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Home Cruise Reviews NCL Escape from New York to New England and Canada 

NCL Escape from New York to New England and Canada 

by Peter Horton
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Why This Cruise? 

 We chose this sailing as it departed from Manhattan and visited New England and Canada. The only place we had visited previously in the area was Boston which was a port stop (and the first port of call) on a transatlantic crossing from the UK in 2017. This sailing gave us the opportunity for a relatively short flight across the Atlantic, enjoy a little of Manhattan and to see more of New England and be our first visit to Canada. 

Itinerary 

A 7-night sailing with stops in Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine. Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada.  There were only 2 sea days on days 2 & 7.  

With regard to shore excursions, we decided on several from NCL. Kennebunkport in Portland, Cadillac Mountain whilst in Bar Harbor, a Saint John’s Highlights tour and a Nature and Marine Lifeboat trip in Halifax. 

Travelling to Manhattan 

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 We left Manchester on Friday 13th September, flying directly with Virgin Atlantic to New York (JFK). The flight took just less than 7 hours and we touched down approximately 20 minutes ahead of schedule and taxied to our stand at terminal 4.  

 We entered the immigration hall together with what seemed thousands of others! The electronic signs advised a processing time of 30 minutes for those who were returning ESTA holders and 60 minutes for 1st time ESTA applicants. Although this was the first visit to the USA with a new ESTA (they are only valid for 2 years and we renewed ours in June) we joined the line for those who have held ESTAs previously.  

 Slowly the line wound around and finally, we were directed to use an automated machine, reading our passports, taking our fingerprints and a photo and providing a “receipt”. If it was clear (no X on it) you joined another line to present yourself to an official, or another line if you received an “X” on your receipt to be fully processed by CBP officer. 

 The second line moved more quickly and eventually, we presented ourselves to an official who checked our passports and receipts, enquiring to how much cash we were carrying, how long we were staying and did we have credit cards too? 

 We then entered the baggage hall and needless to say our bags were already off the carousel and stacked in neat lines. We retrieved our bags, called the car service through whom I had prepaid for an SUV to take us to our hotel in Hells Kitchen. We were directed to pick up zone C and after a few minutes, a Suburban arrived displaying my name. 

 66 minutes from disembarking we were on our way to NYC! Another hour and 20 minutes we arrived at our hotel, the Kimpton Ink48, 653 11th Avenue, our home for the next 2 nights. Basically, 3 hours after touching down we dropped our bags and relaxed! 

The 2 reasons we chose this hotel was 1) a great discounted rate which is essential in Manhattan and 2) it was a 4-minute walk to the cruise terminal.  

 I’m not going to review our time in New York as this isn’t really related to the cruise, so I’ll continue with the “Escape from New York”.  

 

Embarkation – Sunday, 15th September

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We headed over to the cruise terminal (pier 88) at around 11:00 and dropped our bags with the porters and headed up to check in by elevator. We joined a line for the border protection officers who checked our passports and cruise documents. Then we were security scanned and as I was carrying our traditional bottle of champagne for sail away, I was directed to the alcohol stand who asked to see the bottle and proceeded to give me a receipt for $15 corkage fee so we could drink it onboard.  

 Then we joined the check-in line for our deck and soon presented ourselves to the agent where our passports together with our boarding document were scanned. Photos were taken and we were presented with our room keys.  

 We headed off to boarding gate C, had the obligatory boarding photo taken with a ship as the background, en route and headed aboard Norwegian Escape having had our key cards scanned before heading onto the gangway.  

As cabins would not be ready until around 1:30pm, and as the weather was glorious, we headed for Spice H2O on deck 17 for our first “Rebellious Fish” a signature cocktail on Norwegian ships. After a 2nd, we headed to Savor on deck 6 for a table service lunch.  

 At 1:10pm the announcement came that the cabins were available and so when we finished lunch, we headed off to our category MC mid-ship Mini suite with balcony stateroom (10196).  

 

Accommodation – Cabin 10196 Mini-Suite 

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On entering the cabin (remembering to put a key card in the power slot) the bathroom was to the right with 2 switches for indicating to anyone outside by the display of coloured lights, whether we were not to be disturbed or request the steward to make up the room. By placing your keycard in the slot also illuminated the sign outside to show you are in your cabin. 

