NCL Encore - room 12605. 3/2020
Embarkation - showed up at 10:30. By 10:45 we were seated in a huge airport-like waiting area, checked in and ready for them to start boarding. With so many people, even on a day that was 60 degrees ... Read More
NCL Encore - room 12605. 3/2020
Embarkation - showed up at 10:30. By 10:45 we were seated in a huge airport-like waiting area, checked in and ready for them to start boarding. With so many people, even on a day that was 60 degrees outdoors, the area warmed up pretty fast. Cool water and unclean restrooms available. Group 9. Started calling #s at 11:08 am with people who required special assistance and priority boarding. 11:25 we were called and were on board in no time!
Vibe club pass: Rushed to purchase vibe passes. We were #92 & 93. The cost of the vibe beach club for 7 days was $209 per person. The fee is non-refundable and you are warned of inclement weather closing of the entire area which may include rain or high winds. There is no pool. Only a misting station. On sea days there is extremely high winds. So much so, that 1 jacuzzi was closed off and even tho the sunning area on that side of the club was open, there was no-one who could stand the strong winds enough to hang out there. Fortunately, they did not close the entire area, but most logical adults could reason that unattended belongings would fly away if left in the high winds. They do give you clip-on, removable, brightly-colored wrist bracelets to wear in the club area. The attendants will ask you to put it on if you forget and will escort any non-wearing, non-paying guests out of the club area on the 1st days as they get to know everyone by name after only a day or 2. The area includes shade umbrellas but, as we quickly discovered, they are rarely put out for use. The winds are pretty intense on the top decks where the club is located and so they have a few issues. Even while in port, in Miami, they had to take the umbrellas down as they started toppling with the high winds. Jacuzzis fit about 8 people comfortably. There are no bubbles. Just warm (not hot) water. No drinks allowed in jacuzzi. The explanations was that drinks have toppled into the jacuzzi which then take 2+ hours to empty, clean, and refill the tub. On the plus side, if you bring your yeti cup, bartenders seem to be nice enough to fill those with your drink of choice or fresh water or alcoholic concoction throughout the day. I also saw them bring out pitchers of citrus flavored water to small groups with plastic cups to go with it. On the sea day towards the Bahamas, they were able to open a few umbrellas and played some soothing jazz music. Enjoyable weather and good times.
Muster drill @ 3:30 in indoor air-conditioned area. Lasted 15 mins total. As always, if you would like seats, show up 30 mins before. If you’re ok standing for 15 mins, then wait for the alarm to ring then walk towards your muster station to have your card swiped for check-in. They demonstrate the exits and how to put on a life vest. And then the bars re-open.
Taste of India and taste of China in buffet area towards back after you pass all the American fare. The food has been an excellent surprise in the buffet as the tastes and spiciness have been just right with absolutely no complaints for the buffet variety and seasonings. Ice cream cups and cones served during lunch with an options of 10+ flavors including rocky road. Also available towards the bow at the buffet is soft serve ice cream cones. On sea day, taco bar served towards the back area as well.
Extra charges: $9.95 per device per week for unlimited text messaging with other passengers who purchase the plan. Make sure you bring your yeti cup, etc. water is not included on the beverage package and they charge $5 per paper bottle. (Non-refillable) Using clean glassware, you can refill your water bottle at the water & tea dispensing areas in the buffet area.
Observation lounge still smells brand new. Like a new construction site. Huge living room type spaces for your small or large party of people. Cold cuts, sandwiches, fruits, and dessert varieties are served throughout the area up until dinner time when all food and drinks disappear. Beverages can be purchased at the bar or self-serve areas dispense lemonade, tea, and various flavored waters. The times we went to the lounge, it was very quiet library-like ambiance except the people hanging out at the bar. No music streaming. No piano playing. Very serene. People napping here and there. Except the unexpected cold sea day. The observation lounge on that day quickly filled with loud families and teens finding somewhere to hide from the cold winds.
Brew house seats still smell of new leather. For your Latin music fix, hang out at the indoor & outdoor mojito bar area with comfy couches in the shade. Latin music plays when bar opens around 11:30 am at a pretty low volume with a variety of songs sprinkled around throughout the day until the live music takes over with the usual English music cruise ship sing alongs and requests in the evening. Entertainment throughout the ship consists of karaoke-type bands with a few instruments playing over the pre-arrangement along with a singer. Good for entertaining the masses but no great stand-outs overall. The encore theater has cooling fans at the back of every seat. Makes it a very comfortable temperature.
As others have reported, shortly after 9:00 am, the running/walking track disappears under a sea of chairs. Deck 8 has “the waterfront” which includes a wooden floor all the way around the ship. Some people use this as a walking exercise area. No jogging possible as intermittent window walls are strewn about. Fun morning dance for sea days includes Zumba!
