On 28th October, I boarded Norwegian Cruise Line’s brand new Norwegian Escape for a 1-night preview cruise from Southampton. Having sailed on a 1-night preview cruise onboard sister ship Norwegian Getaway in January 2014, I knew it would be a fantastic ship, but a marathon to explore everything she has to offer.
I arrived at Ocean Cruise Terminal ready to board at 10:30am. After waiting to check in, I boarded the ship just before 11am and went straight to my Balcony Stateroom (#11174), to drop off what little baggage I had. The cabin was very modern and stylish and featured a fantastic seating area and vanity table. Also in the cabin were a few gadgets, including a digital ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign and a coffee machine.
After viewing my stateroom, I began to explore the fun-filled ship. My biggest regret from my short time on Norwegian Getaway was never trying out the water slides or rope course. Now that I had a second chance, I headed straight for the rope course situated towards the aft of the top decks. This expansive 3-deck-high course of ropes, zip-lines and the ability to ‘walk the plank’ that extends over the side of the ship is the perfect place for adrenaline junkies! Also located below is the rooftop themed mini-golf course.
Next on the agenda was to conquer the waterslides. Norwegian Escape features four exciting water slides.
My particular favourite was the new Aqua Racer, which can only be found onboard Norwegian Escape. As you rush towards the bottom on an inflatable ring, this sensational slide offers magical visuals, including a brief transparent section overlooking the ship, as well as bright lights and glowing stripes.
After getting soaked, I quickly headed back to the cabin to get changed, ready to meet the Captain on the Bridge. I was joined by Harry Cotterill who was presenting his drawing of the ship to Captain Evans Hoyt.
After visiting the bridge, I began to explore the ship in more detail. The Garden Cafe on the pool deck, offers a variety of buffet-style cuisine, ranging from freshly-made sandwiches, to pizza and popular Asian favourites.
One deck above is the first Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at sea. This popular land-based bar, offers some of the best burgers at sea as well as amazing cocktails!
The pool deck is large and spacious, perfect for soaking up the Caribbean sun, but not the Southampton sun! There are two main pools along with two hot tubs and the kids’ aqua park. Also located on the top decks is the video arcade, plus Entourage teen lounge for thirteen to seventeen-year-olds. At the front of the ship is the sun deck, as well as the exclusive Vibe Beach Club for those guests 18 and over. This is where you’ll find six hot tubs, which actually hang over the side of the ship slightly, offering perfect panoramic ocean views as you relax in the warm, bubbling water, no matter what the weather!
Overlooking the aft of the ship is Spice H20. This adult-only sanctuary offers relaxing hot tubs and a realistic cave complete with waterfalls, perfect for cooling off in the warm Caribbean sun. There is also plenty of sun loungers as well as a giant outdoor movie screen. At night, the area is transformed into the ultimate party destination, prefect for sailaway parties.
Located at the front of the ship is The Haven suite complex. This private area, exclusively for suite guests, offers a private bar and lounge, restaurant as well as a magrodome-covered pool area, called The Haven Courtyard.
The Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suite (#17102) will certainly make you envious. This 121 m² accommodation features a luxurious bed with a floor-to-ceiling window, a spacious bathroom, offering splendid views from the bathtub, a living room with dining area, as well as personal butler service…oh, and the balcony is enormous!
Just next door is the Owner’s Suite (#17100). At 53 m², this suite is a lot smaller than the Deluxe Owner’s Suite, but still huge in comparison to the 19 m² balcony staterooms.
The Haven 2-Bedroom Family Villa (#17104 and #17106) is perfect for large families, wishing to travel in luxury. Sleeping 6 guests, this spacious suite has a private living area, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, however I did find the balcony rather small considering the size of the suite.