The air conditioning control was also located here together with light switches for the bathroom and the whole cabin. 

 The bathroom was large with a double-length wash hand basin with 2 faucets, a shelf that ran the length of it with 2 cupboards and a drawer below. A wall to wall mirror was above and then there was the shower at the end. Huge wall to wall with a glass sliding door, rainfall showerhead and six massage jets that whose angles can be adjusted. Bulgari toiletries provided together with a soap bar and hand wash dispenser over the sink and shampoo and body wash dispenser in the shower.  

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 On exiting the bathroom and proceeding into the main area, the closet with 2 sliding doors was next and then the king-sized bed with bedside lamps above (containing USB charging points). The closet housed several shelves one of which held the very small in-room safe and a hanging rail with maybe 20 hangers.  

Passing the bed was the desk area to the left with TV, telephone, coffee maker (with both coffee, tea and milk supplies) and power outlets (3 flat pin US-style and 1 European two-pin round sockets). Under the desk was the mini-fridge with a large notice stating that the contents were not included in any beverage package, a hairdryer and stool with a removal wooden top so that it doubled as a coffee table. Opposite was the sofa which was also the 3rd bed with drawers underneath. A couple of cupboards were also built into the end of the desk.  

Due to the offers we had as part of the cruise fare, our 14, litre bottles of water (7 each) had been delivered together with shore excursion tickets, a welcome back bottle of sparkling wine, Latitudes membership offers, and a Freestyle daily. 3 pool towels had been left on the sofa with robes and slippers in the closet.  

Finally, through the floor to ceiling, wall to wall sliding doors was the balcony which was larger than on Breakaway containing 3 chairs and a small table.  

Dining 

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 The number of dining venues on Norwegian still amazes me.  

 Complimentary Dining 

 Buffets 

Garden Café (breakfast, lunch and dinner), Margaritaville at Sea (breakfast) 

Table Service 

O’Sheehan’s (breakfast, lunch, dinner and 24-hour snacks) Savor and Taste (breakfast, lunch and dinner), Manhattan Room (dinner), Margaritaville at Sea (lunch for a $15 cover charge).  

 Speciality Restaurants – all table service with charges levied 

 Cagney’s Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, La Cucina, Bayamo, and Pincho (all with outdoor seating on the Waterfront). Le Bistro, Food Republic and Teppanyaki.  

 Casual Dining (a la carté)

 Atrium Café, The Bake Shop, Ice Cream Bar, Dolce Gelato and District Bew House. 

 Dinner Shows 

 The Supper Club hosted various dinner theatre presentations, some including a complimentary set menu dinner and others such as “Wine Lovers the Musical” for lunch (a cover charge applied). 

 As we had purchased a 3-dinner package prior to boarding I had already made reservations for La Cucina, Le Bistro and Teppanyaki. I had also booked a table at Cagney’s for our last night on board and the on-board credit we had would pay for that as it is now al a carté pricing.  

 I had also made reservations for dinner in the complimentary dining rooms of Taste, Savor and the Manhattan Room. However, as we were invited to Moderno for a complimentary dinner and a bottle of wine, we did not get the opportunity to dine in the Manhattan Room. 

 Even though there are many other venues such as Food Republic, Bayamo, and Pincho which are priced al a carté, and Margaritaville at Sea which has a cover charge of $15, I can’t review these as we didn’t have the chance to dine at any of those venues.  

The other complimentary venues include O’Sheehans and the Garden Café buffet which had several themed dinners from Italian to Asian.  

 For breakfast (unless we had an early start for a shore excursion) we ate in either Taste or Savor for a table service meal. The breakfasts in each of these venues were good with attentive service and no pressure to share a table if you didn’t want too.  

 When we ate in the Garden Café for breakfast, due to timing of shore excursions (2 had early starts), we didn’t have a problem finding a table. The various cook to order eggs/omelette stations means you don’t wait long for your requests. The range of food offered has to mean you will not find yourself short of something to eat! 

 It is worth mentioning that a limited complimentary breakfast offering is also available at Margaritaville at Sea which was popular as it wasn’t as crowded as the Garden Café. 

