A little background on me: This was my 11th cruise, and I have been on several different cruise lines in the past (Carnival x3, Celebrity x3, NCL x1, Princes x1, Royal x2). So I hopefully have a good variety of experiences to draw from, ... Read More
A little background on me: This was my 11th cruise, and I have been on several different cruise lines in the past (Carnival x3, Celebrity x3, NCL x1, Princes x1, Royal x2). So I hopefully have a good variety of experiences to draw from, and you can use this review to get an idea of what to expect onboard the Escape. I'm going to try to mention the things that stood out to me as good and bad about my experience on the ship. If I fail to mention something it's likely because whatever it was didn't strike me as significantly better/worse than any other cruise. So here goes nothing...
---THE GOOD STUFF---
General layout of the ship:
- I found the escape relatively easy to get around and generally easy to get from place to place without too much confusion. This is a large ship, so being easy to get around was a plus in my mind.
- I was worried that a large ship with over 4000 passengers would be horrible getting on & off, but I was pleasantly surprised.
-Getting on the ship was relatively painless, even with a brief delay because the cruise terminal experienced a computer problem. This of course was not related to the ship, but I mention it because if this had not occurred, I'm sure this would have been one of the fastest boarding processes I've gone through.
- Getting on/off at the port stops was easy and quick, and standing in lines was minimal.
- Disembarkation when the cruise was over was fast and easy. We elected to carry our own luggage (we always do this), and the whole process took less than 15 minutes. They had the customs officer on the boat, and used facial recognition to match you to your passport. This was the first time I had done it this way, and it's a big improvement over the old way of standing in lines to show your passport to someone at a desk.
Water activities (not pools/hot tubs):
- There are five water slides on the boat; 1 for little kiddies, 1 very tame one for all ages, 1 large slide that you ride an inner-tube type inflatable, and 2 fast slides for teens or older that drop you almost strait down. I personally love water slides, and was pretty happy with them in general. The only downside is there can be a line for the large slide that you ride a tube... it's the longest slide, and they don't let you go until the person before you is completely out of the end, so on days at sea, you might wait 5-10 min to go down.
The Buffet Dinning:
-I found the buffet dinning area to be very well organized compared to other ships I've been on. It was easy to maneuver, lines were pretty much nonexistent, and the food was easy to access (I've been on ships where you needed to be a contortionist to reach things). Even when very busy, we didn't have much trouble finding a place to sit, and the crew were very fast in cleaning up tables after someone left (this too has been a problem on other cruises).
--- THE NOT SO GOOD STUFF---
Pools & Hot Tubs:
- There are a total of 2 pools and 4 hot tubs, unless you spend a boatload of money to stay in a "Haven" room and have access to their private pool/hot tubs.
- Of the two pools available to normal people one is a small kids pool in the kids area, and the other is a average size pool (for a boat) for adults only. This boat has over 4000 people, they won't all fit in a roughly 15x20ft pool. I enjoy getting in the pool on days at sea, so this was a major disappointment. Most of the time it was almost impossible to even get close to the pool since there were usually over 100 people in/around the pool, most sitting on the edge waiting for someone to get out of the pool so they could get in. Because of the terrible overcrowding, I managed to spend a total of 10 minutes in the pool the entire cruise. Waiting to get in, and not being able to really move around once I was in the pool just killed it for me.
- There are only 4 hot tubs available for average people, two next to the main pool, and 2 more in the adults only area at the back of the boat (called H2O I think). The ones by the main pool seat about 8 people max unless you like to be touching each other, and the ones in the H2O area held about 6 max comfortably. Sitting in the hot tub is one of the things I look forward to on the cruise, so having so few available meant I was only able to get in on two occasions, for about 10 minutes each. Because there were so few hot tubs, people would camp next to them, and basically sit in them all day long excluding anyone who didn't want to force their way in. As an additional negative, the temperature of the water in the hot tubs is not hot at all, more like warm bath water (which is probably why people were able to sit for hours in the tubs).
The Main Dinning Room (Dinner only)
- Well... what can I say... basically, compared to my 10 previous cruises, this ship had the worst food offerings I've ever experienced. It was painfully clear that they have decided that the food is where they are trying to save the most money and cut corners. It was obvious that the the identical food used in the buffet area was being recycled/repurposed in the main dinning room. What sounded fancy on the menu, was usually just a reworking of the same food served at lunch earlier that day. Whatever salad was on the menu was just some version of the same components from the buffet, even down to how the vegetables cut. The "Pad Thai" served at dinner seemed to be the same Asian noodle dish served earlier that day for lunch, just with some peanuts sprinkled on top. The main meat served was chicken, usually two or three of the dishes per night. The beef that was served was generally tasty, but the closest it ever came to a steak was the "sirloin medallions" served the last night of the cruise, which were about two inch circles of meat, and could have been just about any cut of meat. We were also very surprised by the stunning lack of seafood on the menu. There was usually one offering of "seafood" which was always some kind of fish (no shrimp, no lobster, no crabcake, no oysters or clams). This fish was also prepared in the worst possible way, ie. baked in an oven and allowed to boil in it's own juices. So the one night I got the fish it was described as "broiled bluefish," but it didn't taste like any bluefish I had ever eaten, and it was clearly not broiled. My wife got the "trout" that was served the next day, and it was indistinguishable, both in appearance and taste to the "bluefish" served the day before. It is my suspicion that both the "bluefish" and the "trout" where some other less expensive fish like tilapia.
- In my opinion, the mediocrity in the main dinning room was purposeful. What they wanted you to do was go and pay extra at one of the 10 or so specialty restaurants on board. This is the first and only time in 11 cruises that I felt like the only difference between the buffet and the dinning room was that I was served my food instead of getting it myself, and on top of that, the food on every one of my previous 10 cruises has been far superior in quality as well.
- Well... you have to sign up for every show on the ship, and there is an app that you can download to your phone that allows you to do this. Unfortunately, the phone app only allows you to sign up for something 24 hours in advance, but you can sign up for shows on any day of the cruise on the TV in your cabin... This information is not given to you, and you are encouraged to do everything on the phone app. We found out that enough people on board knew about signing up for things on your TV so that by the second day of the cruise, every single show on the boat was booked through the end of the cruise. Also, some of the venues (comedy club for example) are small, seating fewer than 200 people... on a ship with 4200 passengers. Even the main theater seemed small compared to some past ships I have been on (I confirmed this by looking at pictures from some of my past cruises on much smaller ships). Interestingly, the casino was massive, and the onboard shops were very spacious... it makes you wonder if perhaps the entertainment venues might have been larger if there weren't 10 specialty restaurants, a huge casino, and overly spacious shopping areas... but what do I know.
So would I recommend this ship... Well, if you've never cruised before and don't know any better, sure. You don't know what to expect, and you will have a good time. For someone who has been on more than a few cruises... I would NOT recommend the Escape. I'm sure that like me, you will notice the deficiencies, and it will detract from your experience. Read Less