The NCL Encore is truly a beautiful ship in so many ways. My sister and I decided to sign up for the 15 day Panama Canal cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, and we opted for a spa balcony stateroom on deck 15 aft. The room was comfortable and efficient. We enjoyed the upgraded soaps and lotions provided as part of the spa room, as well as daily included access to the spa thermal suite on deck 16. The staff on this ship are incredible! Everyone was so friendly, professional, and helpful. We particularly loved our room attendant, Kadek. The entertainment on the ship was very good, with a variety of options from live music to trivia to theater performances as usual. The Beatles experience was amazing! The food selection was very good, and the meals for the most part were quite tasty and satisfying. I personally appreciated the no sugar dessert options as well as some healthy meal choices such as salads in addition to the fish, chicken and meat options. The room service was a fun option too, with a reasonable room service fee.
Let me start by saying this was my 13th cruise... I'm no novice to the industry and I understand pros and cons. However, the biggest problem on this ship, in my humble opinion, was the complete lack of proper hygiene and health protocols to prevent the spread of disease and illness! The experience was horrible and disgusting to me. I literally could not believe that the cruise industry would so blatantly ignore the major pandemic that we all just went through in the recent years. You would think that some huge lessons would have been learned, and that major changes would have taken place to keep people safe and healthy. Nope. Business as usual. Actually, business worse than usual. The previous time that I was on an NCL cruise, there were staff stationed at the entrances to food venues (especially the buffet areas) spraying everyone's hands with sanitizer and singing a cute little song. Good idea! Not on this cruise. Yes, of course there were hand washing stations and hand sanitizer stations available. As an experiment, I stopped and watched people enter the observation lounge buffet to see what percentage would actually use the hand washing stations before placing their grubby, germ-ridden hands onto the tongs and serving spoons. My results should not be surprising. Less than 15% did the right thing. People cant be trusted at buffets - ever again. It's so bad. I also wish the staff would have sanitized the high-touch areas on a regular basis too. Thousands of people crammed onto a ship pushing elevator buttons, touching hand rails, coughing on table tops, etc. etc. You get the picture. No doubt that NCL will reply with misinformation about how careful they are being. The truth is in the results. So many passengers that we spoke with got sick on the ship just like we did. You could hear coughing everywhere. It was nearly impossible to get in to see the ship's doctor because they were overloaded with patients. I saw people being transported by ambulance off the ship at more than one port. My sister finally got in to the ship doctor on the 3rd or 4th day of trying. Her bill ended up being $783 for the visit and testing. Thanks, NCL. Way to add insult to injury. This is absolutely a corporate issue, coming from the top. The hard working staff are doing what they are told and doing the best they can under the circumstances. Many of them were sick too, according to at least 4 staff sources that I spoke with. My heart goes out to the very hard working staff who are absolutely doing their best under the circumstances. My anger goes out to the over-paid executive team at the top making horrible management decisions.
My sister and I didn't know until after returning home (and both testing Covid positive) what we actually had. I'm sad to say that this will be my last cruise ever. It was a good run for many years, and cruising has a lot to offer when things are run properly. I feel badly for being so honest and blunt with my feedback, but people need to know what's going on.