 Dinner in the Taste and Savor venues was good with a varied choice of dishes on the menu. 

The food was presentable and enjoyable all served by attentive staff.  

La Cucina was always very busy, especially early in the evening when we passed by on our way for pre-dinner cocktails. Our dinner was enjoyable and better than we’d experienced on Epic (we believe the location on Epic doesn’t help).  

 Le Bistro is still up there as a favourite for both the food, location and service.  

 Teppanyaki is good fun and the food excellent, especially if there is a good group sat with you.  

 My only disappointment was the quality of the beef offered in Moderno where I found the filet mignon and sirloin to be very chewy and fatty. The chicken and lamb were far superior.  

 It is worth purchasing a dining package (if one isn’t offered as part of your cruise fare) as the savings can be substantial. For example, our dinner in Le Bistro (the only venue that gave us a zero-value receipt) was discounted because of the package to a value of $119 for the two of us which is more than we paid for one of 3 dinners with the package. 

For lunch, we ate in Savor, Taste, O’Sheehan’s and the Garden Café.  

Lunch was not offered on port days in Savor or Taste, but on embarkation day and sea days, it was a good choice to avoid the very busy Garden Café.  

 O’Sheehans for lunch was a great choice. The service prompt with tables readily available on a port day, on sea days it was a different matter! However, the burgers must be one of the best complimentary burgers at sea in my opinion. Worth noting that breakfast is available here too.  

 Our only disappointment was Cagney’s. It is extremely popular, and I would like to suggest you dine here only when you have purchased a dining package. As with other steakhouses on some other cruise lines, we don’t find these anything special anymore, especially for the cover charges levied. I believe the popularity of steak houses encourages cruise lines to overcharge and under deliver. 

 In the case of Norwegian though, the steakhouse is now al a carté and the prices in our opinion too high. 

 For example, we had the Colossal Shrimp to start at $13 per person, a Wedge and Caesar Salad at $7 each and a 9oz Filet Mignon each at $35 per person, 3 sides (mashed potato, mushrooms and onion rings) at $6 per serving and 2 desserts also $6 each. A total of $168 including 20% gratuity. As our steak orders were mixed up in terms of cooking, (which was not apparent until we had each eaten some), we were not charged for the sides or desserts, so the final charge was $110 plus 20%, a total of $132. We still consider this too high for a cruise ship steakhouse. 

 I must mention that several of the speciality restaurants located on deck 8 have outdoor seating too – Cagney’s, Moderno, Bayamo, La Cucina and Pincho.  

Entertainment / Activities 

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Now there is so much to do it’s mind-boggling. The Freestyle Daily is jam-packed with activities and entertainment options from morning until late at night.  

There are shows in the Supper Club (including a set menu dinner, reservations required), comedy shows in Headliners Comedy club, bands in the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar, trios and singers in the Atrium, the Skyline Lounge, Pool deck and Cellars Wine Bar, with pianists and singers in the District Brew House, the list seems endless. 

Game shows such as the Battle of the Sexes and Harry Potter trivia were organised too in various venues around the ship. 

There are themed party nights from the 70s, 80s to the Glow party (white attire suggested).  

After all this, there are the main production shows in the Escape Theatre (reservations required) and we saw two of them. “After Midnight” recreates the era of the Cotton Club and then “The Choir of Man” set in a British Pub where the cast invite the audience on stage for free beer before the show started and performed classic rock songs, pub tunes and sing along classics. Both can be highly recommended.  

Guy Harvey was aboard our sailing so there were numerous presentations and seminars given by himself and Jessica Harvey, his daughter.  

In addition, there are the traditional art auctions, bingo sessions, karaoke, dance lessons, game shows, workshops, Q&A sessions and discos held throughout the sailing.  

 Outdoor activities included the Ropes Course (including ‘Walk the Plank’, Water slides, mini Golf, Basketball court and kids waterpark. 

 All I can say is that there is something for everyone.  

