This was our first cruise on NCL. We booked this cruise almost a year and half before the sail date. We had not been on a cruise in approximately 10 years, the last cruise being on a different cruise line on a ship half the size of the Escape, but friends of ours really wanted us to go with them on this ship to New England and Canada and the itinerary and time of year sounded great. Because we really don't like to fly, leaving from Manhattan is very convenient (previous cruises we had departed from Bayonne). We had a car service drive us from Pennsylvania and drop us right at the port and embarkation was a breeze. I totally recommend a car service ... it took a lot of stress out of getting to the port and because there were 4 others going to the port, the cost was comparable to what we would have had to pay to park for the week in NYC. We were on the ship at 11:15 am. The ship is big, beautiful and so clean and we found it easy to navigate despite it being so large. There are always people cleaning something. Washy Washy! Every morning at the Garden Cafe, a few of the crew were singing popular songs with the words changed to "washing" themes encouraging people to sanitize their hands ... very entertaining and pro active to keep germs at a minimum. We had a mid-ship balcony stateroom and it was very functional and we loved having coffee every morning on our balcony as we were pulling into different ports. Our stateroom attendant knew our names and greeted us every time he saw us and our room was always well kept.
Because we booked so far in advance, I had a lot of time to read reviews and research the ship and ports. I was a little worried because we had not been on a ship of this size before and there were so many reviews complaining of things being so crowded and not being able to book restaurants and shows and having to wait at restaurants, etc., and of course the complaints that there aren't enough elevators and the pool being so small and crowded. Because this was a September cruise to New England and Canada, I knew there were not going to be a lot of children on the ship due to the time of year and the itinerary (and according to the Cruise Director at the Muster Drill, there were only 80 persons under the age of 21 on the ship of over 4,000) and that if we did have good weather to use the pool, it would be a bonus. The week we sailed was one of the most perfect weather weeks of September. It was above normal temps and calm seas. We used the pool and hot tubs and did both water slides and enjoyed the deck time in warm September sun on embarkation day and the the sea days. A few times during the week (at different times of day and night), I looked around the ship and said "where are the 4,000 people"? It never felt that crowded and even the elevators, the only time I felt the crowd was after the Muster Drill was over when everyone charged the elevators!
We had 3 nights of specialty dining and chose Cagney's, Teppanyaki and Bayamo. All were exquisite ... both the food and the service. We had made our reservations prior to sailing so that we could schedule dinners around our port days, etc. My husband is pretty particular and he raved about the food all week. Even the Garden Cafe was above what we were expecting. We also ate twice in the Manhattan Room for dinner, as well as breakfast once in Taste and lunch once in Taste. My husband just loved the "Freestyle" dining since last cruise we were on was assigned seating at a set time with people we didn't know. We had the drink package as one of our "Free at Sea" perks. This was great, as the last cruise 10 years ago, such packages did not exist. It was nice not worrying about what your On Board Account was going to look like at the end of the week! We splurged and did a couples massage at the Spa and it was very relaxing. We only saw one show, The Choir of Man. It was very good (reserved our seats as soon as we got on the ship on embarkation day). We gambled a little bit at the casino a few times ... it really isn't our thing, but it was fun. Watched some karaoke, listened to a few musical sets at Tobacco Road and District Brew House. Had some delicious mojitos at the Mojito Bar and of course the Waves Pool Bar was our favorite spot when sailing out of ports to get the full scenic view.
In Portland we did the Working Waterfront and Lobster Pull excursion and this was great. We learned all about lobster fishing and lobsters themselves and baited the traps and pulled them up. So much fun. The walking tour of Portland I could have done without, but you could have opted out if you wanted to and went off on your own, but we stayed with the tour til the end and then had a Lobster Roll and Fish Taco lunch at a restaurant right on the harbor. In Bar Harbor, we did a bus tour of Acadia National Park and a lobster lunch at the Bar Harbor Club and then walked around Bar Harbor. In St. John, we took the Pink Hop On Hop Off Bus ... it was a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time with some history and commentary by the tour guide along the way at your own pace. You could get off where you wanted and every 15 minutes or so a bus came by continuing on the same loop and you don't miss anything, We went to the Farmer's Market (oldest in Canada), Moosehead Small Batch Brewery and a had a flight of beer and visited the Reversing Rapids ... all were on the bus tour. Then had a delicious late day lunch at Steamers Lobster Co. right across from the ship (excellent). In Halifax, we did the tour to Peggy's Cove and Lobster Lunch. All of the tours were very well organized for the most part and we felt like we saw a lot. Because we had excursion credits in each port as part of our "Free at Sea" perks, it helped with the cost of excursions.
On disembarkation day, we had a nice breakfast at Taste then carried our own bags off the ship. Disembarkation was a little slow with Customs, but not terrible. They implemented Facial Recognition at Customs and we were sort of the "test group". This did seem to speed things up and we didn’t even have to show our Pass Ports. We were outside the cruise terminal waiting for our ride back to Pennsylvania at 10am. All in all, everything about this cruise was perfect. The ship, the weather, the itinerary, the food, the service. I can truly say that only one crew member we encountered the entire week was not pleasant and there was nothing we could do that would make her smile (and we tried) ... most were friendly and pleasant and we had a few favorite bartenders/waiters that we always looked for. It was relaxing and fun and didn't seem to be over in the blink of an eye. We loved it so much, that we bought Cruise Next Deposits and plan to book an Alaskan cruise (bucket list item) for 2021 on NCL. Thanks for a memorable week NCL and can't wait to be on another NCL cruise!
Functional and as expected
Car service dropped us off right at port ... luggage checked and we were on board within the hour.
Informative and fun lobster boat excursionView All undefined undefined Reviews
Lobster Lunch at Bar Harbor Club was nice way to end the bus tour through AcadiaView All 236 Acadia National Park Reviews
Great way to see attractions in the areaView All 41 Hop On Hop Off Reviews
Peggy's Cove was a must-see ... did not disappoint.View All 245 Peggy's Cove Reviews