We came in on Thursday from PDX and stayed in Newark at the ex-Hilton (now Doubletree) Newark Penn Station as we needed two hotel rooms and NYC at this time was bit too expensive. The hotel needs some work even for a Doubletree, so a newer ... Read More
We came in on Thursday from PDX and stayed in Newark at the ex-Hilton (now Doubletree) Newark Penn Station as we needed two hotel rooms and NYC at this time was bit too expensive. The hotel needs some work even for a Doubletree, so a newer hotel would be better. I note that local taxi drivers still refer to this as the Hilton so you may need to use both names to end up at the right location if coming from the airport. We spent the Friday and Saturday seeing some sights - 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park, Central Park, a Broadway show along with various eateries. In hindsight, the time and experience traveling via PATH and NJ Transit to/from NYC were pretty overwhelming for some of the family, so it would be better to stay in Manhattan with the extra costs and avoid the hassle on any future visits. Use of the MTA subway is recommended so cut down on time spent traveling between places.
I had made a reservation with the Dial 7 limo service to take us the Manhattan Cruise Terminal which arrived on time and only took about 30 min for the trip and we got to MCT around 10:20 AM. It took about another 15 minutes to move the last block because of all of the departing passengers on the previous cruise. The bags went out of the trunk and onto the porter's cart in about 30 seconds and we were in the short Latitudes check-in line in just a few minutes. Check-in was very smooth, got boarding group #11 and found a seat at 10:45. Boarding was announced at around 11:00 and we were on board, in the Taste MDR by 11:30 or so. Cabins were ready just after 1 PM and luggage showed up a couple hours later.
We had a forward portside balcony room (12144) and a non-connecting studio (12505) on deck 12 which was just perfect as its about halfway between the public decks on 16-17 and 6-7-8. Anything more than 4-5 decks is really too much to hike although I could do more especially as it always seemed that I'd go down 6 decks then have to go back up in short order. Both rooms were perfectly fine in size and for storage needs. The elevators were busy the first few days, but it seemed that they were easier to use later in the cruise, maybe cause more tended not to use them if you didn't have to. Anything less than a few decks you could easily beat via the stairs. The ship is well laid-out but it took a few days to keep what was forward or aft straight (had to keep checking the deck plans in the app). I do miss a full wrap-around promenade deck but the lifeboat deck (7) was ok if you didn't mind cutting through the stair lobbies. Virtually no kids on this cruise, never saw anyone on the water slides or in the main pool (kids pool was closed) but the hot tubs were used a lot. No problem finding loungers just about anywhere (pool deck, Spice, etc) anytime.
The NCL app installed fine but we never got the message service to work (I had my charge removed as it kept crashing and was unusable for this function, however, viewing deck plans, account review it was just fine) . One cabin had the internet package which worked just fine throughout the cruise. I had problems trying to reserve anything through the TV in the cabin - you would pick something but you could never get it to confirm (this was because it was sold out even though it appeared that it wasn't). Managed to lock everything up once and needed a connection reset. By Monday evening , everything reservable was sold out (Theater, Headliners, Supper club, etc) so we had to live off events in the bars and the Atrium which worked out just fine in all regards.
MDR service was prompt, not rushed and excellent all around and the food was very good although by the end of the all of the good eats were wearing on us. Le Bistro was excellent as always (ate here twice) but La Cucina was a disappointment. I had pizza which was ok , but the wild mushroom risotto was pretty inedible. We had the SDP but the studio traveler did not, but they only had to pay for one entree once and everything else was fit onto ours - so we tipped extra when this occurred - it sounded like this was normal procedure with a 3rd). Also ate at Food Republic for a lunch for variety which was also good. The buffet could be a madhouse at times , so we tended to go early or late night, use the Margaritaville overflow buffet , or used the regular or free breakfast room service (did this a couple times for the free OJ to mix with the Latitudes bubbly). Also used the free service on disembarkation day to avoid the assumed crowded buffet which worked out great. Bar service was frequent although we only had 7 drinks total so we just paid individually and extra tipped. All of the staff were very friendly from stewards to officers which just made the whole experience that much better. This NCL Escape crew is leagues above our past NCL cruise - and makes this ship tops in our book.
I also want to note that many staff went out of their way to give excellent service to us - from MDR and specialty venue waitstaff to our room steward. I had obtained a good number of $5 bills that we used to give extra tips for service like this. On the laundry bag special day (Wednesday) we somehow managed to flip the do not disturb switch on versus the make -up room before we went out. I got back at 2 pm and changed it but feared that we'd probably get charged extra for the laundry as it had to be in by 3 pm and it was after 2 pm . Our steward got the laundry back the same evening when we got back from dinner 4 hrs later - and it was still just for $20. Not sure how that happened as it wasn't supposed to be back until Friday but maybe there wasn't much demand.
We took shore excursions in most ports as we had double credits although all ports were very walkable. I took a couple hours to tour Portland via foot including a most excellent lobster roll at Highroller Lobster Co. We visited Acadia NP and ate lunch at the West St Cafe - an excellent choice and not busy versus other venues. At Saint John we did our own thing and toured around visiting local sites, the City Market , the Gravy Train Poutinere ...Halifax was also a walk-around after one tour was cancelled to the Maritime Museum, the Citadel and the Public Gardens.
Disembarkation was also smooth - we had NCL transfers and our group was called early at 9:15 and were were on the bus at 10:15 . Finding the right bus in the slow moving queues at the MCT exit was probably the worst part but it was efficient. We still had to cool our heels at EWR for a few hours before our flight home. All in all a most excellent time was had! Read Less