Onboard Review: Norwegian Escape

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The Haven on board the new Norwegian Escape.
The Haven on board the new Norwegian Escape.

“It’s So Miami” is the slogan for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, but it can easily describe the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, which sailed out of PortMiami on its inaugural voyage in early November. The choice for godfather says it all—Miami’s own Pitbull, who got the audience on their feet, hips swaying, during the ship’s christening ceremony on Nov. 9. But it’s the Miami-based offerings on board that are even more enticing. There’s the intimate Tobacco Road bar, a 100-year-old Miami landmark that shut its doors in 2014, but now has a home on Escape; The District Brew House, a truly hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s own Wynwood Brewing Company, complete with a keg room, 24 draft beers on tap and more than 50 different bottled beers; and Food Republic, an upscale food emporium from The Pubbelly Restaurant Group, known for its handful of trendy dining concepts in Miami.

With its homeport in South Florida, “we wanted to bring a taste of Miami on board,” pointed out Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and chief operating officer, during a roundtable discussion on the inaugural sailing. Sprinkled on top of that Miami energy is a Key West laid-back vibe with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea, and the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, featuring nightly musical performances. The amount of culinary offerings is, in fact, extensive, but this is also a slightly bigger ship than Getaway—it’s the first of Norwegian’s Breakaway Plus class ships, in fact, and the largest in the cruise line’s 14-vessel fleet. And because of its size, noted Stuart, “we were able to add venues that we didn’t have before.”

Stuart also mentioned he’s excited about the range of entertainment on board. “We are pushing the envelope, with something for everyone,” pointing to the shows that showcase music from different eras—for those who reminisce about the ‘80s, teenagers included, there’s the “For the Record: The Brat Pack, Live at the Supper Club,” which puts the spotlight on the classic soundtracks of John Hughes’ motion pictures in a cabaret-style dining venue; for a Cotton Club-style treat, there’s “After Midnight,” featuring the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, alongside tappers and dancers; and for true rock ‘n roll enthusiasts, “Million Dollar Quartet” is inspired by the famed recording session that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time back in 1956.

so what else is new?
The Haven on decks 17 and 18—featuring private key access, 24-hour butler service, concierge service, a private courtyard, and a private restaurant and bar—is the most luxurious of any Haven in the fleet and offers more suites, 95 in total.

The Ropes Course now has an extra level and spans the entire width of the ship with features on both the port and starboard sides—recommend clients try the Sky Rails, which takes them over the side of the ship and offer a bird’s-eye view of the Escape.

The Aqua Park, the largest of its kind at sea, features the all-new Aqua Racer, a tandem waterslide where passengers can race side-by-side on tubes while sliding down one of the coolest designed slides I’ve ever laid eyes on—at sea or on land. Full disclosure: I could’ve spent the entire cruise on this one waterslide!

 Norwegian Escape is now offering childcare services for children ages six months to 3 years. The nursery includes an active area for play time and age-appropriate activities and a separate space for napping. Stuart said this option was added because “we were missing out on a growing customer segment.” He also noted that the kids programming is all about “edutainment,” not just plunking the kid in front of a computer game. During one of the press conferences, I left my 10-year-old at Splash Academy for a couple of hours, and when I picked her up, there was a huge smile on her face and she wasn’t too keen on leaving—that speaks volumes for what your clients’ school age children can expect.

I could go on and on about the long list of onboard activities and must-sees—new or otherwise—but Stuart summed it up nicely when he summed up an e-mail he received from Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., after Del Rio had toured the new ship: “There’s no venue on Norwegian Escape that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with having on Oceania. This ship really has a premium feel.”

Norwegian Escape offers Eastern Caribbean sailings starting at $599; Western Caribbean sailings starting at $949 and Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings starting at $1,349.

contact information
Norwegian Cruise Line: norwegiancentral.ncl.com