Norwegian Escape features not only multiple specially-designed single cabins, but also a private, dedicated space for solo guests to enjoy and socialise with other fellow solo guests. Spanning three decks, Norwegian Escape has over 70 Studio cabins. These cabins we viewed (#10531 and #10535) were quite funky, and although by no means luxurious, they do have all the basics a solo traveller would need. While none of the cabins feature exterior windows, they do all have a window overlooking the amazing views of the corridor. From my brief time exploring, the area seemed like a maze! The Studio Lounge was very nice and calming, with white, pastel colours and blue lighting. The lounge is a great place to meet new people as you enjoy a drink at the private bar, or help yourself to some food. I do love what Norwegian Cruise Line are trying to achieve with the Studio concept, and I would love to see more diverse Studio accommodations added to future ships, such as an Oceanview Studio or Studio Balcony, oh and get rid of the leather-lined walls too, it looks more like a padded prison cell!
After exploring the Studio cabins, I continued touring the accommodation offerings onboard Norwegian Escape. The Inside Staterooms, which can accommodate a family of four, are very small at just 12 m². I also viewed a Family Balcony Stateroom. These feature an inter-connecting doorway, perfect for parents travelling with children, but looking for their own personal space too. Forward-facing oceanview staterooms offer a great view overlooking the bow of the ship, while the Family Oceanview Staterooms offer a cosy seating area for watching movies, as well as twin sinks and a shower over a bath. The Disabled Oceanview Staterooms are spacious and feature an emergency alarm, plus adapted doors and wet room.
The Pulse Fitness Center and Mandara Spa and Salon is located on Deck 16. The fitness area is very large and hosts a range of exercise machines and weights. The salon offers a variety of beauty treatments as well as a dedicated Barber Shop for men.
678 Ocean Place is the heart of the ship. The beautiful chandelier that spans the three decks, is simply breathtaking. The Cellars Wine Bar, Pincho Tapas Bar, Sugarcane Mojito Bar, Le Bistro, Headliners Comedy Club and the Escape Casino can all be found surrounding 678 Ocean Place.
The Escape Casino is the largest casino in the Norwegian fleet and probably one of the largest at sea. Spanning more than 19,000 square feet, the casino features a variety of slot machines and tables. The Skyline Bar is also situated within the casino, offering drinks and sports games. There is also a cool video wall, showing panoramic landscapes.
Just a short distance from 678 Ocean Place, is La Cucina, 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, Tobacco Road Liquor Bar, Bayamo by Jose Garces, and Teppanyaki. There truly is a venue to suit all tastes onboard Norwegian Escape. La Cucina is great for a traditional Italian meal, while Bayamo by Iron Chef Jose Garces, offers classic Cuban dishes with a Latin twist, with the option to dine alfresco on The Waterfront. The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar is perfect for those wanting an excuse to drink at 11am in the morning! Miami’s oldest bar, Tobacco Road, makes an appearance onboard Norwegian’s newest ship, perfect for an uplifting liquor and a great atmosphere.
Another lively place onboard Norwegian Escape is The Atrium. The two-deck high area offers a refreshing café, perfect for a quick coffee and a cake, plus conveniently situated next to the Atrium Café is the Atrium Bar, which serves a wide range of beers and spirits. Guest Services as well as the library are located within the atrium. The upper-level of The Atrium is where you will find O’Sheehan’s Neighbourhood Bar and Grill and even a bowling alley! O’Sheehan’s is a complimentary dining venue onboard and serves delicious burgers, hot dogs, nachos and American comfort-cuisine.
Food Republic is a new À La Carte dining venue onboard Norwegian Escape not found on any other vessels. You can order dishes off of an iPad located on each table, by swiping your cruise card. It’s a pretty cool concept and menu highlights include Maine Lobster Rolls, Pub Sliders and various Tacos. There’s also a great sushi range, in addition to succulent grilled meats.
