Norwegian Escape Review.
Transatlantic Crossing Southampton to Miami
10 Days 29th October to 8th November 2015
Above photo courtesy of FleetMon.com
As we traveled from Southampton airport and drove to the port we could catch glimpses of this huge ship waiting. When we entered the port we were stunned at not only the size of Escape, but the size of the magnificent art work on her hull; the art work painted by Guy Harvey is a realistic depiction of the sea live that can be found in the Caribbean and the Bahamas; and is huge and in my personal view the best in Norwegians fleet.
Norwegian Escape is tastefully decorated, the main walkways are painted white and the support pillars have been molded to look like the trunks of palm trees. In the center of Escape there is a glass stairway that connects decks 6, 7 and 8, which tastefully has two mood lights lighting up the glass treads, blue lights during the day and red lights at night; very nice.
In the same Atrium is a massive two deck LED chandelier which changes colours, daytime a white crystal affect and at night time it comes to life changing from yellow, red, blue and even changes to a U.S flag effect; 3 quarters coloured red, and the top quarter blue. It is a stunning sight but not obtrusive. The ceiling also has small LED lights that change colours but is all most missed due to that fantastic chandelier, but still effective. Around this area you will find; Le Bistro French restaurant, and Headliners Comedy club (howl at the moon also).
The second Atrium is just as impressive if not a bit more functional, in this area you will find the Guest relations, i-connect (internet stations), Shore excursions desk, Restaurant reservations desk, a huge 3 deck high LCD screen surrounded with comfy chairs, and the Atrium bar.
Photos taken by Dave Jones
Connecting the two Atrium’s on deck 6 is the Art Gallery, which is a large area showing off different styles of art, including autographed memorabilia. All the art is presented from Park west Galleries and they have a wide range of art and sculptures to fit all pocket sizes. They change the display on a regular basis, its a nice way to pass away a few minutes looking at the display, and you don’t get hassled.
Over all impression is a well designed areas, which are light and airy.
There are nine Specialty Dining Restaurants offering delights from all over the world; French, Italian, Brazilian, Japanese, Chinese, and Argentina including Tapas, sushi, and Steak house restaurants. I can only review three of the above, because of the Specialty Dining package we picked, as we thought it was enough with the complementary dining on offer, but the choice is yours.
Cagney’s Steak House; is exactly what it say’s, it specialises in all types and sizes of steaks cooked to your own taste, I ordered a 8oz fillet mignon cooked to a blue stranded (which means its scared by the pan to sear the edges and that’s it) and it came out perfectly cooked, my wife ordered the Sea Food Plater which had King Prawn’s, Sea Bass, Calamari, Crab Cake and Scallops; all tasted very nice. The deserts menu is a bit small but is very tasty and are good portions. The service was excellent, from being shown to our table, to the waitress serving us. It was my Birthday the night we went, and was given a sponge cream cake and had Happy Birthday sung to me by the serving staff, thank you.
Moderno Churrascaria; is an Gaucho style restaurant, Brazilian-style steakhouse offers succulent meat carved right at your table by experienced pasadores, ready to serve, per your table marker: red for “stop, I’m full,” green for “keep it coming!” and they do its non-stop meat fest. Indulge in a variety of cuts and meats, as well as classic churrascaria fare including imported cheeses, olives, cured meats, ceviche and specialty salads.
Teppanyaki; is a authentic Japanese hibachi restaurant, where the chief not only cook’s your food in front of you, but does it in a showman way, with twirling knives, spinning and flipping eggs, and catching them on the edge of his Spatula, and drawing butterflies out of the egg yoke. I ordered Fillet Mingnon (Blue) and Lobster, and Dawn ordered Shrimp and Scallops, and the food was wonderful. The starters were Miso Soup and Seaweed Salad with Ginger Dressing, not bad would not order it if there was a chioce. Desert was a choice between fresh fruit and Green Tea Cake, both were very nice.
