Looking around Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ship, Norwegian Escape
Norwegian Escape's visit to the UK was much like my time aboard: short and sweet.
The two-night visit by the 165,300 gross tonne Breakaway-Plus class ship to the British Isles acted as a pit-stop between Hamburg and Miami. Over two one-night cruises, press, customers, and travel agents put the 4,200-passenger ship to the test.
The most striking aspect initially is Guy Harvey's underwater scenes of Caribbean sea life that decorate the hull.
Pitbull (Armando Christian Perez) is the ship's Godfather. The rapper, whose line of Voli vodka is available on Norwegian's ships, performed at the christening ceremony for Norwegian Getaway and again at Norwegian Escape's ceremony. Norwegian Escape subsequently scored a starring role in the singer's video for his single Freedom.
Norwegian Escape is the largest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, but its size is not overwhelming. Built for the Caribbean sunshine the ship has some flagship features on its outside decks.
The busy three-storey ropes course boasts generous capacity. The course comprises of adrenaline-inducing challenges, zip tracks for soaring through the air, and two planks that extend over the sea only for the brave:
The colour scheme of dull greys and reds is the only detraction, with a look reminiscent to industrial scaffolding. A bright, tropical colour scheme like the water slides on board would be better.
The four water slides offered something for everyone. Tandem Aqua Racer drop-floor slides pit pairs of racers against each other. An inner-tube water slide and a tame child-friendly slide are also available for those not brave enough to take on the scarier slides.
The Kids’ Aqua Park seemed quite small at first glance, but it does have an enclosed slide, a rope climbing frame, and spray cannons.
Outdoor activities are designed to accommodate a lot of people at once. The ropes course on this family-friendly ship can accommodate many people at a time. The water slides can allegedly handle up to 1,000 riders an hour. Many can also participate in crazy golf or splash about in the kid's water park.
Escape Theatre hosts two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals. After Midnight is the smash-hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington and the best dancing from Broadway.
The show I saw was Million Dollar Quartet, the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. The actors playing Presley and Cash nailed the voices perfectly.
The two-hour show may prove too long for some, particularly the 10 pm sitting, but the high calibre production is worth watching if you can.
The 19,000 square foot casino occupies a prime location at 678 Ocean Place on Deck 7. The largest and most innovative casino in the fleet, it offers 357 slot machines, 28 gaming tables, and a VIP room for private high limit gambling.
678 Ocean Place is also the place to head to see the elegant LED chandelier with light changing effects.
Children aged over three years old can join in the free kids' clubs, which boast a surprising amount of space onboard. The colourful and interactive Splash Academy is home to a three age groups - three to five-year-olds; six to nine-year-olds; and 10 to 12-year-olds - in a space that can split up into smaller, separate areas or join to create one massive communal space.
Guppies is a nursery club for infants and toddlers between the age of six months and three years of age. Parents will need to fork out $10 (≈ £8) per hour for the first child and $8 (≈ £7) per hour for each sibling to use these services. At night an additional $2 (≈ £2) surcharge is added to the bill.
Teens have a dedicated space called Entourage, designed with an urban, grungy feel to it. By day it is a hangout, and when the sun goes down, it transforms into a nightclub.
A broad range of cabins is available on Norwegian Escape.
Finding your way to your cabin is made easier with fish print carpeting outside the cabins. Fish swim in shoals pointing towards the front of the ship.
Solo travellers can stay in tiny cabins which have access to the Studio Lounge, a meeting place for single travellers. Creative lighting helps make this cabin grade more comfortable.
Inside and Ocean View cabins are small but functional. Balcony cabins have generous balcony spaces.
Mini suites offer a little more space although, in practice, my Spa Mini Suite was not dissimilar in feel to a standard Balcony cabin.
Big budget luxury comes in the form of the largest The Haven in the fleet. Cabins are stylish, and many feature living rooms, separate bedrooms, and spacious bathrooms.
The centrepiece of The Haven, a restricted ship-within-a-ship area for eligible guests only, is a beautiful three-storey tranquil courtyard. A private sundeck for The Haven guests boasts a cantilevered whirlpool, and there is also outdoor dining space available for The Haven's private restaurant.
Food and Drink
Norwegian Escape offers 11 complimentary restaurants. Expect these to be busy at peak times, although the traffic light system outside each restaurant explains which venues have available tables for those averse to queuing for dinner.
The first-ever Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at sea headlines on Norwegian Escape as a complimentary dining venue.
Should you want a dinner experience, there is no shortage of á la carte priced speciality dining venues, to part you from your money.
Norwegian Cruise Line's President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Stuart stressed in a press conference that the food quality in the complimentary restaurants easily matched that available in the speciality venues. Instead, the speciality restaurants excel in offering a unique experience to justify their fees.
An example is Food Republic, a sophisticated food hall developed by Miami-based The Pubbelly Restaurant Group, offering small fresh tasting dishes cooked to order. At Teppanyaki chefs deliver captivating personalised entertainment by skillfully preparing steak, seafood, and chicken on a large steel grill table-side.
The Garden Café buffet is a constant buzz of activity. The wide variety of dishes is only let down by the lack of available seating.
The countless bars help to spread passengers out, so few felt too busy. Many offer indoor-outdoor seating.
Fans of quiet nooks and venues will be disappointed. The closest I got to sipping coffee in a cosy café was sitting outside the Bake Shop in the cold, and even then I needed to pay for the filter coffee. The ship's dynamic may differ in the Caribbean climate, so quieter venues may well emerge.
The Mandara Spa is a lovely, tranquil, and serene space located behind the state-of-the-art gym. A menu of over 50 therapies, many using Elemis products, is offered across 24 treatment rooms. A full service salon caters for both adults and children.
The enticing pool and whirlpool tub lead to the thermal suite. It comes complete with a snow room. Kept at between -6° Celsius and 0° Celsius, the room is for use between sessions in the adjacent heated rooms.
Adults have an outdoor space to themselves in the form of Spice H2O. Do not expect tranquillity thanks to noise from its quirky waterfall and clanking of safety harnesses at the nearby ropes course.
Do you agree that Norwegian Escape offers something for everyone? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: Norwegian Cruise Line supplied a one-night full board sailing on Norwegian Escape. I paid for my transport to and from Southampton. My opinions are my own.