After years of having heard about Norwegian Cruise Line’s The Haven, I finally had a chance to experience it first hand. Did it live up to the hype? Was it worth the price? Read on, and we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the high-end ship-within-a-ship concept.
Not All Haven’s Are Created Equal
If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you know what The Haven is and are considering booking. But for those who perhaps aren’t familiar with the space, a quick introduction: The Haven is where you’ll find the most luxurious suites… you know, the ones that come with great amenities, lots of perks and the services of both a concierge and a butler. Technically, The Haven is a very particular area — accessible by a special keycard — which on most ships contains a lounge area, bar, private pool and sundeck, restaurant and concierge desk. While some suites are located within The Haven itself, many are found behind the actual enclave, but still have access to it.
It’s important to note that exactly what is offered — both in terms of accommodations and services — varies from ship to ship. For example, not all version of The Haven feature a private restaurant. Such is the case on the Norwegian Gem, where Haven guests typically have special access to breakfast at Moderno and lunch in Cagney’s, both of which are closed to other diners until dinnertime.
My recent experience in The Haven was aboard the Norwegian Getaway, which features both a private bar and restaurant for use of guests.
“Welcome to The Haven”
Despite having done many sailings on Norwegian Cruise Line, the price-point of The Haven had always prevented me from booking. But better-than-average pricing and a whole lotta accumulated Future Cruise Credits left me saying, “It’s now or never.” (This despite having been warned by numerous people that once I experienced The Haven, I’d never want to go back to “regular” cruising again.”)
Taking a “bite-the-bullet” approach, I booked an amazing two-bedroom suite and invited Doug (aka Mr. Cruise Radio) along for the ride. Like me, he’d never sailed in The Haven and was equally interested in finding out what the experience would be like. You can read the full trip report, starting with Day 1 here, so what follows will be less a blow-by-blow than an overview.
Almost immediately upon arriving at the New York City terminal from which we were departing, you could tell this was not going to be your typical check-in experience. Rather than wait in line, we were escorted to a large room where we were able to help ourselves to coffee, snacks and finger sandwiches. A few moments later, a staffer approached, tablet in hand, and checked us in while we finished snacking. Soon after, another staffer took us not only onboard the ship, but to an elevator which took us directly to The Haven.
This introduction to The Haven sort of perfectly sets the scene for what we experienced over the next seven days.
Be Our Guest
Our stateroom, as it turned out, was only steps away from The Haven lounge, restaurant and courtyard/pool area. By day two, The Haven bartender, concierge and restaurant hostess knew our names. Each morning, our butler (who was shared with 8 other Haven staterooms) arrived with a pot of coffee and almond croissants. It seemed as if every few hours, someone swung by with a bowl of fruit or finger sandwiches. In the afternoon and early evening, a variety of snacks could be found in the courtyard.
Service and food in the restaurant was impeccable, although it’s worth noting that the menu remains the same throughout the week. This was a sticking point for some passengers, but we agreed there were plenty of options (especially assuming one planned to do what we did, which was dine in other venues outside The Haven several times during the week).
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
It would be incredibly easy to simply stay in The Haven all week, never venturing to other spots on the ship. We definitely spent more time within The Haven than we did outside it. Sure, we went to several specialty restaurants, but we opted for The Haven’s restaurant for a majority of our meals. I’d be willing to bet I spent quite a bit less time (and money) in the casino than I typically might, opting instead to relax at The Haven bar or watch the free in-room movies that were one of the many perks.
I’m not a pool person by nature, not really liking the crowds that area draws. (This was true even in a pre-Covid world.) But several times I had the pool and hot tubs in The Haven courtyard to myself and wound up enjoying them (as well as the poolside cocktail service).
Another big perk as far as I was concerned came at the end of the week. In the past, I’ve found disembarkation from Norwegian’s bigger ships to be borderline nightmarish under the best of circumstances. As a Haven guest, we were able to bypass most (but not all) of the madness, being escorted by the concierge down to the disembarkation point.
The Big Question: Is It Worth It?
Like so many other questions that come up when planning a cruise, deciding whether or not The Haven is worth the price comes down to a matter of priorities. It’s easy to look at the price tag and say, “I could take three cruises in an oceanview or even balcony with that money.” I know at one point, as I was soaking in the hot tub, drink in hand, I had a moment of clarity in which I thought, “Enjoy it, bub, ’cause this is costing a fortune!”
I made the mistake of then calculating the per-day cost, which I’d avoided doing previously. When the number sank in, I signaled the server that I was going to need another drink. “Make it a double.”
That said, I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity I have to sail in The Haven. While I definitely would not pay a premium price for The Haven experience on a ship which did not include a restaurant and bar — both of which were a huge draw — I’m pretty sold on the area as a concept.
A few things to consider before booking The Haven:
• Does the ship on which you’re sailing have The Haven features you’re seeking? (For example, I was surprised that the Getaway‘s Haven courtyard does not have a covered/retractable roof. That would have been a real nice perk when sailing out of New York City in March, and it is something that several other NCL ships feature.)
• Will your entire party be able to sail in The Haven? This is important, because non-Haven guests are not given access to the area and its amenities.
• How will the added expenses which come with staying in The Haven balance with those you’d have in a regular stateroom? For example, it’s pretty customary to tip the Haven butler and concierge (although how much is, as often with tipping-related topics, hotly debated), as well as the area’s bartender and restaurant host or hostess. That said, guests may find themselves eating in the Haven restaurant (which is included) as opposed to specialty restaurants (which are not).
Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not The Haven is worth the price will come down to personal preferences (and, of course, one’s budget). Fresh off my first experience in The Haven, I’m looking forward to doing it again… although my next sailing on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship will be in a balcony aboard the Joy. Unless, of course, I bid to upgrade. But that’s another story…