Drinks are pretty good, varied, and strong. You can substitute tequilas, rums, etc in your favorite concoction to your liking. No frozen mojitos or margaritas available at most bars as bartenders inform us they do not have blenders at all the bars. Frozen sangria and frozen red wine blend available at the vibe as they have a slushy machine that dispenses those 2 drinks & an array of pina coladas, daqueries, and the infamous Miami vice. Paper straws provided for frozen drinks only - which quickly get soggy and give you that wet paper after taste every time you sip. So bring your own plastic ones if it takes you a while to get thru your drink or if you prefer to straw sip you beverages.
BBQ smokehouse is the country dance place to be at night for all those country music fans. The food is ok. Plates served are much smaller than that of a usuals “authentic” Texas bbq place. But taste was good. Service was slow. They play 45 min sets from 8:30pm until way after midnight. Feel free to bring your boots and join everyone in the dance floor or just sit back in the bar and sing along!
The NCL app is great but you still have to rely on the daily planner for the details on what the shows and activities are about. Also, you need to book your entertainment activities for future days at the screens around the ship as they don’t show up until 24 hours before the event on the app. And, unlike other cruise apps, other people in your contacts or room reservation cannot see what activities you like or plan to attend. Nor can you see the dinner menus at the public or reserved restaurants for the ability to weigh your options in the app. You can only see them posted at the restaurants or ask for a menu at each restaurant. Also, unlike other cruise lines, you cannot map your way to the next venue from the touchscreens around the ship. So a very useful navigational tool for these 1st few days is very much missing.
In PR- walgreens & CVS store right by the pier. Needed some water bottles for the day & to take back onboard as empties for water storage for our beach day next day. Great shops with lots of souvenirs, travel size amenities & last minute gadgets.
St. Thomas - do your research. Pick a beach and take a taxi from the beach. There will always be a taxi near any popular beach to take you back at whatever time you need. Usually about $10 per person each way. Most beaches have amenities with bars and restaurants nearby. Then take a stroll thru the shops at the pier. Remember that all jewelry purchases are negotiable.
Tortola - we did the cruise line’s escape to Jost Van Dike. They pick you up at 8:00 am. Drop you off at 9:00 am at the soggy dollar beach area. Then pick you up at 12:15 for the 45 min boat run back to the ship. Because of the early departure, there was no time to do anything else as far as shopping or sight seeing. Made it back just in time to re-board.
Bahamas - great stirrup cay was completely skipped because of the high waves and wind conditions. Many months ago when we booked this cruise, we were ok with only 3 stops with Tortola being a long day as we figured we would enjoy the warm weather and hot sunny days on each island. We were not excited when the itinerary was changed just 2 months before the sail date to shorten the Tortola stop and include a Bahamas stop instead. As frequent cruisers, we know about the weather conditions in March in the Bahamas. And sure enough, it was not beach weather at the beginning of March. The outside temp was in the 60s. So maybe not a bad thing we skipped the cold beach water. Made the vibe beach pass even more worth the purchase! More activities were added to the daily planner such as Latin Cardio Dance class and more open times at the “for purchase” activities onboard. All excursions were reimbursed. Pool area was empty. Jacuzzi were full.
NCL announces on its daily planner that you can access cruisecritic.com free of charge with no internet package to buy to post reviews. I have not found that to be the case. The main page comes up on my smart phone but once you click “boards” or “reviews” it freezes.
Inside stateroom #12605: overall smaller than most ships we have been on. The location was fabulous! Right next to the elevators. There are only 2 main elevator areas on the ship - forward and aft. That’s it. The down side to having our room so close to the elevators was we could hear the kids running the hallways at night and the nighttime entertainment seemed to be funneled into the elevator shafts and dispersed into the hallways. Nice if you’re at the party. Awful if you need to get rest for a very early excursion next day. The neighbors across the hall taped paper decorations to their door (non-magnetic) and were allowed to keep them up the whole voyage. But not very many people did that. Suction cup hangers work on the inside windows of your shower stall but not the walls. Lots of hangers provided. You also have just enough storage space for 2 people. (Don’t think 4 could do it.) apart from the closet with a long upper shelf and 4 smaller side shelves inside the closet (one which is occupied by the in-room safe), you also have 2 small shelves next to the mini-fridge, shelving under the bathroom sink, shelving next to toilet area, and 2 night time shelves next to the bed. Along with a place for small, trivial accessories above the headboard.
Disembarkation: The ship arrived super early at the pier because of the missed Bahamas stop. Arrival on all paperwork we had seen was 10:00 am. We were there well before 5:00 am. On the app’s “farewell” screen, they had a screen for information on disembarkation, immigration & customs, and final day info. None of those worked. Message was “oops. Content not found”. So had a hard time deciphering if they would let us leave early or what the status was. We took our luggage with us and made our way to the 7th floor gangway. They make us line up along the casino area. As much as they try not to let the smoke penetrate outside the smokers lounge, it still does & will affect those with sensitivity to smoke. Lines were long but moved quickly. We lined up at 7:15. We were allowed off the boat at 7:35. Out thru customs at 7:50. Read Less