This is a quick Norwegian Escape cruise review from our 7 night Caribbean Cruise between 13th February to 20th February 2016.
I say a ‘quick cruise review’ as my first Norwegian Escape cruise review from the Inaugural Transatlantic crossing goes into lots of detail about the entire ship, so if you’re looking to get an idea of what NCL’s newest mega ship is like then take a look, the review has over 350 photos many in collage format.
The Norwegian Escape is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest and biggest cruise ship to date, actually the Escape is still the newest cruise ship in the world, but not for much longer as from April 2016 Holland America & Royal Caribbean will introduce new ships to their fleets.
The Norwegian Escape is a beauty of a ship, towering some 20 decks high and then some with the water slides and the ‘plank’ that is a staggering 172 feet above the waterline, gulp.
The Escape offers so much in variety from broadway shows, celebrity comedians, more dining options than your local town and plenty of activities to keep you busy.
A few words on all that is onboard to do, it’s not all complimentary. Even though the Escape has lots to offer, some of these special highlights require an extra fee, not that you’ll worry you’re on vacation, right.
What ever your dream cruise entails, you can pretty much say that the Norwegian Escape will have it. Check out my ‘full on’ Norwegian Escape Cruise Review over here.
The Norwegian Escape does week to week Eastern Caribbean cruises which are exactly the same.
I guess with it being the first few months of cruising for the newest cruise ship from Norwegian they limited it to this route. Not ideal if you want to do back to back Caribbean cruises right now on the Escape as you’d be revisiting the same places the following week.
The southern & eastern Caribbean excites Moni & I more than the western side which includes the likes of Cozumel and Belize. However if you do want to do more than 7 nights on this ship, then from July onwards NCL have a Western Caribbean 6 day itinerary available.
This 7 night cruise only stops at St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and Nassau in the Bahamas, of which I’ll talk about later in this post.
Check-in & Boarding:
Check-in was the longest we have experienced, the young lady at the desk was having a bad hair day and was experiencing some computer problems which kept us at the counter for 25 minutes, normally a 5 minute formality.
Eventually all is good and we can proceed to the waiting area. By now there are lots of people gathered and we had to wait about 50 minutes before our boarding number was called.
Boarding was easy, just a walk up the zigzag gangway and onto the promenade deck. From here we made our way to our cabin which will be home for the next week at sea.
Even though we have cruised many times, this was our first where we have shared a cabin.
We shared a cabin with Moni’s sister who was experiencing her first ever cruise. The good thing for us was that having sailed on the Escape before we expected to be quite familiar with the running of the ship. This would allow us more time to relax which might sound strange being on a cruise right, but if you know me, and follow our blog then a cruise is not always quiet and relaxing especially if you want to explore and experience all that cruise ships offer.
That can especially be said about the Norwegian Escape with its 12 dining venues, multiple shows etc, trying to fit it all in a 7 night cruise would be impossible, believe me I know, having spent 13 nights on her already.
The third bed in our cabin is the couch which was turned into a bed for the entire cruise. Not the most comfortable by all accounts but certainly better than having to take a single cabin and pay full fare.
Even with having the extra person in the cabin we had enough space to store suitcases, however the wardrobe was full and we only had the minimum of clothes with us.
The safe in the room is small so don’t plan on locking away anything bigger than a kindle as it will not fit.
The use of the bathroom worked fine with the three of us and was never a problem with space in there, not that we were in there together…lol.
The cabin steward did an ok job for this 7 days, nothing over the top. It took him a few days to register and bring an extra coffee cup, also to fill in extra tea & coffee pouches, and the bottle of still water had already been opened and put back on the shelf from the previous passengers…Yuk.
A few of the senior staff members had changed since the Inaugural Transatlantic crossing that we were on, a new captain, new cruise director and others. A few changes on board as well, Jimmy Buffets Margaritavile is now ala carte priced and not complimentary and as a result was nowhere near as busy.
The one thing that we were interested in seeing was how crowded the ship would be and feel in her new waters of the Caribbean.
The weather on the Atlantic crossing was not ideal for outdoor activities until the last few days and hence the indoor areas were often crowded especially the atrium area.
This time the atrium was still busy but nowhere near as crowded which was very welcome and you could generally find a chair to sit and have a coffee. As for the coffee, well there is still room for improvement. Most of the indoor activities still take place here.
Having so many passengers on board somewhere had to be busy and with the wonderful sunny days you’d expect the pool area to be bustling. Actually the pool was not really that crowded, I did say pool meaning one, but there is actually two pools, both rather small for a ship this size, the second pool is sandwiched between the water slide and kids aqua area and was mainly full of kids.
The battle for a sun-lounger or deck chair call them what you want would have been tough. Every day at any time the entire place was full of these chairs all being occupied, be it just a towel or book or a person soaking up some rays. The ship does have a lot of outdoor space but still not enough for all.
