I chose this cruise because I wanted to experience a brand new ship. I’m glad we cruised on the Encore. It’s a stunning ship. There is lots to like, but some legitimate drawbacks in a couple areas. I would cruise again with NCL, ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to experience a brand new ship. I’m glad we cruised on the Encore. It’s a stunning ship. There is lots to like, but some legitimate drawbacks in a couple areas. I would cruise again with NCL, but probably not on this particular ship.
A bit about us. We are in our early 50s and do not have children. We like cruises, but every vacation is not a cruise vacation. We have taken cruises with Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Viking (a river cruise). This was our second cruise with NCL.
The ship is indeed beautiful and offers to many choices of activities, dining, and entertainment. Our cabin (10226) was a mini-suite with a balcony. It was large enough for a couple. For a family, it would be tight. (The sofa could turn into a bed, and there was an upper bunk that could be pulled down from the ceiling, if desired.) The bathroom was the largest one we have ever had on a ship. The shower is nearly full-sized and a most welcome improvement over the telephone booth style showers we have encountered on some other ships. The shower head was quite fancy. It featured different spray options. Water pressure was good and the range of water temperatures was excellent. There is a trough-style double sink. A double sink was useless for us, but it could be helpful for a family. There are two dispensers in the shower: one containing shower gel and the other containing a combined shampoo & hair conditioner. Both my husband & I have short hair, so this was not a big deal. If you have longer hair, you might want to bring your own hair products. The shampoo/conditioner did not rinse as “cleanly” as I would have liked, but this was a minor issue. There is no standard waste receptacle in the bathroom, which I found odd and inconvenient. Instead, there is a very small waste container in a drawer below the sink. The bed was comfortable. There was plenty of storage space for two people. The TV worked well, but it seemed a little small.
If you enjoy quiet time on your balcony, this is NOT the cabin for you. We were located two decks above the Sugar Cane Mojito Bar on the Waterfront. I could hear the bartender shaking drinks. As long as the bar was open, it was quite noisy on our balcony.
Speaking of the Waterfront, I was looking forward to this set-up as it sounded like a great idea…in concept. We never saw anyone dine outside the specialty restaurants on the Waterfront. It was either too warm, too windy, or too chilly…and we were in the Caribbean. There is lots of seating scattered throughout the Waterfront, and these areas were popular with families and large groups, and probably people looking to escape interior cabins. I missed having a deck that we could walk around the entire ship, as we have done on other cruises. There is nothing comparable on the Encore. (The jogging track above the main pool area is a joke.)
Many reviewers have commented about the lack of pool space and deck chairs, and this is very fair criticism of this ship. There is not nearly enough public pool and deck area for a ship with this many passengers. The hot tubs were packed full. The music was way too loud. It gave us a headache just to walk through the area. We did not pay for the more exclusive pool area because we never use the pools, so I can’t comment on conditions there.
Some have commented about poor service on the Encore. That was NOT our experience at all. In nearly every instance – wait staff, our cabin steward (Elan), spa, guest services, and excursions, the service was outstanding.
In most cases, the food was very good. Food in the specialty restaurants was OUTSTANDING. We ate at Cagney’s, Onda, Q, Los Lobos, and the American Diner. Food in The Local Bar was okay. I did like the set-up. Food was a little bland there, except for the hot dog.
The basic level wine & alcoholic beverage package was included in our cruise fare, and worked well for me. I’m a wine drinker and fully enjoyed the wines (had to be less than $15 per glass) that qualified under the basic package. Without prompting, the wait staff always offered to refill a glass.
The Garden Café (buffet) was my least favorite eating area. There were lots of choices, but it was always way too crowded and difficult to find a table.
Pizza ordered through room service was okay. We've had much better pizza on other cruise lines and ships.
The Observatory Lounge on Deck 15 is a GREAT space. It is really a unique area of this ship. It is a quiet space where many families gathered to play board games or complete puzzles during the sea days. Singles and couples read books there, or just sat and enjoyed a drink. There was always an abundant and varied offering of snacks, desserts and other food items – all complimentary. The panoramic view is amazing.
The spa was nice. I enjoyed two different massages there. Ask for Raj. Yes, they do subject you to the usual sales pitch, which always annoys me. I would pay more just to avoid the stupid sales pitch and health “coaching”. To the question “What are you doing to reduce stress?”, I responded, “I am taking this cruise.” Raj thought that was funny.
We went to Choir of Man on the Encore. I highly recommend it, and we generally don’t get all that excited about musicals and shows. The cast was incredibly talented, and the music was infectious. The entire audience was participating by the latter half of the show. We also enjoyed the piano player (can’t recall his name) in the Atrium.
There were a lot of children and teenagers on this cruise. Nothing against children and teenagers, just against parents who don’t believe in teaching their children to respect others and behave reasonably. There were quite a few “entitled” young folks on this cruise. My husband summed it up, “I know I sound like a grumpy old person, but I never hear these young folks say ‘thank you’”.
We tried the race track. It was fun, but once was enough. I think most people would have been much happier with this ship if the space dedicated to the race track was instead dedicated to more pool and lounging deck space.
Don’t bother with the Internet and Wi-Fi packages offered on the ship. Connections (when available) are SLOW. Ditch the electronics and use it as a good excuse to unplug and get away.
We participated in shore excursions offered by NCL in San Juan, St. Thomas, and Tortola. We did “Sips & Bites” in San Juan. I was hoping for more history about San Juan and Puerto Rico. Instead, the guide got really detailed about the “art” of “craft cocktails”. I love a good cocktail, but this guy acted like they were finding a cure for cancer -- took himself way too seriously. We had some nice cocktails and appetizers, but definitely not worth the price for this excursion. In both St. Thomas and Tortola we opted for the standard minibus tour of each island. On the St. Thomas tour, they forced way too many people into the wagon. Be prepared to get to know your seatmates very well.
Due to choppy waters and poor weather, the Great Stirrup Cay stop was cancelled and became a sea day instead. By this point in the cruise, I was getting stir crazy and ready to get off the ship, so that was my least favorite day.
The disembarkation process was very disorganized. Embarkation was okay. Many cabins were not ready until 3:00 or 3:30 pm.
In summary, I'm glad we experienced the Encore, but I don't need to experience it again. Read Less