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Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva

The Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Photo of the ship's bow
The Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Photo of the ship’s bow

By now, readers should know that I’m a huge fan of Norwegian Cruise Lines. Each trip and each ship is different, but I always get impeccable service no matter the cabin class. After a while, you begin to learn the differences, some subtle and some not, among the ships and their staterooms.

In January, we booked The Haven on the Norwegian Viva, sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico and into the Eastern Caribbean.

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Model of the Viva
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Model of the Viva

The Haven on the Viva

Unlike some 0f the older and smaller ships, the newly-commissioned Viva has a real Haven, with its own lounge, restaurant, and elevators. The Haven is located aft in a bulbous portion of the ship.

Because Norwegian has shifted toward offering more high-end experiences on its newest ships (the Viva, the Prima, and eventually the Aqua), the Haven section is much larger than on older ships. More suites equals more people. For this reason, the bar can get crowded, although the restaurant always had seats when we wanted them.

The Haven Stateroom

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: King-size bed in the stateroom
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: King-size bed in the stateroom

The Viva Haven’s staterooms feel more like real, luxury hotel rooms than they do ship cabins. Our king-size bed was so comfortable that I wanted to find out the mattress brand and how to get one in place of my home mattress. (The answer: Bliss Bed Collection by Norwegian, and far too pricy for my budget.)

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Seating area within the stateroom
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Seating area within the stateroom

We had adequate seating both inside and outside on our balcony. Every afternoon, the butler brought snacks and placed them on the bistro table. This Haven service is consistent across Norwegian Cruise Line ships, even if the attentiveness of your butler may vary.

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Stateroom balcony
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Stateroom balcony

The shower and sink had luxury apppointments, although they lacked much space to place toiletries. I loved the larger-than-average bath towels. I also liked it better when Norwegian offered individual toiletries in the Haven instead of the wall-mounted ones on the Viva.

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Stateroom sink and shower
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Stateroom sink and shower

The in-room Nespresso coffee machine allows you to make espresso and larger lungo at any time of the day. Ours remained well-stocked throughout the trip. In-room glassware, plates, and utensils come in handy.

The one drawback of The Haven stateroom on the Viva is the complicated light switches. It took us the entire week to figure out the sequence we needed to set the lights where we wanted them and how to open the curtains. The controls did not always respond the way we expected.

The Haven Lounge and Bar

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva:  The bar before opening
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: The bar before opening

You cannot get better drinks and service elsewhere on the ship than you can in The Haven Bar and Lounge. Too many people who book The Haven don’t know how special it is. You might figure that you can get the same drinks anywhere. While it’s true that Norwegian’s wine and spirit inventory remains steady across the ship, the touches you find at The Haven Bar exceed all others. For example, The Haven is the only bar where you can get a smoked Old-Fashioned or a smoked Manhattan.

If you’ve upgraded to the Premium Plus beverage package, you can order just about any premium spirit that the ship stocks. Elsewhere on the Viva, you have to find the bar that pours your favorite.

The Haven on the Norwegian Viva" Bartender preparing a smoked Old-Fashioned
The Haven on the Norwegian Viva” Bartender preparing a smoked Old-Fashioned

The bar also has Luxardo cognac cherries for garnish as well as Bespoke bitters that the bartender will gladly tell you about. Because the bartenders are also the best on the ship, they will create just about any drink to your liking.

If you’d prefer not to sit at the bar or can’t find a space at it, the lounge offers ample and comfortable seating.

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva:  The Haven lounge, adjacent to the bar
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: The Haven lounge, adjacent to the bar

The Haven Restaurant

Even though all Norwegian Cruise Lines Havens share the same menu, not all kitchens perform equally well. You’ll always find the best servers and managers on the ship in The Haven, although that doesn’t mean you won’t find their equals elsewhereon the ship. It just means that the best tend to be concentrated in The Haven. Your booking includes complimentary meals — all three of them, if you want — in this specialty restaurant. The one drawback is that the menus never change.

The Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Dinner menu at the restaurant
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Dinner menu at the Haven restaurant

One of my favorite aspects of the Haven Restaurant is the ability to customize your order. For example, instead of ordering the Surf and Turf with a filet and lobster tail, I ordered two lobster tails in place of the beef. I met another guest who ordered three lobster tails for dinner.

The distinction between the Viva’s Haven restaurant and those on other ships lies in the ability to deliver meals as described or with better presentation. For instance, the spaghetti squash with marinara sauce at lunch arrived — surprise! — as actually spaghetti squash rather than the julienned winter squash I found on other ships’ Haven/Suite restaurants. The breakfast waffles came not from a square iron but rather one with a prettier design.

Exterior Spaces in The Haven

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva:  Private Haven sundeck
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: Private Haven sundeck

In general, the Viva emphasizes exterior spaces over interior ones, and you can see this as well in The Haven. I never had trouble finding a spot on the pool deck as I’ve had in other Havens.

The Haven infinity pool overlooks the stern of the ship, and I loved watching us pull away from ports while cooling off in it. Due to its small size, the pool is more of a stand-around-and-socialize pool than a swimming one.

Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva:  The Haven infinity pool
Review of the Haven on the Norwegian Viva: The Haven infinity pool

Other Perks in the Haven

Norwegian curates its staff so only the best work in the Haven. You will have an assigned butler to deliver snacks, arrange requested room service, restock coffee, and attend to other questions and needs. Your steward takes care of everything within the room. Depending on the size of the ship, you will have either one or a staff of dedicated concierges to handle entertainment, excursions, restaurant reservations, and communications with other parts of the ship.

Despite the cool idea of having a butler (believe me, it’s not like Upstairs/Downstairs), the most valuable asset on the Viva was the dedicated concierge desk. The concierge staff escorts Haven guests on and off the ship during busy times, from embarkation to disembarkation and everything in-between. For theater performances, you get preferred seating and an escort into the theater as long as you arrive 15 minutes prior to start. When we had issues with our excursions, one of the concierges fixed it. We didn’t have to wait in line at the main excursion desk.

The Viva has tucked-away elevators that go directly to the Haven floors. Your access is activated by your card key.

The Verdict

The Haven on the Viva is one of the better ones in Norwegian’s fleet, but it isn’t perfect. The staterooms try too hard to be modern with complicated light controls and a beautiful bathroom sink with no place to put toiletries. Still, the mattress is indeed Bliss-ful, and you get plenty of room to spread out. I would have liked more easy to organize storage, but we still had enough space to empty two mid-size suitcases.

I would book the Viva Haven again in a heartbeat. The accommodations are luxurious, especially for a cruise ship.

More to Explore

See my past reviews of the Norwegian Jade, the Haven on the Norwegian Joy, and the inaugural cruise of the Joy, with a mini-suite with balcony stateroom.

By Debbie Lee Wesselmann

I am a world traveler, foodie, and the author of three works of fiction: Captivity, Trutor & the Balloonist, and The Earth and the Sky.