Norwegian Escape has a variety of onboard shops, including boutique stores from Lacoste and Carolina Herrera. The Tradewinds Tax & Duty Free Shops offer a variety of handbags, jewellery, watches as well as Norwegian Cruise Line souevenirs, in addition to Guy Harvey merchandise, the conservationist and artist behind Norwegian Escape‘s iconic hull art depicting marine life. The Photo Gallery offers a range of electronic products as well as personal photos taken onboard the cruise.
The majority of Norwegian Escape‘s restaurants are located towards the aft of the ship on Decks 6, 7, and 8. Norwegian Escape has three complimentary main dining rooms, Savour, Taste, and my personal favourite, The Manhattan Room. The art-deco, ballroom-like restaurant is a grand dining room, with a live band performing while you eat. There’s also a large dance floor, in case you fancy a Tango or a Waltz between meal courses. The best part about Norwegian’s ‘Freestyle Cruising’ concept is the ability to dine whenever and wherever you like, with no set dining times. It is recommended that you book in advance in order to guarantee a table in your chosen restaurant, however you can still turn up at the door and the restaurant hosts will do their best to accommodate you.
For evening meal I dined in The Manhattan Room, I also dined at the identical venue, called The Tropicana Room, on Norwegian Getaway back in 2014, so I knew it would be a great, entertaining meal. To begin I had my usual go-to-choice, the Caesar Salad. As always it was delicious. For my main, I had the Garlic and Herb Crusted Sirloin Steak, which was served with a Demi Glaze, Potato Wedges and Broccoli. For dessert, I was immediately tempted by the Warm Chocolate Lava Cake. Do I really need to tell you what the food was like? I’m sure you’ve worked out that it all sounds amazing!
Located at the aft of the ship on Deck 8 is Cagney’s Steakhouse, as well as Moderno Churrascaria and the Prime Meridian Bar. Cagney’s is Norwegian’s signature steakhouse specialty restaurant, serving the finest, mouth-watering steaks and lobster. Moderno Churrascaria serves delicious Brazilian dishes, which include Spanish Chorizo Sausages, Chicken Leg marinated in lime juice, sea salt and garlic, and Lamb Chops, mmmm!
Design-wise the Escape Theatre is rather bland, with straight, black walls, and a few strip lights along the walls and ceiling. It certainly isn’t as breathtaking as other cruise ship theatres, such as Queen Elizabeth or Independence of the Seas. I do like the addition of the Box Office, as this is something you’d expect to find in a theatre back on land. The Box Office is the place to go to reserve seats for the evening production shows, as well as other entertainment venues around the ship.
The headline production onboard Norwegian Escape is the musical Million Dollar Quartet. Based on the 1956 recording session between rock and roll stars Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis, this intimate musical production features familiar songs, such as Blue Suede Shoes, Down By The Riverside, I Walk The Line, Great Balls Of Fire, and among many others. A moving moment during the show is when the cast recreate the famous photo taken of the four performers back in 1956. I have to admit, I had never heard of the musical before boarding the ship and I was expecting it to be boring, however it was totally the opposite. It’s more than just a musical, it gets you thinking and teaches you about a real-life event.
Splash Academy is the children’s club onboard for those aged between three and twelve. This large play area is a great way for children to make new friends onboard, while they take part in fun and creative activities. For the even smaller ones, Guppies Nursery offers babies between 6 months and 3-years-old a range of fun, multi-sensory toys and activities to play with. Babies also have a special Quiet Room, to rest and sleep.
Although only onboard for less than 24 hours, I thoroughly enjoyed my time onboard Norwegian Escape. A lot of areas reminded me of Norwegian Getaway, but then it would, as they are practically the same ship. Norwegian Escape has pretty much everything Norwegian Getaway has…and more, so if I was deciding which ship to cruise on in the future, I would likely pick Escape. Getaway is still an equally impressive ship. I am so glad I got to try out the waterslides and rope course this time round and the chance to view the luxurious suite life in the Haven. I would certainly reccommend Norwegian Escape to anyone, as there is something to suit all tastes. If you have never sailed with Norwegian Cruise Line before, then what better ship to start on!