We tried the Complementary Dining and found the food was cooked to a high standard and sometimes the Garden cafe food was hotter and fresher, for example I love eggs Benedict with ham for breakfast, downstairs in Taste they arrived cold and the hollandaise sauce was dry, while in the Garden Cafe they are freshly made in-front of you and as much hollandaise sauce as you want.
The Menus in the Manhattan, Taste, and Savoy Restaurants had two menus one side stayed the same each night, and the other side was altered nightly, the food and service in these restaurants were fantastic, I told our waitress that Fruit Trifle was my favorite desert, she turned up with not one but four Trifles, that’s excellent service.
O’Sheehan’s Neighbourhood Bar & Grill delivers a good but limited menu, in what NCL presumes is a genuine Irish bar. O’Sheehan’s is a open restaurant with the O’Sheehan’s bar just across the walkway, so it can be a bit loud and not always good if you want to have a chat over your meal.
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea; we only went the once and that was on the first day with decent weather during the crossing, talking to our fellow Americans who know this chain of eatery said it was very close to the onshore experience. The only problem was the waiting from ordering to receiving the meals was up to one hour, and for a burger and chips (fries) that was a bit much, in saying that it was a lovely burger with British chips and a great view outside of the ship.
The Garden Cafe’ is a large buffet area on deck 16 which is open 23 ½ hours a day with a large selection of ethnic dishes, from Italian, Indian, Tai, and Chinese, there are cold meat, cheese and freshly baked breads. Hot meats are carved in front of you, (you can prompt them to cut it a little bit thicker) with burgers with different toppings and foot long hot dogs. There is a large selection of deserts sponge cakes, ice creams, and a crumble pie of sorts, all very nice.
Shows & Entertainment:
There are three main shows on Escape; Million Dollar Quartet, After midnight, and For the Record: The Brat Pack, Live at the Supper Club.
Million Dollar Quartet, and After midnight, are free shows in the Escape Theater. There is a cover charge for the The Brat Pack show which is in its own theater called the Supper Club. These shows require a pre-booking to gain entry and they book up fast, so a top tip is pre-book the shows you want to see as soon as you have confirmed the cruise booking, as they are not on every night.
Million Dollar Quartet is the story of ‘Sun Records’ just after they sold ‘Elvis Presley’ to RCA. A new piano player called ‘Jerry Lee Lewis’ is after a record deal with Sun records and is an annoyance for ‘Carl Perkins’ who is trying to gain another hit. ‘Johnny Cash’ has signed a new contract with Capital Records but has not told Sun Records, who has a contract ready for Johnny to sign; opps to late. ‘Elvis Presley’ has dropped into the studio to convince ‘Sam Phillips’ owner of Sun Records to sell up and join RCA.
The show runs for 1 hour 40 minutes and is a nonstop rock fest with some of the stars greatest hits, Jerry Lee adds some light moments with some fantastic piano/singing performances. try and see the show twice, its worth every second.
After midnight; Welcome back to that electrifying time when Harlem’s Cotton Club was the place to be. Winner of the 2014 Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Astaire Awards for Best Choreography, AFTER MIDNIGHT is the smash-hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, a stageful of megawatt performers, a roof-raising onstage jazz band, and the best dancing from Broadway. Witness The Cotton Club come to life in a never-before-seen phenomenon at sea. Experience Broadway at its finest in the Escape Theater!
For the Record: The Brat Pack, Live; Relive the glorious 1980’s at For the Record: The Brat Pack where classic soundtracks bring the movies to life in an immersive rock n roll concert and dining experience. Escape into an 80’s teenage dream as you “Danke Schoen” like Ferris, “Try A Little Tenderness” with Ducky and heat up your night like a “St. Elmos Fire” at this nostalgic feast for the senses. No leg warmers required.
‘Oh What a Place, Oh What a Night’, Howl at the Moon – Duelling Pianos is a show that you must not miss, for four hours of non-stop high energy, duelling piano and drum playing, blasting hits out from a wide genre list; such as Rock, Heavy Metal, Country, Pop, and anything in between.
