An Introduction To: The NCL Escape
November 6, 2015
If you’ve already read our guide to Norwegian Cruise Line (and if you haven’t you should check it out here!) then you’ll know that they’re all about relaxed, freestyle cruising… as well as having a lot of fun! Well last week the www.CRUISE.co.uk team were lucky enough to visit Norwegian Cruise Lines brand new ship, the amazing Norwegian Escape to find out for ourselves. We boarded her in Southampton for a one night sailing to test out her bars, restaurants, rooms and service – all in the name of research of course!
But what did we think of her? Does she live up to the other great Norwegian ships such as the NCL Epic or the Breakaway?
Read on to find out…
(But first)… What exactly can you expect to find on the ship?
Décor and Atmosphere
The first thing we noticed on arrival was the waterslides and rope courses on the top deck towering over Southampton docks (this ship really is HUGE!), quickly followed by the bright hull art which sets up your expectations (or so we thought) for the even brighter interiors.
Norwegian Cruise Line (or NCL for short) have always famously featured colourful and lively hull art on their ships and the artwork on the Escape was no exception; actually being designed by famous marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey (you can take a look at what he had to say about his involvement in the process here).
However, once we’d boarded we found that the interior colour schemes had been massively toned down. Gone were the bright (some say garish) colour schemes of previous NCL ships; to be replaced instead with a much more muted beige theme running throughout.
Now whilst it’s true many other cruise lines also opt for a more ‘safe’ colour scheme, in our eyes it was one of the things that always set NCL apart; for good or for bad, you always knew you were on an NCL ship!
Instead a lot of the décor looks much the same as can be found on other ships. Now some people, perhaps those who were put off by this in the past, may think it’s a great improvement but we couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, almost as though something was missing.
However we’ll leave the final decision up to you as to whether this change is a good thing or not for NCL.
Norwegian definitely know how to entertain their guests. Whether it’s getting your pulse racing on their waterslides or watching a Tony Award winning show, one thing that won’t happen is you running out of things to do!
One of the must do’s on Escape is taking a trip to the Aqua Park, located on the top deck, to try out the Aqua Racer; two tandem waterslides which allow you race your friends to the bottom!
There’s also the two Free Falls, the fastest water slides at sea, that hurl you down their chutes at up to 25mph!
As well as these four multi story slides there’s four Jacuzzi hot tubs and two large swimming pools, as well as the interactive Kid’s Aqua Park which has shallow pools, slides and water cannons.
Nearby on the top deck is the Sports Complex, which has a nine hole crazy golf course the whole family can enjoy as well as a full sports course where you can play basketball, volleyball, soccer and dodgeball.
Even better however is that it also has NCL’s well-loved Ropes Course which has ninety nine individual elements on an expanded, three story course.
That’s right – you’ll be three storeys above the deck!
You just attach yourself to a harness and walk along multiple rope bridges, pull yourself along nets and even walk the plank over the side of the ship! As if that wasn’t enough there’s also five zip wires allowing you to zip from one end of the deck to the other, enjoying a bird’s eye view of the ship below (assuming your brave enough to keep your eyes open!).
If you want entertainment in the evenings then go to 678 Ocean Place, (which is over desks 6, 7 and 8!) as this is where you will find many of the restaurants, bars and shops. It’s the place to be on board and has exclusive boutiques such as Carolina Herrera and Lacoste. The casino is also located here and has a variety of slot machines and table games. Its also where you’ll find this stunning chandelier light piece hanging!
For full scale shows on Escape you need to head to the Escape Theatre. The shows performed here will include offerings such as After Midnight, a Broadway smash hit musical performed with a big band. You can also catch some entertainment in Headliners Comedy Club or watch a Brat Pack show at the Supper Club.
If you’re after something a bit less adventurous but a bit more lively then check out Spice H2O. The adult only retreat was inspired by the beach parties of Ibiza and has a huge outdoor screen, a waterfall grotto and space for you to dance beneath the stars, cocktail in hand. In the day time this area is a great place to come and hang out in the bar, on a sun lounger or in the hot tubs. Sounds like bliss to us!
How To Relax On Escape
If you go on a cruise to get away from it all rather than enjoy high octane excitement then don’t worry – there are plenty of spaces to sit back and relax.
You could simply soak up the rays as you sit on a sun lounger, (with the pool bar very close by!) or visit Vibe Beach Club, the adult only retreat that has a huge oversized hot tub and plenty of chaise loungers, water spritzers, chilled towels and skewers of fruit to help you unwind.
The Mandara Spa is another great spot to kick back and relax.
Inside is their snow room – NCL’s first snow room at sea! It is said to improve you blood circulation if you spend a few minutes inside. After testing it out we thought you’d have to be a bit mad to enter in your swim suit!
For a bit of extra pampering, you could also visit the hair and beauty salon if you want a quick restyle or cut.
If you stay in one of the Haven suites you will also have access to the exclusive Haven Sundeck and Haven Restaurant, which are areas quieter than the rest of the ship. Have a look at the exclusive areas to sit, relax and sunbathe below!
The Haven suites on escape are also really roomy and have access to these great areas.
NCL introduced freestyle dining to cruising and we were excited to try out all of the different restaurants on-board Escape.