Quiet Zones 

 This isn’t something I remember from Epic or Breakaway (it may be just me not noticing) but several areas are designated as “Quiet Zones” where you can relax without interruption, be that music or announcements and signs advised you to basically keep quiet! These areas were the Waterfront (deck 8), Deck 19 forward and Spice H2O (deck 17 aft) which is also adults only (18+) from 6:00am to 7:00pm.  

Bars and Lounges 

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 There are 16 bars to choose from! So, you’re never far from a watering hole. They have various opening times so again check the Freestyle Daily newspaper that is delivered to your cabin.  

Quite a few have seating and bars on the Waterfront such as Cellars Wine Bar and the 5 o’Clock Somewhere bar. Obviously, the Waves pool bar (deck 16 & 17) and Spice H2O are outside.  

 The Prime Meridian and Mixx bars serve as waiting areas if necessary as they are located between restaurants (Mixx is deck 6 in between Taste and Savor and Prime Meridian on deck 8 in between Moderno and Cagney’s).  

 The District Brew House served a vast array of craft beers, Tobacco Road an elegant venue reminiscent of a private club, Sugarcane Mojito Bar as the name suggests served a large variety of Mojitos, and The Skyline bar served as the dance club too.  

Headliners Comedy Club and the Theatre also housed bars that were open when events took place in those venues.  

 The Garden Café buffet also had a full bar where beverages were available during opening times. 

O’Sheehans, The Atrium and Margaritaville at Sea also provided bars for all types of beverages. 

 Service in all was exceptional and the staff extremely attentive and friendly as were the ship’s officers who were very visible and always greeted you with a hello.  

Onboard Shopping 

All shops are located on deck 8 and as you pass Cellars Wine Bar and opposite Sugarcane Mojito bar you will see the first Carolina Herrera boutique at sea, then “Life is Good”. Other stores as you meander down deck 8 towards the aft include Tradewinds for branded goods, Sandbar with souvenirs by Guy Harvey and a selection of duty-free liquor and tobacco. There is the Beauty Shop which as the name implies stocks fragrances for both ladies and gents. The Jewel Box for all the gemstones you may like and the Time Zone for timepieces and finally The Tides for jewellery such as Pandora and Swarovski. 

Also, on deck 8 is the Photo Gallery which has carousels containing binders which hold your photos (your location is specified on your cabin key card). You can also view them on several screens located around the gallery. There are also numerous products for sale from photo frames shaped as deck chairs, portholes and towel animals, to camera accessories and binoculars. 

Internet Access 

Compared to Breakaway, the internet service on Escape was fairly fast and reliable. There are various packages available for purchase, but we just used the complementary 60 minutes provided as part of our cruise fare. 

However, no purchase of internet is required if you are only using the NCL app which is very useful for making and seeing your reservations (dining and entertainment) and reviewing your onboard account. For a small fee, you can use the app for messaging and calls to others on the ship. 

Digital Signs 

There are many digital signs located on each deck, normally close to stairwells and elevator banks. These can be used to find cabins and other locations with directions of how to find them from your location. You can make dining reservations and review how busy restaurants are at specific times of the day. 

Shore Excursions 

As all 4 ports were new to us, we decided to take NCL excursions in each location. 

Portland, Maine 

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We took an excursion to Kennebunkport which was a charming town with umpteen shops selling a huge variety of merchandise. Here we also ate our first Maine lobster roll. As we have only sampled lobster tails on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, this was a revelation and we can agree that until you have tasted Maine Lobster, you haven’t had lobster! Not inexpensive though, $21 plus tax, but it was worth it from The Clam Shack. 

As we made our way back to Portland, we passed the Bush Compound at Walkers Point and it’s quite surprising how visible it is, although secure with only 1 entrance to the area. 

Bar Harbor, Maine 

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As this town is located on Mt Desert Island it is necessary for all ships to anchor in the bay and passengers tender ashore. 

We took a very short tour to Cadillac Mountain with great views of the island, bay and ship! 

Upon returning to the port we were advised to take The Shore Walk which wound around the bay and gave wonderful views, not only of the water but the large properties which have wonderful water views. 

We did our own walk following a route around town and ended up having another wonderful Lobster role at the West Street Café located on where, would you believe, West Street! Another fabulous lunch! 

Saint John, New Brunswick Canada 

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This was our first ever visit to Canada and we were really looking forward to this. 

