There's nothing subtle about Norwegian Escape, the first ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway Plus Class. You'll notice that before you even board the cruise ship. The hull art, designed by renowned artist and conservationist Guy Harvey, is a bold yet beautiful, in-your-face marine wildlife scene that spans more than 1,000 feet from bow to stern. Once onboard, you'll be captivated by the glitzy three-level 678 Ocean Place; virtually all the action at night takes place at its various restaurants and bars. The space is set off by an enormous hanging LED chandelier and sweeping glass staircase. Even the top decks of the ship are bold, with a ropes course and four water slides that are sure to make your heart race.
Escape is ideal for people looking for stellar entertainment and variety. Broadway-quality performances, in the form of two shows ("After Midnight" and "Million Dollar Quartet"), are pitch perfect. The music and performers are flawless and among the best we've seen at sea. And then there's "For the Record: The Brat Pack," a brilliantly engaging show aimed squarely at a certain generation (the one that grew up watching John Hughes movies and can quote all the lines from "The Breakfast Club"). The high-energy dinner theater performance is a highlight well worth the cover charge.
When it comes to variety of activities, Escape is a winner. With 28 bars and restaurants onboard, most people will have to sail twice to try out everything. Everyone will be able to find something that appeals. Latin food? Check. An incredible brew pub that feels so genuine you'll forget you're on a ship? It's got that, too. An indoor-outdoor dining concept, called the Waterfront, that allows passengers to dine seaside? It's there. A first-at-sea Margaritaville? Yep.
With so much going on, the ship can -- and does -- get loud. Loud music, loud people, loud venues. Crowds, too, are noticeable, especially at peak periods around dinner and at show times, when everyone is clamoring for the same things at the same time. While Escape preaches a "freestyle" cruise experience, reservations often help people reduce wait times, though lines still are a part of the experience. Thankfully, reservations can be made from your cabin or via multiple interactive screens throughout the ship for nearly anything.
Service in general is inconsistent. Wait service varies from slow and begrudging to friendly and efficient; we were surprised that we received the best service in complimentary venues onboard, such as Taste, Margaritaville and O'Sheehan's.