Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest addition to its fleet, Norwegian Escape, has taken to the high seas, and we were given the opportunity to come along for the ride. The Miami-based ship is the cruise line’s largest ship to date at 1,069 feet (making it the fifth-largest cruise ship in the world), and taking a voyage on it is like living in a floating city. It’s truly a wonder to behold: From dining to the spa to a massive ropes course, the amount of things to do onboard seems endless, and you can spend a whole week exploring and still feel like there’s more to discover. So if you’re considering booking a stateroom on it for your next cruise, there are some things you should know about it first.
Make 678 Ocean Place Your Home Base
The best way to orient yourself with the ship is to head to 678 Ocean Place on Deck 7, a soaring three-story atrium that serves as the focal point of the ship. From there, you’ll be within striking distance of many of the specialty bars and restaurants, the casino, lounges, and shops, and it’s the ship’s main hub.
“The Waterfront” Is a Stunning Innovation
Norwegian ships are the only ones on the seas to have a quarter-mile oceanfront promenade that’s connected to bars and restaurants. The opportunity to enjoy your meal outside, overlooking the water, is one that shouldn’t be missed.
There Are 28 Different Dining Experiences
There are three main dining rooms on board the ship: Savor, Taste, and the old-school nightclub-style The Manhattan Room. The Garden Café serves an ample buffet at all hours of the day and night, and O’Sheehan’s is a straight-up Irish pub, open 24/7. While those options are all complimentary
, the ship’s à la carte specialty dining options
really shine: Moderno Churrascaria, a Brazilian-style steakhouse with meats carved tableside; Teppanyaki, an authentic Japanese hibachi restaurant; the classic Cagney’s Steakhouse; the first-ever Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at sea; Bayamo by Jose Garces, specializing in seafood with a Latin twist; the Tuscan-inspired La Cucina; the traditional French restaurant Le Bistro; the globetrotting Food Republic from the team behind Miami’s popular Pubbelly (iPad menus are a nice touch here); and Pincho Tapas Bar from Jose Garces. Norwegian really went above and beyond in this regard, and we were very impressed by our meals at Food Republic and Bayamo.
There Are 21 Bars and Lounges
You’re certainly in luck if you’re looking for a cocktail
. Bars like the Atrium Bar and Skyline Bar are dotted throughout decks 6 and 7, and other must-visits include Sugarcane, a mojito bar at the entrance to Bayamo; The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, a great spot to sit outside with a margarita; The District Brew House, a full-on beer bar with 24 beers on tap including many local specialties; and Tobacco Road, an ideal place to relax with a cocktail in a deep leather chair. Prime Meridian, a large circular bar with great cocktails, is at the entrance to Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney’s Steakhouse; the outdoor Spice H20 becomes an Ibiza-inspired club at night; and The Cellars offers great wines by the glass as well as more formal tastings.
It’s Home to Chef Jose Garces’ First Restaurants at Sea
Bayamo and Pincho are the first cruise ship restaurants for renowned Philadelphia chef Jose Garces
, and he’s really pulled out all the stops. At Bayamo, main courses include roasted cod with chorizo croquette and saffron espuma; roasted Maine lobster with stuffed cachuca peppers; pan-roasted shrimp with charred tomato and lime emulsion; roasted duck breast with arroz verde and duck confit; and pan-roasted scallops with braised oxtail and corn porridge; at Pincho, tapas options include a variety of Spanish meats and cheeses, duck confit montadito with Serrano ham and Amarena cherry, sweet corn croquettes with black truffle purée, bacon-wrapped lamb loin with sweet onion cream and lamb jus, and jumbo Spanish prawns with espelette glaze and lemon aïoli.
Be Sure to Make Dinner Reservations
If you’re planning on taking advantage of any of the à la carte restaurants, make sure you make reservations in advance. You can do it at the restaurants themselves, or you can reserve a table in your stateroom or via screens positioned throughout the ship.
There’s a Private Party Room
If you’re hosting a private event, Escape is the first Norwegian ship to boast its own private room. Located inside the Taste dining room, this wine bottle-lined room is a secluded space to host your own function.
It’s True to Its Miami Roots
Food Republic is run by Miami’s Pubbelly Restaurant Group, who runs the popular restaurants Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, PB Steak, Barceloneta, Taco Belly, and the soon-to-open L’Echon in Miami Beach. The ship is also the new home of Tobacco Road, which was Miami’s oldest bar before it was shuttered and demolished in 2014, and the ship’s prow boasts a huge mural by artist Guy Harvey.
It’s Home to the Fastest Waterslides at Sea
Up on decks 17 through 20, you’ll find an outdoor extravaganza of pools, a full-scale basketball court, a bocce court, mini golf, and four water slides, including two that essentially shoot you straight down and into a big loop. If you can build up the nerve to ride them, it’s absolutely thrilling.
You Can Walk the Plank
This area is also home to a three-story ropes course, with nearly 100 different elements. The coolest one by far, however, is the plank, which is just what it sounds like: a long plank that’s cantilevered out over the ship. Thankfully you’re harnessed in, so if you fall all you’ll do is hang there.
There’s a “Snow Room”
As a part of the ship’s ample Thermal Suite spa you’ll find saunas, a “salt bath” room, a huge thalassotherapy pool, and most intriguingly of all, a “snow room,” essentially a decked-out freezer where it actually snows.
Don’t Miss the Entertainment
There are plenty of entertainment options available if you want to sit back and enjoy a show. There’s a dinner theater, a supper club cabaret, Broadway’s After Midnight in the main theater, a comedy club, and a dueling piano show called Howl at the Moon.
The Arcade Is a Showstopper
Even if you haven’t thought about setting foot in an arcade in years, don’t miss the opportunity to connect with your inner child and spend some time in the ship’s game room. Arcade game technology has improved by leaps and bounds in years, and after stumbling upon it, (it’s a little tucked away on Deck 17) we didn’t ever want to leave. A standout is the brand-new Star Wars Battle Pod, which puts you at the helm of everything from a TIE Fighter to the Millennium Falcon in an IMAX-style experience in your own private pod. It’s seriously mind-blowing.
There Are Pool Tables and a Bowling Alley
O’Sheehan’s Pub has two distinct sections, separated by a wide walkway. One half is more of a restaurant, but the other side is all bar. Follow the atrium around the corner and you’ll encounter a couple of pool tables, arcade games, and darts, and beyond that a miniature bowling alley.
The Haven Is a “Ship Within a Ship”
Located at the top of the ship, The Haven
is essentially a luxury yacht within the ship. You need a special keycard just to access the section; rooms are spacious and luxurious; there’s a private lounge, sundeck, and restaurant, and there’s 24-hour butler and concierge service. If you’re looking for a more exclusive, high-end experience, The Haven is for you.
“Studio” Rooms Are Geared Toward Solo Travelers
On the other end of the spectrum, Norwegian goes out of its way to make solo travelers feel at home. The 82 studios are about 100 square feet and include a bed, sink, and shower, as well as a one-way window that look out into the corridor, and solos have their own lounge as well as an activity program.