John Lennon on the walls.
Ailbhe takes a seat in the Prima Theater (above) for a performance of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, a Broadway production that’s bagged a Tony Award. ‘It lives up to the hype,’ she says
Above is the new Indulge Food Hall, which is humming with 11 different eateries that plate up everything from tapas to tacos
Above is Nudls, one of the eateries on offer at the Indulge Food Hall. Overall, there are 35 bars and lounges on board
The main dining room, Hudson’s (left), is ‘an elevated space with panoramic windows’. Guests use a tablet to choose their drinks at the Metropolitan Bar – on the right is Ailbhe’s favourite tipple, the Croissant Mai-Tai, made using day-old pastries
Pictured is The Mandara Spa, which features a charcoal sauna – the first of its kind on a cruise ship
The real beauty of a cruise, however, is waking up each day in a different landscape.
In Iceland, we set off on a tour of the Golden Circle, a round trip from Reykjavik that takes in Thingvellir National Park, a spectacular meeting point of tectonic plates and the site where the world’s first democratic parliament was established; the Geysir geothermal area, where the Strokkur geyser belches boiling water roughly every seven minutes; and the magical Gullfoss waterfall, a tiered drop on the Hvita River that thunders into an enormous canyon.
Our next stop is the chocolate-box town of Cobh – famed as the final port of call of the Titanic – in Cork, Ireland. We’re suddenly down two A-listers – this is where Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom disembark, we hear.
On an excursion in Iceland, Ailbhe’s tour bus rolls up to the Thingvellir National Park, a spectacular meeting point of tectonic plates
One eye-opening part of the itinerary is visiting Iceland’s Strokkur geyser, above, which belches boiling water roughly every seven minutes
Ailbhe has a chance to feast her eyes on the magical Gullfoss waterfall, a tiered drop on the Hvita River that thunders into an enormous canyon
The ship stops in the chocolate-box town of Cobh in Cork, Ireland. ‘This is where Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom disembark, we hear,’ Ailbhe reveals
Ailbhe watches sailboats bob past the chalk cliffs of the White Nothe headland (above) from the Isle of Portland
When the ship docks at the pretty Isle of Portland in Dorset, rather than getting off the ship, we book into The Mandara Spa, which features a charcoal sauna – the first of its kind on a cruise ship. From the heated loungers of the spa relaxation area, we can see sailboats bob along the sea with the chalk cliffs of the White Nothe headland in the background. It’s a postcard-worthy scene.
On the last day of the voyage, we retreat to the starboard side infinity pool and watch as the ship threads its way through the narrow North Sea Canal, all the way into Amsterdam, our final port of call. I’m not ready to disembark yet.
Norwegian Prima is a supremely stylish ship that doesn’t skimp on the fun stuff. Just like its famous godmother, the ship has got star quality.
Ailbhe MacMahon is hosted by Norwegian Cruise Line. A 12-day cruise from Southampton to France, Portugal and Spain aboard Norwegian Prima in October 2023 is priced from £1,942 per person. For more information, visit www.ncl.com.
PROS: It’s a very classy ship with elegant decor, the cabins are spacious, the rides are a real novelty and the live entertainment is stellar.
CONS: The layout of the ship on the upper decks is frustrating – the only route to get to the Prima Speedway and the slides is through the buffet, which is often very busy. The app, through which you get information about the sailing, is also tricky to use, though its glitches may have been down to teething problems with the inaugural sailing.