Send up your favorite tune you want playing, and they will play it. They do have some way of picking what comes next, if your tune arrives with some dollar note or a shot, it moves up the list, if you don’t want to hear the song then you can put a dollar down to stop it, it all makes up to a great night of music and fun.
Tickle your funny bone at Headliner’s Comedy Club with performances by Levity Entertainment Group’s roster of top-notch comedians. Employing over 300 artists nationwide, Levity is the largest producer of live comedy, creating tours and TV specials for the biggest names in the industry, including Daniel Tosh, Amy Shumer, Gabriel Iglesias and Jeff Dunham. With several hilarious shows per week, prepare for a sidesplitting good time with Levity Entertainment Group.
The other performers in the Bars and spaces such as the Atrium all perform to a high calibre, are worth sipping a cocktail and chilling out to their music.
All the Bars offer bar stools, and comfy seating with waitress services, once again the bar staff are fantastic and will keep the drinks coming. In all bars are flat screen TVs showing the latest sports from around the world, we watch the Rugby World Cup, and Formula 1 racing live in the bars. There is live entertainment in all the bars, especially in the ‘5 o’clock somewhere bar’ and the ‘Skyline Bar’ .
Staff and Crew:
The Staff and crew are the best we have ever cruised with. With over 70 different nationality’s, they are all ways pleased when you say hello or good morning to them. Restaurant staff and Bar staff always seem to have an extra second to have a chat with you, and somehow remember your name and favourite tipple when you return.
They seem willing to do anything for you so you have a great time, we like talking to the crew, to try and gauge how NCL treat/look after them, there
were crew members who have been with the company for 18 plus years, some hoping that their children will join NCL. That seems to tell its own story on how well they are looked after, we’ve seen a few of there poolside parties after the guest’s have gone to their cabins, and they have a ball.
We did have a few problems manly with Guest Relations, we actually boarded the Escape with the wrong key cards that we were given when we checked in, it took nearly a dozen times over three days to get the right key cards with our names and our packages linked to the cards, and we weren’t the only ones to have problems It seemed that a new computer system was being used and it allowed no room for flexibility, I would expect that when Escape was sitting in Miami Port the glitches would be sorted out.
Our Cabin Steward was not the best we have ever had in fact the opposite, we are high up in the Latitudes program and we had no dressing gowns, cups, ice, nightly chocolates, bin’s not emptied, I had to ask for a new bar of soap, he only left one large towel throughout the cruise, our latitudes free box of chocolates and Escape pin badges, since this was the inaugural cruise of their new flagship he was not up to standard.
The Ropes Course, is the Largest and the Highest ropes course at sea, and it’s fantastic and scary all in one go. There are two ‘Walk the Plank’ which are 172 feet over the sea. The course covers three decks in height, the last level is the same height as the top of the funnel.
There are 5 ‘Sky Rails’ some of which swing out over the sea, and combine to make the largest ‘Sky Rails’ at sea. At the bottom of the course is the Kids Rope Course, just like the adult/kids course but only a foot off the ground compared to the 4/8 and 12 meters of the main course. It’s a test of balance and nerve even with the knowledge that you can’t fall due to the harness and safety line connecting you to the course, but the nerves still jangle.
Pools, Slides, and Spa.
Photos by Dave Jones.
Escape has areas for everyone, there’s a ‘Kids Aqua Park’ with slides tipping buckets, water cannons and plunge pools. ‘Spice H2O’ is an adult only with two spa tubs and a first at sea a ‘waterfall grotto’, in the evening this area can be transformed into a show area with a large LCD screen or a disco so you can dance the night away. We found that the two spas were too hot, and we could not go in them.
There are two large slides that go out over the side of the ship, a large blue slide that you slide down on either single or double inflatable rings, over a see through Perspex section of tube. The next slide is the ‘Aqua Racer’ where you race with your friends in a adjoining slide, this slide was not available on the crossing, as it had not been certified by the US Coast Guard.
