Auburndale Cruisers Review
Our Great Family Cruise to Bermuda on NCL’s “Escape”
One of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) newest cruise ships, the Escape, is an ideal choice for family cruises offering plenty to do for children ... Read More
Auburndale Cruisers Review
Our Great Family Cruise to Bermuda on NCL’s “Escape”
One of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) newest cruise ships, the Escape, is an ideal choice for family cruises offering plenty to do for children as well as adults. The New York City to Bermuda cruise is presently in its inaugural season.
We were a party of ten; my wife and I, both senior citizens, our two sons and daughters-in-law and four grandchildren ages nine through fourteen. This was our thirtieth cruise since 2001, the twentieth with NCL. Our children and grandchildren have sailed with us on nine of the cruises so we all consider ourselves seasoned and savvy cruisers. We previously had sailed on NCL’s Crown, Dawn, Gem, Jewel, Star, and Breakaway, all very pleasurable experiences. We also had sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean also very pleasurable experiences.
NCL’s loyalty club is called “Latitudes”. My wife and I are platinum-plus level (the highest) members and received on this cruise amenities including; priority check-in and boarding, priority disembarkation, free limited beverage package, a three specialty restaurant package, and an on-board spending credit.
Arrival, Check-In and Boarding:
We arrived at the Manhattan Passenger Ship Terminal by private limo Sunday August 5th at approximately 10:00, were whisked through priority check-in, a group photo, and boarded at 11:30. Once aboard, lunch was being served in the Garden Cafe and Savor dining rooms. Champagne, awaited us in our five staterooms. Following the mandatory safety drill, we departed for Bermuda at 4:00 pm as scheduled.
The Escape, (NCL Breakaway Class) is one of NCL’s newest ships, entering commercial service in October of 2015. It is in a word, huge, at 164,300 tons, 1,069 feet in length and 130 feet at the beam. Passenger capacity is listed at 4,266 (double occupancy). Based upon the amount of families on-board with more than two in a room, I imagine the passenger capacity was significantly increased. The ship was spotless and showed no evidence of wear and tear. If you wanted a deck chair pool-side you might well have waited for the shore days. On sea days, rain or shine, most of the pool-side deck chairs are reserved by sunrise with towels and other personal objects and then left unused until after 10:00 or later. In an attempt to curb the reservation of deck chairs, NCL initiated a system of tagging unoccupied reserved chairs, and if still unoccupied after an hour, a ship attendant would remove any articles which then had to be retrieved at the ship’s desk. We don’t know if the process worked.
We had booked five mini-suites on Deck 14. The mini-suites are quite small. The balcony was almost non-existent, only about three feet deep, with just enough room for two small straight-back chairs and a tiny table and not conducive for an outdoor breakfast. There was however sufficient closet and storage space. The bathroom size was adequate. A flat screen TV, coffee maker, robes, mini bar, wall safe and hair dryer were furnished. In order to turn room lights or the TV on, or to use wall outlets, a stateroom key card (or any card with a magnetic strip) had to be inserted into a receptacle and left there as long as power was required. This is NCL’s attempt to reduce power usage, a good idea and not an inconvenience. The stateroom attendant was very friendly, efficient and timely, quickly adjusting his duties to our schedule. Towel animals were there nightly.
In NCL’s Free Style Dining system, venues consist of “complimentary” and “specialty, cover charge applies”. The Manhattan Room, Savor and Taste are complimentary main dining rooms with table service. The Savor and Taste are also available for breakfast, lunch and dinner (limited during shore days). The complimentary Garden Cafe provides self-service buffet style fare for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-between. Other complimentary dining is provided by O’Sheehans Irish Pub (24 hour service). Margaritaville was available for limited breakfast service. The complimentary dining rooms provided a varied daily menu with certain standard fare repeated daily.