However, first impressions when we opened the curtains wasn’t good. Thick fog meant we couldn’t see a thing! It didn’t hang around long and by the time we had breakfast and disembarked to meet our tour, the fog had lifted, and the sun was making an appearance. 

Our tour was called Saint John Highlights and we were treated to a guide in traditional loyalist dress which reflected those who fled the USA during the American War of Independence and headed to Canada. 

Many facts and figures were provided as we moved through Saint John, such as the fact that New Brunswick was the only bilingual province where all signs were in both English and French. Following the destruction of much of the city during a huge fire, properties were rebuilt in brick and white crosses placed on the outside to denote women and children were in the building should another fire break out.  

The main highlight of the tour was a visit to the “Reversing Falls” where the Saint John River empties into the Bay of Fundy. Due to the height of the tides in the Bay of Fundy (28ft between low and high tides), the freshwater river cascades into the saltwater of the Bay of Fundy at low tides and flows rapidly out to sea, at “Slack Tide” (the halfway point) it is almost still and then boats can traverse the river, and at high tide the water reverses back upstream, hence the name. 

We also visit the City Market which was a great display of fresh food and crafts. We saw some of the damage in Kings Square as a result of Hurricane Dorian. We also visited Rockaway Park which is 3 times the size of Central Park in Manhattan.  

Halifax, Nova Scotia 

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Today our tour wasn’t scheduled until 1pm and so we had time to explore the city, mostly the fantastic harbour front and visited the Maritime Museum that also housed several artefacts from the sinking of the Titanic. 

The harbour walk was littered with many cabins selling arts and crafts as well as traditional dishes such as Poutine and Beaver Tails. Poutine is a dish that includes French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy and traditionally Canadian.  

Beaver Tails are fried dough pastries, individually hand-stretched to resemble beaver’s tails with numerous toppings and fillings.  

There was a Farmers Market at the entrance to the different cruise terminals selling a vast array of produce and souvenirs. 

Many people recommended The Bicycle Thief restaurant which we passed on our way to the Maritime Museum. 

Our tour started at 1pm and we set off on our Nature and Marine Wildlife Tour. The Karwartha Spirit was dwarfed by the nearby Cruise ships, but she was perfect for our small group as we stepped on board. 

We headed out past Fort Charlotte Island and the larger McNab Island and into the Atlantic where we soon noticed the much larger swells that lifted the boat up and down. The crew pulled up a lobster trap which contained a heavily pregnant female with thousands of eggs under her tail. By law, she had to be put straight back into the ocean. There’s another female which they named Lily who they brought around to us to look at more closely. It really was the only marine wildlife we saw as everything else seemed very elusive today. 

Disembarkation  

We really like the NCL disembarkation process as it is so uncomplicated.  

2 days prior to the end of the cruise you will receive a leaflet explaining the process.  

If you want to carry off your own bags, then you can, and this is known as the ‘Self Assist’ program and there’s no need to place your bags outside your cabin the night before. No luggage tags are required, and you will be able to disembark the ship in the first group leaving the ship once it has been cleared by the authorities.  

If you do wish for NCL to take your bags off for collection in the terminal, then your bags need to be placed outside your stateroom by 11pm on the last evening.  

You need to collect a coloured luggage tag from a stand located near guest services. You choose the colour that corresponds to either the time you wish to disembark as an independent guest or the time of the NCL post-cruise excursion you have purchased or if you have purchased air from NCL.  

Very simple.  

We were offered Priority luggage tags which meant we could disembark when we wanted, but if we would have liked to be escorted to the gangway, we could meet at the District Brew House between 9 – 9:40 am. 

On the last morning, table service breakfast is served in Savor (and it is not open seating unlike other lines who force you to share), and the Garden Café.  

You are allowed to stay in your cabin until 8:30 am which again is very generous compared to other lines who normally want you out of your stateroom by 8am if not earlier.  

Announcements are made when disembarkation starts and once again each time the next colour tag group is available.  

After breakfast and leaving our cabin around 8:15 we sat out on the Waterfront on deck 8 forward and decided to disembark around 9 as we had arranged to drop our bags at a storage facility close to the terminal so we could enjoy our last few hours in Manhattan before heading for JFK for our Virgin Atlantic flight home that was scheduled to depart at 7:25pm.  

