This was our first time on a Norwegian cruise, having sailed previously on Royal Caribbean. We chose the Norwegian Escape because of the special perks being offered as well as because it had a western Caribbean itinerary that fit our schedule. Our cruise left from the Port of Miami, and we gave the boarding process "five stars". We boarded easily and made our way to O'Sheehan's for lunch. While we waited for our cabins to be ready, we used the kiosks to make reservations at specialty dining restaurants, comedy acts, and musical shows for the week.
We had a balcony stateroom (10744), and it was relatively close to the elevator and stairs. Our room steward did a phenomenal job of keeping our cabin clean, with plenty of fresh towels and ice.
The food at the specialty restaurants was excellent, and certainly comparable to specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean. We enjoyed dinners at Cagneys (steak house), LeBistro (French cuisine), La Cocina (Italian), and Modernos (Brazilian steak house). The service was outstanding at all of the specialty restaurants. It was even more enjoyable for us because we had three specialty dinners included with our cruise reservation. While on board, we also dined in the ship's three main dining rooms: Taste, Savor, and the Manhattan Room. The Manhattan Room was the highlight, with musical entertainment offered during dinner. To be honest, we found the quality of the food in the Norwegian main dining halls to be less impressive than the food offered in Royal Caribbean's main dining rooms. For example, Royal Caribbean offered fresh lobster at least once per week during our previous cruises. On Norwegian, there was no comparable offering.
For entertainment, we highly recommend "The Choir of Men" musical. It was one of the best shows we have seen on any cruise line! We enjoyed Dueling Pianos, and the two comedians at the Headliners Comedy Club. There was always entertainment to be enjoyed at the Atrium Bar. The Golden Octaves had an incredible lead singer, and it was nice to be able to relax and listen to the music. The cruise director, Jacky Tang, was seemingly everywhere on the Norwegian Escape! He hosted several shows at the Atrium, and really made an effort to reach out and get to know passengers on the ship.
The pool area was a bit crowded and chairs were hard to find later in the morning. The slides were fun, although I was surprised when we were told to "step on the scale" to be weighed before the attendant would give us a tube for the enclosed slide. Not a welcome experience when you have been indulging in food for several days!! The ropes course was challenging, but very fun and safe. We also played miniature golf on deck.
The ship was clean and the service was outstanding throughout the cruise. There are two criticisms that we have about the Norwegian Escape. First, there was noticeable rocking on-board the ship during our cruise despite relatively calm seas. Second, the location of the casino (which permitted smoking) and the ship's open floorplan enabled cigarette smoke to permeate the air downstairs in the Atrium. So there were several times when the smell of cigarettes spread to areas adjacent to the casino, including nearby restaurants. Neither of these issues arose on our previous cruises with Royal Caribbean.
We took several excursions during our cruise. At Roatan, 3 members of our group took the "Discover Scuba" excursion. This included a classroom session to learn the basics, followed by a short practice in shallow water to review skills. The highlight of the excursion was taking a 40 foot dive near a reef. Divers were arranged in groups of 4, with monitoring by a dive master. This was a "5 star" excursion! Also at Roatan, 2 members of our group toured the Gumbalimba Preserve and Animal Sanctuary. This tour is well-suited for children, and included close encounters holding monkeys and parrots.
At Belize, we spent time at Norwegian's private beach. It was very clean, with plenty of beach chairs and cabanas. In hindsight, we would have be better off staying on board the ship to enjoy its amenities.
At Costa Maya, we visited the Mayan ruins. We chose the tour with the shortest bus ride, and the tour was educational. We had a knowledgeable guide, and lovely weather. We would rate this tour as "3 stars".
At Cozumel, we took the Xplor Park excursion. The Xplor Park is an incredible, exhilarating adventure! We started off by doing 11 consecutive ziplines, which culminated in a splash landing in the water. Then we boarded and drove ATV jeeps over rugged terrain and through narrow caves. This was followed by a gourmet hot and cold buffet lunch. Next, we explored underground caves first by using rafts, and then by swimming. During this time, we were surrounded by impressive stalactites and stalagmites, and an occasional flying bat! This excursion took more than 7 hours and it was well worth it! If you have an adventurous spirit, don't miss this one! This is definitely a "5 star" excursion. When we arrived back at port, crew members were lined up on the dock to greet us.
In conclusion, our family had an amazing time on the Norwegian Escape.