I Test Out The VIP-Only Area On Norwegian Cruise Line: The Haven
I Test Out The VIP-Only Area On Norwegian Cruise Line: The Haven
Just before my much anticipated and costly $1,800 a night cruise in Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Viva’s all-suite Haven, “Cruise with Ben and David”, one of the biggest YouTube cruise channels, released a critical review raising many issues and complaints about it. So much so, that many that friends of mine suggested I cancel, as they knew that it was THE most expensive Mediterranean cruise I had ever booked.
In the end I went, hoping that as they’d been on the maiden voyage, things might have improved. This is what I discovered.
What is The Haven?
What is “The Haven”? It’s what’s known as a “ship-within-a-ship”, a dedicated area for all the suites filled with exclusive facilities behind card-controlled doors.
But, as I discovered, some perks and experiences started before getting into The Haven area itself.
Although when I arrived at Civitavecchia terminal near Rome for my cruise, I found there was no Haven priority lane until after bag drop off and security. Once through that, there was a dedicated Haven check-in desk, a lounge area with drinks and snacks and then a butler escorted us up into The Haven.
The Haven Areas
On entering my initial reaction, which remained throughout the cruise, was Norwegian Cruise Lines’ The Haven looked and felt stylish and premium, although it was lacking in several areas.
One that didn’t though was The Haven card-controlled elevators towards the rear of the ship, as all the Haven suites and the Haven facilities are at the rear. It was an absolute boon on a big ship like Norwegian Viva with thousands of guests.
I never had to wait for the elevator when heading anywhere, and as fewer people were using them they hardly ever stopped on decks on the way. They offered a quick way of getting around.
In The Haven area itself, there was a large lounge with lots of seating areas, a circular bar, restaurant, a large concierge desk and a two-level outside deck.
Here’s what I thought about each of these along with some strange calls by Norwegian Cruise Line.
The Haven restaurant was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with indoor and outdoor seating. It looked great and the food was good, but I did not end up using it much. Here’s why.
Unlike other suite restaurants I have been in, the Haven menus did not change. It was the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu every single day.
The menus also had much less choice than the main dining room ones, which did change every day.
So, being on a 10-night trip meant repeating meals if I ate in there all the time.
Despite paying that huge premium to access it, I ate in other venues way more than on any other suite cruise I’ve been on.
Over the 10 nights, I ate elsewhere on half of them. I went to two speciality restaurants, because within the fare I booked I had the “Free at Sea” package which included two – I went to the Teppanyaki and Food Republic.
I ate in one of the main dining rooms (Hudsons) once to try the menu and food there, which was good. And I went to the Indulge Food Hall on two nights.
I only ate lunch in the Haven once, though did have breakfast there every day as it was convenient.
Service was fine, but not memorable or personalised, a negative for me from Norwegian Cruise Line.
The lounge was a great looking space but had several downsides which meant I didn’t use it much.
The lounge had no reason to exist, something Ben and David also felt. And that’s because there is nothing in the lounge.
Unlike other cruise line suite lounges, there was no coffee and tea station, and no snacks during the day. So, no one ever sat in the lounge because there was nothing going on or reason to do so. In other line’s suite lounges with these facilities, they are a social place to hang out, meet other guests and chat.
If I did want a coffee or tea, the barman could get me one – but there would be a charge for it!
Instead, I either used the coffee machine in my suite or more often went all the way to the Observation Lounge, overlooking the bow of the ship, with comfy seating, tea and coffee on tap, and snacks most of the day, including afternoon tea.
The Haven Bar, again looked good and was busy before and after dinner, but as it also serves the Haven restaurant, drink service both in the restaurant and at the bar during mealtimes could be on the slow side.
Unlike other cruise line suite lounges or bar there was no happy hour, and no included drinks. So again, it meant that it didn’t become as much of a social hub.
Having the Haven Concierges meant avoiding the longer queues at the main Guest Services Desk, as they could answer questions, book the shows, excursions, and dining. Though I could also do all that on the App!
I didn’t really use the Concierge, as I also didn’t find them especially friendly or particularly helpful. I only used them to change dining reservations, because although I could book dining on the App, you couldn’t change them on it.
They did handle some of the priority perks.
We could meet a Concierge 45 minutes before the shows and be escorted to the theatre, past any lines and shown to dedicated Haven seating.
In all ports they would escort Haven guests to jump the lines and get off the ship to go explore.
They also escorted us off at disembarkation at any time we wanted. On my cruise it was a big plus because we were delayed getting into Lisbon due to a strike. It was absolute carnage with people trying to push and shove and get off to catch flights. So, the Concierge created a blocked-off pathway through the ship to get Haven guests off faster.