We headed down to deck 7 and joined a line that meandered along deck 7 towards the Manhattan Room and finally disembarked at the aft of the ship. Due to limitations of terminal, it was necessary to be held back on the dock for a short while to reduce the congestion before being allowed inside. We worked our way into the baggage hall where our suitcases were easy to find under a Priority sign. 

We headed to immigration which was a breeze (fantastic for us non-US citizens) as Norwegian are testing facial recognition technology in conjunction with the authorities. I was sceptical it would work for us non-US citizens, but it did, and so we breezed through and were soon heading along 12th Ave to our storage facility on the corner of 11th Ave and W 45th St.  

Summary & Conclusions 

Taking into consideration we still consider ourselves NCL ‘virgins’ (this was only our 4th sailing) we still naturally make comparisons with the other cruise lines we have sailed on (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC, Cunard, P&O, & Carnival).  

The following are purely our observations and may not impact others and so please do not take the negatives as criticisms, none ruined our sailing.  

Positives  

Freestyle Cruising  

The ‘Freestyle Cruising’ ethos of NCL which gives you the option to dress up or down is a great freedom. For gentleman, long pants for dinner are only required in Bayamo and Le Bistro after 5pm on Escape. This seems to vary from ship to ship as it was different on Breakaway.  

However, from experience this does not mean people do not don their finery, they do, and we saw everything from jeans, shorts to suits and jackets for gentlemen.  

Freestyle Dining  

There was a great selection of complimentary dining venues including the Garden Café buffet with indoor and outdoor options, especially on deck 8 where several speciality restaurants have seating on The Waterfront.  

Four main complimentary table service restaurants, The Manhattan Room, Savor & Taste with open seating and O’Sheehan’s Pub for table service dining.  

A total of 9 speciality restaurants – Moderno, Cagney’s, Teppanyaki, La Cucina, Le Bistro, Pincho, Bayamo, Food Republic & The Supper Club.  

It was great to be able to dine when you wanted, and also not being pressured into sharing a table if you did not want to. That was never even suggested.  

Also, the layout of the tables for 2 was really good, not as some other lines where, although you are seated at a table for 2, they are so close together, you might as well be sharing a bigger table! On numerous occasions, we were seated at a table for 4 and the extra place settings removed as there was just the 2 of us.  

The opening times of the Garden Café and especially O’Sheehan’s (24/7) were really good.  

Cabin  

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There were many nice touches in the MC category mini suite, such as coffee maker, ample storage, USB sockets in the bed side lights and the shower was huge with the rainfall shower head and massage jets and the complimentary bottle of sparkling wine for returning guests.  

Turn down service but no towel animal every night unless requested. This decision was explained by an officer at our Meet & Greet meeting and makes perfect sense when you consider the number of towels used for these that have to be subsequently re laundered and the energy and detergent that requires. 

The door lights for ‘Do not disturb’, and ‘Makeup Cabin’, or ‘Available’ indicators and letter rack is a nice touch.  

The beds were extremely comfortable and gave us a great night’s sleep.  

Standard balconies are larger than those on Breakaway and Getaway in our opinion. 

Venues  

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Numerous indoor venues for relaxing and entertainment such as Supper Club, Headliners Comedy Club, Skyline Lounge, The Atrium, O’Sheehan’s bowling alley, Card Room and Library. 

In terms of outdoor venues, Spice H2O was a great large adult only space during the day with its well-stocked and staffed bar.  

Pool Deck  

Obviously, there was the main pool area and sports court together with the water slides which were popular.  

As we were not Haven guests, I can only comment on that area briefly as we were invited to the Captain’s reception one evening. Very impressive and something we’d consider if the price was right! 

 The Waterfront  

 

This area is located on deck 8, both on port and starboard sides and we consider it one of the best areas on the ship.  

This enables you to walk outside all the way from the forward lobby on the port side on deck 8 and continue around the back of the ship and back to the forward lobby on the starboard side or vice versa. 

As mentioned earlier, several of the speciality restaurants have seating available out on the Waterfront – Moderno, Cagney’s, Bayamo, Pincho & La Cucina.  