Free dining venues:
NCL doesn’t just have one main dining room, it has three. Savor, Taste and the Manhattan Room all offer classic and modern dishes on the menu. Taste also has its own private room in which you can pay to hire a section for large groups, events or parties.
Other included restaurants are Pincho Tapas Bar, designed by famous chef Jose Garces who’s known on American TV for starring on the programme “The Iron Chef.” On-board he’s created small, sharable plates that represent Spain’s culture and cuisine.
O’Sheenan’s Neighbourhood Bar & Grill. This pub serves as an eatery that provides classic American fare in a relaxed atmosphere – 24 hours a day! Dine on typical American pub grub like buffalo wings or try the fish and chips whilst you play pool or darts or even watch sports on the two storey TV. It’s also not a bad place for a pint!
Garden Café. This indoor restaurant serves as a wide buffet for all guests. Munch on Italian pasta, cuts of meat or a variety of desserts as well made to order omelettes and waffles for breakfast.
Where NCL really comes into its own is in the amount of speciality restaurants you can choose from over a dozen!
Teppanyaki. Serving up Asian cuisine at an authentic Japanese Hibachi restaurant.
Sit at a shared table around a grill and watch as your chef slices steak, grills seafood and chicken and cook on a large steel grill right in front of you. Why not try the sake-infused Wasabi Cocktail too…
Bayamo restaurant. From famous chef Jose Garces and serving seafood with a Latin twist.
La Cucina. Flavours of the Tuscan countryside served up al fresco or indoors at tables. Enjoy dishes such as lobster fettuccine or pasta carbonara followed by macadamia ice cream.
Le Bistro. French restaurant located in the atrium of 678 Ocean Place which serves modern twists on loved French classics.
Cagney’s Steakhouse. American style steakhouse, with premium cuts of Angus beef, cocktails and find wines. A speciality of theirs is jumbo crab cakes that are made from scratch.
Moderno Churrascaria, is an authentic Brazilian Steakhouse located along the Waterfront. It serves meat that is carved right at your table and you can have a taste of fresh olives, cured meats and speciality salads.
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea. This restaurant is based on famous American singer Jimmy Buffet… Not heard of him? (don’t worry – we hadn’t either!) then watch the video below…
The restaurant is based around this song and its lyrics and the lifestyle of the man himself. They claim to have the best burger at sea in the form of their Signature Cheeseburger in Paradise!
Food Republic is a restaurant by the Pubbelly Boys who reinvented the Miami South Beach dining scene. They serve up a fusion of foods and cultures around the globe, so that you can travel the world without even leaving the ship! Why not try a Japanese dish in the form of a sushi roll or have some tasty noodles from China.
The Bake Shop. What can we say here? Sit back in awe and a never ending stream of delicious looking cakes, biscuits and other sweet treats!
Dolche Gelato. Grab a scoop of ice-cream as you head along the Waterfront. There are many flavours to choose from and they’re all made fresh on-board.
Chef’s Table. A nine course extravaganza awaits you as you dine upon dishes chosen personally by the chef.
Bars and Lounges
There isn’t just a lot of dining choice on NCL – there are plenty of places to have a drink too! Whilst we’ve already mentioned a few of the venues, here’s where else you can have a tipple…
The Cellars. This wine bar was designed by the Michael Mondavi Family (who are famous in wine) and know a thing or two about their merlot! Have a merlot or go for a wine tasting whilst on your cruise.
Prime Merdian Bar. Situated at the heart of 678 Ocean Place, it’s the perfect place to grab a drink as you people watch or meet up with friends.
The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar. It will always be an acceptable drinking time somewhere in the world… So take another sip of those margaritas!
Tobacco Road. Miami’s oldest bar comes to the Escape and serves an array of speciality cocktails designed by famous mixologist Leo Holtzman.
The District Brew House. Serving more than 50 bottled beers and 24 draft beers on tap, the brew house also has a range of weird and wonderful cocktails. There is also a photo booth for you to enjoy after you’ve tried a couple of the drinks…
Mixx Bar. The perfect place to meet friends before dinner or afterwards.
Sugarcane Mojito. Try the different varieties of this classic favourite cocktail. Our favourite was spicey passionfruit, and we diligently tried all six varieties of mojito on the cocktail platter to ensure every one of them was as tasty as advertised… and we can assure you that they were!
Skyline bar. Located near the casino, have a drink as you play your hand with table top poker screens and state of the art LED screens around the room that display pictures of gorgeous skylines.
Family Friendly Facilities
We’ve already talked about some of the facilities that are great for children on this child friendly ship, such as the Aqua Park and Sports complex, but children can also enjoy dedicated child clubs.
The Escape is home to NCL’s first ever nursery suitable for those aged 6 months to 3 years old and has sensory based activities, games, toys and a Quiet room for them to sleep in.
Older children will enjoy the activities of Splash Academy, and if you want more information of what your children will do at these clubs, read our introduction to NCL here.
Teenagers can hang out at Entourage, a dedicated teen only area, and they will have access to a video arcade.
Families will also love the interactive Kids’ Aqua Park and activities such as mini golf.
So there you have it!
Do you like the look of the NCL Escape? Would you like to cruise on her?
Let us know in the comments below!
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