Compared to other suite experiences I’ve been on; I didn’t find the concierge particularly proactive, nor did they make a point of chatting to guests and getting to know us. They never called me by my name.
There was the great looking two-level deck area with comfy loungers and day beds. On one level was an infinity pool and steam and cold rooms, and on the upper level there were hot tubs. This level was supposed to be for adults aged 16 and over.
That wasn’t enforced. There would often be kids up there running about and taking over the hot tubs.
This brings me to a key issue about The Haven that I need to talk about. Why? Because if you are a traveller like me this would have a big impact on if its right for you.
The Haven – Adult Experience?
The Haven is not an adult experience, but as I will explain, Norwegian Cruise Line could have done some things that would have catered both for adults wanting that and families at the same time.
Of course, it is likely to be mostly adults if cruising out of school holidays and on longer cruises. That was the case on my cruise, but there were still several families ranging from young babies, toddlers, to teens.
This is to be expected as Norwegian is a family friendly and focused line, in the school holidays expect a lot of kids onboard.
If you are looking for a more adult experience, as I do, remember even out of holiday time, kids were a bit intrusive. Crying, running around and doing what kids do.
As that upper Haven deck was not enforced for 16 and over, if I had wanted an adult-only experience, I needed to pay to go into the Vibe Adults Only Club.
Another missed opportunity I thought was in the restaurant. There were two areas, one a room to the left on entering and then the main restaurant area. I felt they could have had the room as a more family-friendly dining area and the rest as a more adult-only area and satisfied both audiences. They did not.
But what about my suite? How was that?
The Haven Suite
I really liked my suite. All that money had got me an H5 category, a Haven Owners Suite (12302).
I did have the most amazing sleep in there, some of the best that I’ve had on a ship.
The cabin felt very plush and premium. It had a dining area with coffee machine, seating area, big balcony, separate bedroom with an actual double bed not two beds pushed together, walk-in dressing room and cupboard, and bathroom with shower and a bath.
It was overall quiet, although I could hear next door’s television in the lounge area, but not massively loudly.
The Haven suite came with butler service, and because of the grade, also included bottle of champagne on embarkation, a choice of three bottles of liquor as my cruise was over 7 days (it’s one bottle if on a 7-night cruise), water and sodas, fruit basket and daily canapes.
The suite was the highlight of The Haven for me, and there were just a few niggly things.
It had incredibly complicated lights and blind controls which I never quite figured out. Another style over substance point is it had trendy railings for hanging your clothes on, but the clothes hangers didn’t fit particularly well on them. And the scanner device for my door key card was a bit broken and never got fixed.
I want to talk about some other aspects of The Haven experience that were also niggly and strange, as they do impact my final thoughts.
The Haven – Inclusions and Exclusions
Bearing in mind that this cabin and the Haven cost $1,800 a night, an insane amount of money, it did not include as much as I would have hoped.
First, gratuities were extra and was $25 per person per day in The Haven, but that did not cover gratuities for butlers, the concierge and (although it didn’t affect me) the youth team. So that was additional too.
It also was uncomfortable because the butler kept lobbying me and stressing, he was not covered.
Second, as I touched on, I had to pay for drinks or buy a drink package on top of that high fare, and even then, mini-bar drinks and room service drinks were not covered by the drinks package or included in the Norwegian Cruise Line Haven fare. I had got a drinks package as part of the “Free at Sea” package as an offer when booking.
Third, everything else around the ship, like the go-karts, crazy golf, immersive games and so on that had a fee still did for Haven guests as it was for every other guest.
The Haven – Waste of Money?
While like Ben and David overall I did not think The Haven was good value for what it was, it was for a different reason.
They seemed to conclude pushing your budget to upgrade from a balcony cabin into The Haven was not good value, as the perks with the limitations I also found were not worth the added cost.
But I looked at it slightly differently.
If, like me you, are assessing the best suite experience for your budget, I came away convinced that I would have had a more special, personalised, and pampered experience and with better dining had I used my budget to go on a smaller luxury all-suite ship, like Seabourn, Silversea or Regent, instead.
In return I would have had to miss out on the big shows, Go Kart track, huge program of things to do, big casino, loads of bars and dining venues, Starbucks, and the big cabin. But for me they did not outweigh the plusses of the small ship luxury treatment and experience.
So, while I had a great time and was pleased I tried it, if I have that much budget a suite cruise experience again, I feel I will get better value for what I like using that to go small luxury ship over Norwegian Cruise Lines’ The Haven.
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