There are bars outside on the Waterfront too, Cellars Wine Bar and the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar (one of our favourite locations). 

Staff  

 

All staff were very friendly and helpful, the officers were also very visible, all of them greeting guests with a smile whenever passing you around the ship.  

The Cruise Director and his team were good and ensured that all guests were encouraged to attend the various events organised by them and very energetic to keep people entertained.  

Service  

Bar service was very good in all the venues we attended, despite being extremely busy at times. On the whole table service in the restaurants was great, again considering the number of people being served by the wait staff. There have been some comments that as many guests have a beverage package, bar service has suffered, we did not experience this at all.  

Décor  

The ship is attractive to look at both externally and internally, as are the cabin furnishings with many nice touches and so is pleasing to the eye and the venues have very comfortable and plentiful seating each with a style of its own.  

Bars / Lounges  

There is a great variety of cocktails to try and a high proportion are within the limits of the Premium Beverage Package. If a beverage is above the $15 limit, you just pay the difference plus 20% gratuity.  

Please bear in mind, any beverages purchased before the ship sets sail will attract local sales tax.  

There was also various entertainment provided around the ship at various such as a guitarist in Cellars. 

Negatives  

Cabin  

The floor space was fine for 2, but for 3 it would be a little cramped in our opinion.  

Although ample storage was provided, it comprised of many ‘hidden’ cupboards such as drawers under the sofa. Definitely a lack of drawer space, but this was the only storage issue within the cabin.  

Dining  

Our biggest disappointment was the quality in the speciality steakhouse Cagney’s for the upcharge paid, but this seems to be a problem at most steakhouses at sea these days on other lines too. The service was good, but the food for the price, not fantastic, but this is very subjective and NCL must be doing something right as this venue appeared to be the most popular of all the speciality together with La Cucina. 

Due to the popularity of O’Sheehan’s at lunch, there were often long waits, even if you wished to share a table which is understandable.  

We also felt that the fact the Premium Beverage Package did not include coffee from the Atrium Café a disappointment, and the somewhat ludicrous decision of NCL that although coffee is supposed to be included with dinner, it does not include espresso! Even if you want an Espresso Martini! The beverage package covers the Martini, but the Espresso is charged for! So, if you order an Espresso and Brandy at dinner, you won’t pay for the Brandy (as long as your choice is less than $15), but you will be charged for the Espresso. 

It is possible to purchase a ‘water package’ comprises of different quantities as bottles of water are not included either. 

Despite the above, the issues on Escape were no worse than we have experienced on a small selection of our other cruises with various lines over the years, and are really just minor irritants and inconveniences, but this is an honest review of this one.  

Casino 

The design of the casino on deck 7 meant that the whole of that deck stank of stale cigarette smoke making it an unpleasant area to walk through. This permeated to decks 6 below and 8 above at times.  

Technology  

Obviously, due to the reliance on satellite communication, internet access wasn’t too bad compared to what we experienced on Breakaway, but still not stunning. 

There are several interactive screens located throughout the ship where some reservations could be made, and the App is useful for checking your account and reservations but still a little limited on being able to replace the Freestyle Daily, but that maybe just the way it’s detailed on the App. 

Conclusions  

Did we enjoy the cruise? Yes, we did.  

Did we have any issues that meant we had to visit Guest Services? Only 1 and that was minor!  

Did we value what Norwegian Cruise Line offered for the price we paid? Definitely. 

Would be sail with them again? Yes, we purchased 2 Next Cruise certificates valid for 4 years, so we will be back on Norwegian! 

Did we enjoy the company of our fellow sailors? Definitely. A great cross-section of people, very friendly and we enjoyed passing time with many of them.  

So, despite our observations above, would we recommend NCL? Yes, because it has more similarities to the other mass-market lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and MSC.  

However, if you prefer the more formal atmosphere of Cunard and P&O, I wouldn’t recommend it due to the more relaxed nature of ‘Freestyle Cruising’.  

Check out the blogs for this and some of our other sailings here with other various topics here. 

https://highseasescapades.co.uk 

Enjoy! 

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Peter Horton

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