I recently returned from sailing on board the brand-new Norwegian Escape. I was lucky enough to travel on her between Hamburg and Southampton so had a great opportunity to try out a number of her new features, as well as some as the returning favourites by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). This was my first time experiencing a full NCL cruise and was impressed by the overall calibre and quality of the ship and everything on board.
Now the biggest ship in the Norwegian fleet, Escape build’s on the successful DNA of the Breakaway Class of ships and take the philosophy of Freestyle Cruising to the next level with new concepts, entertainment, activities, bars and restaurants.
So after several nights on board here’s my 6 point review of Escape and what she has to offer:
1 – Accommodation
Escape features accommodation to suite every taste, lifestyle and budget. Starting with The Haven, NCL’s signature suite product. An enclosed sanctuary at the top of the ship, The Haven complex, features its own lounge and restaurant, together with its own sunbathing and swimming area. The staterooms are modern and lavish, affording amazing views and luxury surroundings. For those wishing to pamper themselves, there are also spa staterooms which also benefit from easy access to the Mandara Spa and gym.
The ship also features an array of other staterooms, including a variety of balcony, oceanview and internal cabins. There are also studio cabins specifically designed and priced for the solo traveller.
2 – Bars and lounges
Whilst a number of old favourites make a return on Escape, such as the popular Sugarcane Mojito Bar and O’Sheehans Bar & Grill, a number of new venues have debuted on board. This includes: The Skyeline Bar, an extension of the casino which has fantastic views of cityscapes around the world through state-of-the-art LED screen; The Cellars, a new wine bar concept by NCL and the Michael Mondavi family; together with the very popular Jimmy Buffet’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, the first of its kind at sea.
For me the biggest win was the new District Brew House – An enclosed craft beer hall and gastropub at the front of the Waterfront boardwalk affording exceptional views out from the ship. This place great to sit and relax in the day, whilst in the evening transforms into a lively entertainment venue.
3 – Dining
In terms of dining once again a number of old favourites make their return to Escape, including Savor, Taste and the grand Manhattan Room at the aft of the ship. These are supplemented by a number of for-fee restaurants such as Cagney’s Steak House, Teppanyaki and Moderno Churrascaria, together with a number of interesting new additions.
These new additions include Bayamo by Iron Chef Jose Garces, featuring seafood inspired dishes with a latin twist; Pincho Tapas also by Jose Garces, serving traditional Tapas; and of course the first Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at sea bar & grill.
Of the new introductions Food Republic was the highlight for me – A baby of Miami’s Pubbelly Boys, Food Republic is an asian-fusion style ala carte eatery with more great views over the sea. The restaurant features clever iPad menus, with a variety of familiar food favourites, together with unique takes on classic cuisine from around the world. A must!
4 – Entertainment
Escape has a number of high calibre shows to enjoy on board. Firstly, the Tony Award-winning musical, Million Dollar Quartet, which showcases an extraordinary twist of fate that brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley together for one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. And then there is After Midnight, the smash-hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, a stage full of impressive performers, a live jazz band, together with some of the best dancing I’ve ever experienced.
For me the best entertainment was to be had at The Supper Club. For the Record: The Brat Pack takes you through an immersive concert and dining experience with a musical mashup of classic 80’s movie soundtracks. A must if you get on board!
Although not available on my cruise, Escape will offer a number of other entertainment options including for instance comedy shows, with option to pair them with dining.
5 – Activities
Escape certainly set’s the bar high when it comes to activities. Arguably most of this is focussed around the Sports Complex where you can try out the multitude of water slides, including the new Aqua Racer slide, or test yourself to the limits with the three storey ropes course, including zip lines and two 8 foot planks over the side of the ship. Around 678 Ocean Place, the heart of the ship, numerous activities can be found throughout the day around the ship’s Atrium, the Casino or at the various venues off of the Waterfront.
5 – Rest and relaxation
Escape takes rest and relaxation to the next level with an expanded Mandara Spa featuring the largest Thermal Suite complex at sea. Other experiences include a salt room, or the new snow room! There is also an expansive pool and sunning area split across the top decks of the ship, including Spice H2O, the adult only sunbathing area, which has also been expanded on Escape with the addition of a soothing waterfall grotto.
Images © Marcus Adams and Norwegian Cruise Line 2015