Norwegian Escape Cruise Review by mdsgu
- Sail Date: June 2017
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Mid-ship Balcony Stateroom
After breakfast, kindly included by the hotel in the "cruise package," we left for the port and arrived about 10:15am. It looked like utter chaos; there were 4 ships in port and people were coming and going like crazy. Once we figured out which door to enter, things were much smoother. There were no lines to fill out the health questionnaires, and we waited only 5 minutes before being called to the counter to check in, get our ship cards, and provide a credit card for incidentals (why can't NCL allow you to set up your account online?). Then we went upstairs and waited.
If you go over by the windows next to the ship, you can connect to the ship's WiFi and get on the iConcierge app. From there, it may allow you to book specialty restaurants and comedy shows, but it is rather slow.
After about an hour, we started boarding, which really didn't take long at all. When boarding most ships, you are ushered along the deck and into the atrium with all its glitz and glitter. Escape doesn't have a grand atrium so we walked along Deck 7 beneath NCL tailgate tents (it was drizzling), and into a stairwell, which led to the casino, which led to 678 Ocean Place and the massive color-changing LED chandelier. We found Escape's Atrium, right down the hall on Deck 6, which houses Guest Services, Shore Excursions, the computer lounge, a rather nice bar, and a two deck high video screen that can also be viewed from O'Sheehan's above. The majority of the Atrium surrounds the video screen and is furnished with champagne-colored leather sofas and chairs that are very comfortable. In the Atrium, you will find nightly entertainment such as game shows and musical acts. We all sat down and enjoyed a cocktail (we wanted to start taking advantage of our Ultimate Beverage Packages). My father, father-in-law, and I made some shore excursion reservations and then walked down to Headliners to change a few of our specialty restaurant reservations, which was no problem at all. After that, we collected the rest of our group (my mother, mother-in-law, my wife and our 2 kids) and headed to Taste for lunch about 12:30. We passed by Le Bistro and Headliners and then past all the artwork that would later be auctioned off. On arrival to MIXX bar (between Taste and Savor), the washy-washy people were out in full force and notifying guests that lunch was being served on Deck 16 at the Garden Café. We thanked them for the information and walked into Taste where we were promptly seated and proceeded to have a nice lunch. Neither Taste nor Savor was crowded and the service was very good. At about 2pm, we were done and headed to our cabins.
On other ships we have been on (NCL, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival), everywhere you go there are lights and glitter and glitz and everything looks very Las Vegas-style -- Carnival more than the others. The Escape is nothing like that. It is more boutique hotel than cruise ships of the past. There is dark wood paneling everywhere (not real, of course), LED lighting, and plush carpeting, but it does not feel stuffy or dark.
Later that evening, we had dinner in the Manhattan room (one of the MDRs). The food was ok, but nothing special. The service was very good and the live music was something new.
I'm a little split on the food. Everything we had the entire week ranged from "ok" to "outstanding." However, to get the outstanding dishes, you must go to the specialty restaurants. We had a 3 meal dining plan and our travel agent threw in dinner at Le Bistro, so four of the seven nights were at SRs. Our dinners in Manhattan, Taste, and Savor were all "ok" and instead of, as in the past, trying to decide between three or four entrees, I was trying to find one that I was interested in. We ate at Cagney's on Sunday night, Moderno Monday night, and Le Bistro on Wednesday and Friday nights. All three were VERY good, from an excellent filet mignon at Cagney's, to a plethora of cuts at Moderno, to escargot at Le Bistro. In every restaurant, MDR or SR, the service was great. You should budget 90 to 120 minutes for any dinner and sit back and enjoy. We prefer the dining rooms to the buffet, but you have to know that the breakfast and lunch menu do not change all week.
The first two days, Sunday and Monday, were sea days. I had read on CC about all the chair hogs, and they are out in force. We weren't really interested in the (very small) pool because we have kids who wanted to play in the water park. My father-in-law and I decided (well, my wife decided, and we carried it out) to get up at 6:30 on Sunday and secure chairs at the water park. I abhor the chair hogs, and we refused to be "those people." We went up to Deck 16, found four chairs available at the water park (in the shade, no wind, just perfect), put out our towels and a backpack, and left. But it was just to get some coffee from the Garden Café. We returned to the loungers minutes later and sat down to enjoy the early morning. When my family had finished breakfast in the dining room, they came up to join us about 9:15. There was someone going around with red dot stickers on Sunday morning, but I never saw him confiscate anything. We repeated this on Monday morning, and there were 4 loungers next to us that were "reserved" by obvious chair hogs. No one returned to them until almost 10am -- over 3 hours after we got there.
Tuesday, we were in St Thomas. We've been to St Thomas many times and we've done Magen's Bay and Trunk Bay on St John. We booked an excursion called Abi Beach Break with Lunch. It wasn't bad. It is a very bumpy 20-30 minute bus ride to the beach. You get a lounger and lunch. There is a bar with reasonable prices that can do mixed drinks and beer. Lunch was nothing terribly special -- your choice of a hamburger, cheeseburger, hot dog, or Cesar salad. The beach was rather rocky and the water wasn't very clear. You can rent snorkel equipment and floaties if you wish. We took the same bumpy ride back to the ship about 4 hours later. You are dropped off at the mall on the pier. On arrival back in the secure area next to the ship, NCL was there with tents for shade if you wished and washy-washy staff handing out ice-cold washcloths. What a nice welcome back!