The adults only area Spice H2O was also very busy and the ‘grotto’ was not such a popular thing as I had expected, sure enough people popped under for a second or two just like having a cold shower really and then going back to sunbathe.
As for the restaurants onboard the Escape, we had sampled nearly all of them the last time we cruised and without having an Ultimate Dining Package (UDP) deal we didn’t feel the need to go again and pay the extra fee. We ate most days from the buffet which offered a pretty good selection of nice enjoyable food.
A UDP is a must really if you want to experience many of the speciality venues on board considering that they range in price for each plate ala carte meals, to a set $29.95 +18% gratuity & service charge. NCL do offer dining packages along with the UBP Ultimate Beverage Package which you can pre purchase or buy when onboard.
Tip- Sometimes you can even get them included for FREE as a bonus or promotion with some of their cruise bookings, make sure to ask when booking your cruise.
Breakfast and lunch at the buffet restaurant was always a challenge to find a table to sit at and I must say that the staff here do an amazing job of keeping up with cleaning tables etc, the best we have had on any ship.
The main dining rooms (complimentary) were busy and often had a line of people waiting. I didn’t see all the speciality restaurants of an evening to see how busy they were, but the Bistro was often quiet.
The entertainment was the same as on the crossing which again we had seen recently and didn’t feel the need to go again. The booking system is still in place where you have to make a reservation for the shows, the comedy and the restaurants, which in my opinion is a real shame as it takes away the spontaneous vacation feeling of just deciding if you’d like to go or not.
All of the shows booked out after about the fourth day so my tip here would be to book as soon as you can, even before you cruise as you can book some things online via the Norwegian Cruise Lines reservations page. Also you can download the Norwegian iConcierge app which allows you to check availability and book up directly from your phone which I found rather handy and it doesn’t require the purchase of an internet plan.
Interactive screens on most decks near the lifts allow you to book, and also from your cabin on the interactive tv.
A big thing that I didn’t expect was the smoking in parts of the casino. We have experienced this before on Carnival in the Caribbean and thought it was a dying out thing on cruise ships but obviously not. It was busy here at different times of the day and even though the ship has very good air control, the smell does disperse and get sucked around not as bad as the Carnival Splendor ship but bad enough for non smokers.
As for the waterfront dining which is a new style of dining on cruise lines, well this was pretty much non-existent. On each occasion that I walked around the waterfront to take a look the outside dining area, it was empty. The temperature was nice but I have a feeling that the wind is what puts people off.
Ports of call:
Just being on a cruise ship is an awesome feeling and if we didn’t stop at a port no big deal, however our first port of call on day 4 was St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. We had a good 10 hours here which allowed passengers to explore the island before leaving around 6pm to bop around in the ocean before our next port which was Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. You can read more about our port of call in St Thomas of the US Virgin Islands.
I said bop around in the ocean because you can see Tortola island from St Thomas, and I’m sure we just drifted around overnight before coming alongside at 6.30 in the morning of day 5. We had about 6 hours to explore in Tortola and again we did our own thing and took a local tour with some fellow passengers around the island. You can read more about our port of call in Tortola of the British Virgin Islands.
We had to leave Tortola at 3pm to make our way to Nassau where we arrived at 12.30pm on day 7. Only having about 5 hours here again we did our own thing and took a local tour to see some of the sights. We departed Nassau at 7pm to make our way to Miami where we arrived at 6am. You can read more about our port of call in Nassau in the Bahamas.
As we were three people in our cabin and each of us wanting to get online we decided to purchase the unlimited Internet package for $209 USD so that we could all use the net throughout the duration of this cruise, one at a time that is, which worked well for us. The connection was not bad considering you’re at sea and the good thing about being unlimited it didn’t matter if it was a little slow as we were not restricted by minutes.
Debarkation was very easy and within an hour we were off the ship and on our way to the to hire a car.
- For me the highlight of this cruise was the fun times with Moni & her sister. Nothing really struck me as a must do again. It was all very good.
- I’d have to say the need to book up for shows, dinners, comedy.
- The smoking inside the casino.
- The extra charges for most of the dining venues & a couple of the shows.
- The lack of a front facing area. (the Spa & Gym occupy this area)
The Norwegian Escape is a spectacular ship with so much to offer, excellent dining, great shows, nice modern cabins & excellent outdoor facilities, however she is a mega ship in size and with that come a lot of passengers and yes she was crowded at times. Lucky for us there were not too many kids onboard to run amuck, I’d hate to be cruising during school holidays. Sure there is an adults only zone but believe me it would be chockers.
With the Escape being still very new she was in immaculate condition and the staff that we had contact with were all very helpful, friendly and cheerful.
We would certainly cruise again on the Escape and with Norwegian, however we all agreed that maybe a smaller size ship would suit us better.
If you’d like to find out more about the ship with over 350 photos then I invite you to read my first Norwegian Escape Cruise Review from November 2015.
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