There are Jacuzzi tubs on the pool deck which always seemed open. Altogether there are 12 pools and hot tubs to choose from.
Mandara Spa & Salon is the same as the one on the Norwegian Epic and other Breakaway class of ships, with the exception of a ‘Salt room’ and a ‘Snow room’, this area is a limited area so book early if you intend to use the spa, saunas, hot stone beds, and various water treatment areas. There is a large fitness area with all the up to date equipment, from treadmills, bikes, weight machines and dumbbells.
To help you stay entertained and under the ‘Ropes Course’, there is a 9 hole crazy golf course, that looks like it’s in a industrial area; and is quite challenging. Next to that is a greened strip that can be used in a various ways from, a putting green, crown green bowls, and croquet. There are also four table tennis tables in a area away from any wind, and Shuffle board courts to while away any time at sea.
There is a large area where you can play Basket ball, Tennis, 5 aside football and even dodge ball. One evening we watched the engineering crew playing Basketball and they were good.
In O’Sheehans Bar there are two pool tables, two ten pin bowling lines, and various other games such as Darts and quiz’s to be played.
Casino; Escape’s Casino is the largest in the Norwegian fleet. Escape casino offers plenty of thrilling casino games for every type of player. Whether you’re a beginner or regular at the poker table, there’s something for everyone. There’s Blackjack, all types of Poker games and roulette and hundreds of slot machines with different themes. It nice that NCL have made it a non-smoking casino, and it didn’t seem to affect the amount of people playing the tables.
Staterooms; We stayed in a cat. BA Balcony cabin on deck 14, the room it’s self is nothing special, with a double bed that can become twin beds, flat screen TV and a settee/3rd bed. The bathroom consists of the normal shower, toilet and sink with a large mirror. The room seems to be a bit on the narrow side with a lack of storage space. The balcony is the standard balcony with two chairs and a table, it was great sitting on the balcony looking out on to the Atlantic Ocean and seeing absolutely nothing, and pitch black at night, wonderful.
We also visited some of the staterooms at the upper end of the scale in the
Haven suite. Haven guests all have Butlers and Concierge to look after them 24 hours a day, they also have their own Guest Relations, Bar and Dining room. They have a private sun area with a pool, spa and sun chairs and a retractable roof for all weather use. The Haven area is only accessible by a key card so only Haven guests can enter.
They have large Spa suites for 2/3 guests, a Family suite that fits 6 guests (I think 6 is a bit tight), and then there’s the Owners Suite which has the largest Balcony that wraps around the corner of the aft ship to nearly half way around, it has a large bathroom with a his and her sinks, large shower and bath tub, a changing room and a large living area. There is also another bedroom which has its own shower/bathroom, and a pull out bed.
My opinion is if you know and travel with six other people (family/friends) and weigh up the benefits of the extra person discount offered in the stateroom (all staterooms offer the same discounts) times by 4, it will bring down the cost of the suite to around £1500/person, and compare that to a BA cat. Room of £1300/person is worth checking it out. NCL even offers, (sometimes), OBC, Drinks packages, Speciality Dining packages included in the Haven price.
Overall impression: In our impression of being on the Escape for 10 days with no chance of getting off, I was concerned that we would get bored and long for land after three days, Not so. This ship has so much to offer as you have already read, but what I have not mentioned yet is all the daily activities put on by Julie or Cruise Director (yes the same as the Love Boat), with Zumba lesions, dance classes, cooking demo’s, bingo, quiz’s, film s shown in the theater, poolside activities, and to many to mention.
We have been on five different cruise companies, and rightly or wrongly compare all the ships we’ve been on. Escape comes on top for Entertainment, crew friendliness, and standard of the food in all areas, and we will defiantly sail on her again and soon. Escapes Hull artwork by Guy Harvey is the best in the Norwegian fleet, and can’t be compared to any other company’s ships. Escape is airy and light and most of all smoke free.