“Specialty, cover charge applies” dinner venues consist of Cagneys Steakhouse, La Cucina (Italian), Le Bistro (French), Moderno (Churrascaria) and Teppanyaki (Japanese) . We dined at our comp’d Cagney’s, La Cucina, Le Bistro and Teppanyaki. We did not try Moderno. We all agreed that Teppanyaki was the best of the specialty dining rooms. Cagney’s, La Cucina and le Bistro prices were a la carte, Teppanyaki a fixed price of $29.95.
In my opinion, aside from the possible benefit of a smaller, quieter sitting, I do not consider the extra cost of the specialty venues worth it. Had we not been comp’d to Teppanyaki, it would have cost our group $300.
The Garden Cafe offered a large variety of hot and cold food all day (except for maintenance periods) which was well prepared and tasty. The Garden Cafe was a favorite of our children and grandchildren for breakfast and lunch. My wife and I preferred either Savor or O’Sheehans. If you don’t mind serving yourself and crowds, the Café is a good choice for a varied (ethnic, cutting board, dessert etc.) meal.
The Free Style system seems to work ok, but we’d still prefer fixed dinner seating at fixed times. I believe that NCL should consider two assigned or reserved fixed seating’s yet maintain the Free Style for those who wish to eat elsewhere at times. This works well on other cruise lines. The long waiting lines observed at the Manhattan Room are unacceptable. It does seem that NCL would like to force more diners into the specialty venues. We had made reservations in advance for the Manhattan room so no waiting was
We considered the food in the main dining rooms to be good to very good in selection, preparation and portion size. The food in the specialty restaurants was also good to very good.
The dining rooms service was very good to excellent with an attentive and competent wait staff.
Several musicals were presented in the main Theater and were well received. We attended “Brat Pack” a musical medley of John Hughes movies. We thought it was quite good. Also well done were “After Midnight” and “Dueling Pianos – Howl at the Moon”
Over the years my wife and I had come to really like the lounge and atrium music entertainment presented throughout the day. NCL performers including Leo, Fire & Ice, Arvin & Emily, drew SRO crowds in the atrium.
This was gone on this cruise and the atrium presented mainly cruise games which were well attended, but not by us.
So much for adult only entertainment. Where the Escape really shines is entertainment for children of all ages. Besides the three pools, a complete water park is provided with several water slides and a heart stopping free fall water slide which my brave grandson tried four times. A ropes course, high above Deck 18, provided daring children and adults with a hooked-up traverse suspended from ropes over wooden plank bridges, steel beams, cables and even a walk-the- plank out high above the ocean. A daughter-in law, a granddaughter and grandson completed the course safely, and then we adults were able to breathe again.
For the young children there is the Splash Academy, a morning, afternoon and evening complimentary fun camp. After attending Splash for several previous cruises, our grandchildren have now outgrown it.
Also on the ship were a casino, spa and salon, bowling alleys, three pools a basketball court, bocce court and a mini golf course.
We did not take any shore excursions. Our children and grandchildren instead bussed it to Elbow Beach and Horse Shoe Bay. For the three shore days, NCL provided a complimentary tender service to St. George and Tobacco Bay beach, a nice touch.
Our priority disembarkation was scheduled for 9:15 and we actually got off at that time, no delays. It was one of our smoothest disembarkations ever.
What We Liked and Loved:
We liked the amenities provided to us by NCL.
We liked the amicability, courtesy and attentiveness of the ships staff.
We liked the dining and loved the action venues action venues.
We loved the fact that our children and grandchildren had such a wonderful time.
What We Didn’t Like:
A cell phone app purchased on board by most of us to allow connection on the ship did not work well.
Aside from that, there was nothing else that we really didn’t like.
Summary and Recommendations:
It was truly a great and memorable cruise. You could especially tell that by the dour looks on our grandchildren’s faces as we disembarked. We especially recommend the Escape for family summer cruising. You have to be aware of the crowds that occur at times. We would not recommend it for only-adult sailing. In my opinion, the Celebrity Summit, a similar cruise from nearby Bayonne, NJ, would be a better choice.
I hope that this review will be helpful to someone thinking of sailing on the Escape in making an informed decision.
For more information, please go to:
http://www.escape.ncl.com/ Read Less