NCL Escape Launch
In October 2015 I was invited to the Launch of NCL’s newest ship Norwegian Escape. This trip was only for Travel Agents and Media Partners so we could experience the ship and see what she had to offer.
Although I’ve sold quite a bit of Norwegian Cruise Lines in particular NCL Epic, I’ve never actually been on any NCL ship so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. There is so much to say about Escape I’m not sure where to start.
NCL are renowned for their ships having some of the most unique Hull Art in the Maritime World, their ships’ hulls have been designed and painted by some of the most famous artists. Escape is no exception and Guy Harvey was commissioned for NCL Escape’s Hull. In my opinion she is not the prettiest of ships on the outside, inside is a whole other story. She is beautiful, the décor is surprisingly muted with lots of neutral tones and sophisticated lighting. I was expecting lots of vibrant splashes of neon which are synonymous with NCL but there was none on Escape. There is quirky pieces of art work and beautiful wall lighting everywhere. The main atrium is stunning with an amazing Glass multi storey Chandelier/Art piece, it’s so elegant. I found the ship very spread out with lots of space and a wonderful light, airy feeling.
There is so much to see and do on board Escape. As you will see from the photos, the ship is fantastic for kids or in fact anyone that likes lots of activities. On the top deck there is 4 waterslides, a small water park/Splash park, a high ropes course with a mini zip line, mini golf and swimming pool. There is also a 2 lane bowling alley, giant outdoor cinema and HUGE kids club. The kids club area is the largest I’ve ever seen it’s absolutely enormous. There is tons of spaces within the kids club area for all different ages. They have a whole wall of screens for video games, a large dance studio with giant beanbags, lots of arts and crafts and lot lots more. It will definitely keep the kids happy if they get bored of the waterslides, Aqua Park, bowling alley etc. The kid’s club starts at aged 3yrs but for kids under 3 you can put them into the baby club, this is charged at $10 per hour, there is a max number of 10 babies allowed per session and there is 7 staff to 10 babies.
Entertainment & Dining
What really made Escape stand out for me was the amount of entertainment and dinning venues, you would probably need about 3weeks to visit them all. We had lunch in the buffet restaurant when we boarded and it was fine, it was smaller than most buffets I’ve been too and the food was fairly standard. There was salad, pasta, chicken, pork and meatballs along with the usual chips, burgers, hotdogs, pizza and a small dessert area with cheesecake, peach cobbler, a couple of different sponge cakes and an ice cream station which was scooped by a member of staff and then you could add your own sprinkles and smarties. It was the same for breakfast the next morning except the scrambled eggs really were horrendous!!!! 100% out of a packet and the powder wasn’t mixed properly. Perhaps the freshly made omelettes or fried eggs would have been a better bet.
For dinner the choices are ridiculous. There is everything from Buffett, Tapas, Mexican, Seafood, Burgers joints, Steakhouse and Italian to name but a few. There is 7 complimentary eateries and 8 Speciality restaurants on board. One of my absolute favourite venues was the supper club, it reminded me of a cabaret club in one of the old mob movies, it has curved seating booths and tables on the floor right under the stage, they have a show called the Brat Pack which features songs from the 80’s and early 90’s whilst you’re eating your dinner. The décor is fab, very glamourous, it’s all black and grey with accents of red, and it was beautiful. The cover charge is $42pp for dinner and the show.
We ate in the Manhattan Room which is one of the complementary restaurants on board, it was outstanding. I had crab cakes to start and beef wellington and it was perfect. The dining room is lovely, very bright and modern with a live band playing in the background, it had a great atmosphere but it wasn’t too loud.
If you fancy something a little more relaxed I would highly recommend the menu in O’Sheehans’ Irish bar. It’s a wonderful bar decorated like a traditional pub and has a more traditional pub grub menu serving the likes of burgers & steak. O’Sheehans’ is a great meeting place and has a great atmosphere in the evenings especially after dinner. I did find drinks on board expensive, there is 18% service charge, Tax and 20% VAT so for example a Vodka/7Up and a pint of Heineken was just over $23!!! Going by this I would definitely recommend the ALL INCLUSIVE option on NCL.
For evening entertainment there is lots to do from one of the 10 bars & Lounges (Excluding pool bars) to their magnificent shows there is something to keep everyone entertained. There was lots of live music when we were on board, in the restaurants and in the bars, the duelling pianos were brilliant. There is also a comedy club and a wine tasting comedy!! One thing to note is the Casino on Escape is non-smoking which is unusual for a cruise ship.
The other amazing area of the ship is the Adult Only Area. The H2O spice area is at the back of the ship and is stunning. It was FREEZING when we were there but I can imagine in the Caribbean, the hot tubs and outdoor waterfall grotto with rattan sun loungers, giant screen and at night the brilliant music makes for the perfect venue for grownups. I’m not sure I’d ever leave this area.
The Vibe beach club is the 2nd adult only area, this is great, real Miami Beach feel to it. There are hot tubs, chaise longue, a cool water feature and a bar. It’s the best chill out zone I’ve seen.
NCL are a market leader in Solo travel, they were one of the first major cruise lines to specifically introduce a large number of single studio cabins and a solo passenger programme. The biggest surprise for me was the studios for single travellers. They were fantastic, not as small as I would have thought. Yes, they are compact but they are beautifully decorated and again have everything you need. The studios are in an area of their own and have their own lounge just for studio passengers, I would think this would be great way for single travellers to meet other passengers who are travelling alone. They also have interconnecting studios which would be fab for 2 friends travelling together who don’t want to share.
We were lucky enough to have a balcony cabin on Deck 9. Our balcony was directly above one of the restaurants seating areas so this may cause some concern regarding noise and privacy. Everyone sitting below you can see right onto your balcony also I would image it could get quite noisy. Our cabin was small and compact but had everything you would need including a sofa, flat screen TV and proper hair dryer. The entire bathroom was actually in the bathroom as opposed to having the sink in the main cabin like on NCL Epic.
The biggest disappointment was the family inside cabins, as you will see from the photo they are awful, dull and dark with NO SPACE at all, there is no sofa, no seating area at all. Literally there is the 2 sets of bunk beds, a wardrobe and a bathroom. The TV is crammed into the corner. Even the wardrobe is tiny.
Haven Suites & Spa
The haven suites are divine, so luxurious with everything you can possibly imagine. Beautiful furnishings, massive balconies, showers overlooking the sea and corner Jacuzzi baths. Simply stunning and perfect for a large family or 2 couple who would like to share.
The haven spa was a surprise, it was so big. The pool area was so elegant and relaxing with fabulous sun loungers and a real air of luxury. It felt more like a millionaires’ penthouse suite than a cruise ship. The Mandara Spa area is amazing with a huge treatment menu available, the thermal suite has definitely got the coolest attraction I’ve seen on a cruise ship…………… a SNOW ROOM. Yep, that’s right with real flurries of snow gently floating down from the ceiling. It’s a wonderfully unique feature.
I could write all day about the Escape but overall I was very impressed. This ship is perfect for everyone who likes big ships with lots of activities, good food and excellent entertainment. It is ideal for Families in particular Multi -generational families, Solo Travellers and couples. There simply is something for everyone.