We chose this cruise because we wanted to experience Encore during her first year. She is a beautiful ship with seemingly something for most everyone. Public areas are plentiful and spacious. Teenagers can be entertained by a huge arcade, driving the heavily advertised “go-carts” on a big track located on the top deck aft, or enjoy the thrill of the water slides.
The Haven areas are the most gorgeous and spacious we’ve experienced, but not perfect; For instance, Deck 19 sun/lounging area does have two hot tubs and two shower areas (nice!), but no bar ( like the Epic). The smoking area up there is extremely small... consisting of only TWO loungers and located totally forward (read VERY WINDY). As a matter of fact, smoking areas throughout the ship are scant and the no-smoking policy is STRICTLY enforced. This will make non-smokers giddy with joy, and smokers very unhappy.
We found the entertainment sub-par, except for “Choir Of Man” excellent. Only our opinion, though.
Haven restaurant food is excellent on this ship... kudos to the Chef and his team. Same menus as the last seven years (!) but with a couple new offerings (delicious prime rib and new prep of smoked salmon frittata, also very good). What seems to be making the same-old, same-old menu items taste better than before is the fact that they’re reaching the table at the perfect temperature and consistency and the artful presentation is very appealing.
Only two specialty restaurants at which we dined were traditionally my favorites, LaBistro and Onda (LaCucina on other ships). LaBistro was not excellent on this ship on that night! The restaurant was loud, hot, and not at all relaxing, with the food being quite inferior to my past experiences. Their “famous” mushroom soup was grainy and room temp this visit and I sent it back... they nuked it (I guess) and then it was at least palpable. My main was forgettable and I didn’t finish it.
Onda was okay and better than Bistro, but neither really worth the upcharge.
O’Sheehans has been renamed but located still near the Atrium, still really noisy, still the same pub menu and still reliably tasty if you occasionally like that sort of food... and we do!
We were generally pleased with the ship crew we encountered. Everyone greeted us with a smile and seemed happy to be working on this ship. The bar “runner” Oliver up on Deck 19 ideserves mention because he’s very hard working and attentive to those he “serves”. Our room steward, Julito, was always smiling and never forgot to follow up on a request and maintain our preferences. He really deserves to be a Butler! Misses Jennifer, May, and Ratzchelle in the Haven restaurant are outstanding! Although we chose this particular cruise because of the ship, We really liked the itinerary because it afforded us four sea days to explore the Encore, with the ports in between; an evening stop in SanJuan, St Thomas next day, and lastly Tortola.