Norwegian Cruise Line christens last Breakaway-Plus ship

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Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway-Plus class ship Norwegian Encore has been christened in Miami.

American singer, and godmother of the 3,998-passenger ship,  Kelly Clarkson performed a set in front of 3,500 guests in PortMiami.

The ceremony featured performances from the cast of Choir of Man and Kinky Boots, two productions guests can watch onboard Encore.

<> on November 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said: “Norwegian Cruise Line has been sailing from Miami for over 50 years. We were the first to offer weekly cruises to the Caribbean.

“Five years ago, we launched our history-making Breakaway-Plus class and today we are proud to christen Norwegian Encore, the final ship of this class and a true representation of the evolution of the brand, right here in our hometown of Miami.”

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After the traditional blessings, Clarkson officially christened Norwegian Encore by breaking a bottle of champagne across the ship’s hull.

<> on November 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Norwegian Encore’s sister ships are Bliss, Joy and Escape, the first Breakaway-Plus class vessel to launch in 2015.

Encore will offer seven-day voyages to the Eastern Caribbean from Miami, beginning from November 24.

Norwegian Encore draws applause for big views and thrills

The Observation Lounge on the Norwegian Encore offers ample seating and food and drink options.

The Observation Lounge on the Norwegian Encore offers ample seating and food and drink options. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin

ONBOARD THE NORWEGIAN ENCORE  — When Harry Sommer, the incoming president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, spoke to travel advisors aboard the line’s newest megaship, the Encore, he reeled off a list of its activities: 29 dining options, a collection of virtual reality games, laser tag and the 1,100-foot racetrack.

But surprisingly, it was the “huge, huge” observation lounge that elicited spontaneous applause from the travel advisors in the audience. 

“Prime waterfront property,” Sommer said. “I think some of our cruise line competition uses that to put cabins; we like all our guests to experience that type of view. The exact same view the captain gets from the bridge.”

He then deadpanned, “Though he hasn’t invited me yet.” 

Sommer wasn’t kidding when he said the observation lounge was huge. It takes up a generous chunk of Deck 15 and offers vistas both port and starboard plus two-deck-high, floor-to-ceiling windows over the bow. There are loungers galore for disappearing with a book plus couches grouped in conversational seatings.

The decor is done up in soothing shades of sea green, taupe and wood tones, and basket-style chandeliers are suspended from the very forward part of the room. Three buffet stations and a bar offer food and drink at various times of the day. 

Haven passengers get their own generously sized forward lounge on the deck above. 

The Encore is the billion-dollar finale in Norwegian’s Breakaway-Plus class, so many of the travel advisors who saw the ship in New York, like those who would later tour it in Miami, were familiar with the ship’s layout. Agents, media and Norwegian VIPs were able to tour and stay on the ship during a two-day visit to New York  —  a “cruise” in name only, as the Encore remained docked. 

The Encore is not too different from its sisters, although, of course, there are tweaks here and there. More than one travel advisor on the ship raved about the interior decor. More than one executive pointed to the design influence of Frank Del Rio, the CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. 

A unique feature on the Encore that is destined to become a recurring feature on other ships is a new restaurant, Onda by Scarpetta, which specializes in upscale Italian cuisine. 

On the interior entrance, Onda is tucked behind Cellars, the wine bar runs in partnership with Michael Mondavi. But it’s also part of the wraparound Waterfront dining and drinking promenade and as such has tables for dining outdoors.

Also unique to the Encore is the slate of entertainment, and advisors I spoke with talked up the main-theatre productions of “Choir of Man,” which got two standing ovations during my viewing, and the Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.” 

In the category of super-active vacation, the Encore doesn’t disappoint. 

The Speedway go-kart racetrack is wider and longer than on other Breakaway-Plus ships, and each participant gets to drive for eight minutes, a suitable number of laps around the track. Passengers who aren’t into driving can watch the action from the observation platform.

Behind the go-karts is the laser tag zone, where teams of up to five players each are pitted against each other in the ruins of Atlantis. Adjacent is the gravity-defying Ocean Loops waterslide that twists and turns off the side of the ship. 

One deck below, passengers will find the Galaxy Pavilion, a collection of intense VR games, and yet another deck below that is the gym  —  and the spa, for when they’re ready to trade activity for a massage.

Another feature new to Norwegian, although not unique to the Encore, was the presence of water cartons instead of plastic bottles. In his remarks to agents (see a report, this page), Sommer talked about Norwegian’s investment in “doing the right thing,” which includes eliminating single-use plastic and plastic straws fleetwide.

“You can’t get a plastic straw on any of our ships,” he said. “Don’t ask.”

Virgin Voyages unveils fashion-forward uniforms

Virgin Voyages’ crew will be clad in uniforms created by British fashion designer Gareth Pugh that might be described as one part Star Trek and one part Kinky Boots.

Images of the uniforms on models in moody industrial settings were released ahead of their appearance at a showcase on Sept. 15 as part of London Fashion Week.

The collection — in brand-correct red, white and black — was two years in the making. Virgin said it allows for most crew to have a range of looks day and night and also breaks with cruise traditions by having no epaulettes stripes for officers.

One outfit worn by a female model includes a long, flowing red cape. A male model sports a tunic with a deep V design.

Pugh’s designs will be paired with signature, custom-designed red sneakers made by San Francisco-based PLAE.

“For this project, we were really allowed to push the boundaries and to redefine the idea of what constitutes a uniform. We ultimately wanted to make everything about it modern, luxurious and desirable,” Pugh said.