Wednesday was Tortola. We've been once before and we went to White Bay on Jost van Dyke. Of course, we booked the same excursion again! What's not to like? A catamaran ride there, crystal clear water, a white powder sand beach, free loungers, and .... Soggy Dollar Bar with Painkillers! I don't think we sat in the loungers at all. Tortola is a short port, so we spent all our time in the water with brief breaks to get another Painkiller. The only problem was that we were in port from only 7am to 3pm (apparently it is a long slog to Nassau).
We had another sea day on Thursday. We decided to sleep in and order room service for breakfast. After that, we shipped the kids off to Splash Academy and enjoyed some time in the Atrium before lunch. After lunch, we started to pack (NCL had delivered our luggage tags on Wednesday night). We then headed to MIXX and had a drink before dinner at Savor.
We tried For the Record: The Brat Pack at 10pm Thursday, but despite really good reviews, it wasn't. It is definitely PG16 -- there's several F-bombs scattered throughout and there's a scene where they guys are in their tighty-whities and the girls are in little more than string bikinis. Since we weren't enjoying it, we left in time to get to Headliners for the 11pm adult comedy show, which was laugh-out-loud funny. Strangely, they close the bar in Headliners when the comedy show begins.
Friday we awoke to gray skies and rain. We weren't due into Nassau until noon, so we had breakfast and lounged in the Atrium. We were sitting near some windows so actually got to watch the ship dock as we came into Nassau. As luck would have it, there were already 3 other ships in port -- MSC Divina, Disney Dream, and Carnival Liberty. We walked to the end of the pier -- passing the other three ships -- to the little market to pick up a few souvenirs, and then back to the ship to await our excursion to Balmoral Island. It was supposed to be a beach break with lunch, including a scenic catamaran trip to the island. We were actually transported on a tug boat. Of course, all the people from the other three ships were already there, but some, if not most, of them left about the time we arrived. We had loungers with umbrellas, but the sky was still overcast. The water was ok, but nothing like Jost van Dyke. Lunch was a choice of BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken, conch fritters, or pulled pork. Drinks were terribly expensive -- $38 for 5 beers, $5 for Dasani. We were scheduled to leave at 5:30, which was going to put us in a bind since our dinner reservations at Le Bistro were for 6:15 and it was 25-30 minute trip back to the ship. Fortunately, they offered an early return at 4:30 and most of the people, including us, took it.
Our 2 kids, ages 8 and 6, had a blast. We registered them for Splash Academy on the first day. The location on Deck 5 is rather unusual, and there were no windows, but the space was huge, colorful, and packed with activities. They loved it, especially when it was late-night Wii time. SA closes at 10:30, but they have extended hours until 1:30. The cost is $6/hour for the first child and $4/hour for any sibling. $10/hour for our 2 kids is a bargain! The latest they ever stayed was 11:45, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
We had a midship balcony room. It was rather spacious by cruise ship standards. The closet was not unexpectedly small, but there was enough space for our things. Our suitcases were hidden under the bed, which was quite comfortable. The bathroom seemed bigger than on previous ships, and the shower was glass-enclosed. The cabin doors, strangely, open out into the hallway (which are very narrow). When you put your ship card in the slot next to the door (inside), your cabin lights come on, and a little light next to your cabin number (outside) lights up and says "At Home." You can manually turn on "Make Up Room" or "Do Not Disturb" from inside the room. Be aware that if you leave an old credit card or hotel key card in the slot while you are away (to charge your cellphone or other electronics), your cabin steward will remove it after he makes up the room. Some people have complained about the size of the balcony, but we felt it was more than adequate. There was plenty of room for the 2 chairs and small table supplied by the ship, but we probably spent no more than 45 minutes on the balcony the entire cruise.
One of our "Free at Sea" perks was the dining package, and the other was the Ultimate Beverage Package. On Escape, you almost need the dining package if you want to get the outstanding entrees. The UBP is a really nice perk because no cruise ship has inexpensive drinks. I think NCL overvalues its drink package ($79/day retail plus 18% gratuity) and then skimps on the alcohol -- only the call brands and "premium" brands are actually included because the "super premium" brands are $16.95 and the "ultra premiums" are "ask your server for current pricing." At least if you order a Gentleman Jack or Glenfiddich on the rocks, you actually only are charged $2.30 ($16.95 - $15 package allowance + 18% gratuity on the $1.95 overage). The pours seem to be fairly generous; I never felt I had a watered down drink.
On most cruise ships we have been on, the Cruise Director is more than a little annoying and not all that visible after the sailaway party. On Escape, the CD, Tyler, is American, and he looks to have more energy than anyone should have. He was everywhere, and he was NOT annoying -- he was very entertaining and seemed to really want everyone to have a great vacation.
Overall, this was one of the best cruises we have been on. From the service to the décor of the ship, it was great. I think the only thing I would take issue with is the food: in the MDRs, it was just ok and not very exciting, and the desserts in the MDRs and the SRs were ho-hum. Bring back Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee and the Grand Marnier Souffle!
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Beach BreakDid the Deluxe Beach Break on Balmoral Island. Lots and lots of people, beach just so-so.View All 147 Beach Break Reviews
Beach BreakNice excursion, but the beach was a bit rockyView All 200 Beach Break Reviews
Jost Van DykeBest excursion by far! Beautiful water, beautiful beach.View All 62 Jost Van Dyke Reviews