The Escape a step forward for Norwegian Cruise Line

Part of the Guy Harvey hull painting on the Norwegian Escape. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

PAPENBURG, Germany — The Norwegian Escape will be a bigger, and improved, version of the two ships that preceded it in the Norwegian fleet.

On a tour here, Norwegian executives showed off the line’s 14th ship, which is about six weeks away from its debut in Miami in early November.

Although it is based on the same platform as Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, the Escape will be notably different in its details and carry more passengers.

Escape, designated Breakaway Plus in early discussions, will have one more deck of cabins, giving it a capacity of 4,270 at double occupancy, up from 3,969 for its predecessors.

The extra deck also allowed for a two-story design in the deluxe Haven area, which now has an elegant glass-enclosed curving staircase connecting the two levels. The Haven also has an indoor-outdoor restaurant, a feature from Norwegian Epic that was skipped on Breakaway and Getaway but is being resurrected.

The pool area of Norwegian Escape. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

On almost every deck, Escape has something that distinguishes it as new. On the top deck, the ropes course has been expanded to three levels and has 99 elements, including five zip tracks. The Plank, a balance beam that extends out over the side of the ship, is now on either side of the ship, doubling the opportunity for passengers to try it.

The Aqua Racer water slide has been given a bigger diameter and can accommodate 1,000 riders an hour, up from less than 500 previously.

Breakaway/Getaway’s ice bar has been deep-sixed in favor of The Cellars, Norwegian’s first wine bar. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville replaces the more generic Flamingo bar near the Spice H2O entertainment area, and his 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar will use the space occupied by the Fat Cats jazz and blues club on preceding ships.

At the new Food Republic, guests will order dinner on iPads. “These ships come out with ever-more innovative features with every ship we build,” said Norwegian President Andy Stuart.

Stuart said that the outdoor dining area in The Haven and the ropes course are among his favorite additions on Escape. “The ropes course is going to blow people away,” he said.

Norwegian Escape cruisers are learning the ropes

Norwegian Escape ropes adventure course.

Norwegian Cruise Line has developed its own signature top deck attraction, one that will emerge in a spectacular way in the coming weeks on the Norwegian Escape.

Just as Carnival Cruise Line has made the water slide its own, and Royal Caribbean International adopted the rock climbing wall as its emblem for top deck adventure, Norwegian has become the cruise line with the ropes course that leaves all others behind.

Norwegian started its love affair with the ropes course on the Norwegian Epic, and has continued it with the Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway. The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, due in Miami next month, will take everything one shaky, scary, thrill-inducing step further.

The ropes course on the Escape is a dizzying construction of beams, platforms, tracks, ladders and lines. It will have three levels, up from two on the Getaway and Breakaway, and 99 individual elements, nearly double its predecessors.

An element unique to Norwegian is the Plank, a 6-inch steel beam extending eight feet out over the side of the ship, daring harnessed plank-walkers to venture out to the end.

There will be two planks on the Escape, one on either side of the ropes course, up from a single one on earlier ships.

Another over the edge element will be a bowed zip-track, one of five “Sky Rails” that are included in the course.

The challenge of the ropes course is tailor-made for teens but also a good family activity. It provides an exhilarating view from the very top of the 20-deck ship.

The only drawback to the ropes course is its vulnerability to bad weather, including high winds on a sunny day.

Other cruise lines have ropes courses, too, including four of Carnival Cruise Lines’ most recent vessels. The MSC Seaside from MSC Cruises is expected to have a unique take on ropes when it is delivered in 2017.

But for now, when the Norwegian Escape arrives in Miami in late October, spectators won’t be able to mistake her profile for any other ship, partly because of the most elaborate ropes course at sea.