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We just got back from our 7-day Carribean cruise on the Escape. We brought a large group (21 in all) of family - myself, my wife, two kids, her brother, parents and two aunts, and some cousins. Our son is moderately autistic - calm and sweet, but has trouble paying attention or following group instruction. One of the first things we did when we got on board was check into the kids club, where we had a short talk with the directors there about our son and what they could expect. He's self-sufficient and will absorb himself in an individual activity when one is available, and we were told that was fine. That lasted exactly one trip to the club, after which we were told that his disinterest in group activities made it a problem for him to be in the club and that "they can't provide one-on-one care." Since we weren't asking for that and he doesn't need it, this was a bit of a shock. What they had really told us was that they couldn't keep an eye on the whole of their club, since for our son's safety that's all they'd need to do. The issue wasn't one of age groups leaving the club to do ship-walks - we avoid those anyway (he does elope sometimes and needs to be in an enclosed space, which the club is.) This was an issue of the club being understaffed to the point that there were areas that would go unsupervised for stretches of time. While the cruise was Spring Break and there were as a result a LOT of kids on board (we were told between 1700 and 2500 total) this does not fly as an excuse. Spring Break cruises are substantially more expensive - if more staff is needed to properly handle the kids' club that week, more money has been collected. It should be staffed. And the kids' club is the same size, and maxes out at 190 kids, no matter how many are on board. We were extremely disappointed to be told that because there were so many kids, they couldn't give a sideward glance to ours, and singled him out for his special needs, which in an entertainment-packed, enclosed space, drop to zero in any case. This is a shame, because other aspects of the ship are fantastic. There's so much to do on Lido and above that, in spite of the truckload of minors, wait lines for everything were astonishingly short. We never waited more than 5 minutes to ride a slide, get on the mini golf course or use the ropes course. My (not special needs) daughter, I'm sure, would give the cruise all 5 stars. The food is exceptional at all the specialty restaurants we tried, and their one minor mistake (bringing me a well-done steak when I ordered medium rare) was corrected in less than 2 minutes. I'd highly recommend the drink package, if it's included or reasonably priced - not having to sign for every cocktail is an underappreciated joy, and most of them are included. The cabin we had was on the small side, but if you do a little pre-cruise research like my wife did, you can jam all your travel gear into it for 2 adults and 2 kids and not have any in the walkways. Good service abounds pretty much everywhere you go, whether it's getting on or off the ship, dining, or at the bars and lounges, where we were approached several times and asked by cruise directors how everything was going. (I didn't raise my concerns about the kids' club to them at the time, and kind of regret missing that opportunity). The only shore excursion we were able to do through the ship was the Jamaican bobsled and Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, and it was seamless and an eyeful. Norwegian is doing passengers a disservice by docking in Falmouth - Ocho Rios is maybe the most beautiful port I've seen anywhere in the Caribbean, and you can see it from the top of the mountain where the bobsled runs. (To be fair, our itinerary was changed due to damage from Irma and Maria last year, and Falmouth may have been a fallback from Ocho Rios due to port space). We were also supposed to tender at Great Stirrup Cay, but seas were too rough to run the tenders, and based on conversations we've had, it's a common enough occurrence that this should only be considered half a port; there's a very good chance you won't go at all. We steamed to Nassau early instead. Overall I really want to give a high rating to this ship, and if you're traveling alone or with neurotypical kids you'll probably love it. If one of your tykes is on the spectrum or needs anything resembling personal attention from the kids' club staff, though, expect to have them with you for pretty much the whole cruise. We didn't (and shouldn't have), and it put a pretty sizable dent in what was otherwise an excellent sailing.

Mixed bag for special needs parents

Norwegian Escape Cruise Review by JigsawCruiser

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: March 2018
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Family Balcony Stateroom
We just got back from our 7-day Carribean cruise on the Escape. We brought a large group (21 in all) of family - myself, my wife, two kids, her brother, parents and two aunts, and some cousins. Our son is moderately autistic - calm and sweet, but has trouble paying attention or following group instruction. One of the first things we did when we got on board was check into the kids club, where we had a short talk with the directors there about our son and what they could expect. He's self-sufficient and will absorb himself in an individual activity when one is available, and we were told that was fine. That lasted exactly one trip to the club, after which we were told that his disinterest in group activities made it a problem for him to be in the club and that "they can't provide one-on-one care." Since we weren't asking for that and he doesn't need it, this was a bit of a shock. What they had really told us was that they couldn't keep an eye on the whole of their club, since for our son's safety that's all they'd need to do.

The issue wasn't one of age groups leaving the club to do ship-walks - we avoid those anyway (he does elope sometimes and needs to be in an enclosed space, which the club is.) This was an issue of the club being understaffed to the point that there were areas that would go unsupervised for stretches of time.

While the cruise was Spring Break and there were as a result a LOT of kids on board (we were told between 1700 and 2500 total) this does not fly as an excuse. Spring Break cruises are substantially more expensive - if more staff is needed to properly handle the kids' club that week, more money has been collected. It should be staffed. And the kids' club is the same size, and maxes out at 190 kids, no matter how many are on board. We were extremely disappointed to be told that because there were so many kids, they couldn't give a sideward glance to ours, and singled him out for his special needs, which in an entertainment-packed, enclosed space, drop to zero in any case.

This is a shame, because other aspects of the ship are fantastic. There's so much to do on Lido and above that, in spite of the truckload of minors, wait lines for everything were astonishingly short. We never waited more than 5 minutes to ride a slide, get on the mini golf course or use the ropes course. My (not special needs) daughter, I'm sure, would give the cruise all 5 stars.

The food is exceptional at all the specialty restaurants we tried, and their one minor mistake (bringing me a well-done steak when I ordered medium rare) was corrected in less than 2 minutes. I'd highly recommend the drink package, if it's included or reasonably priced - not having to sign for every cocktail is an underappreciated joy, and most of them are included.

The cabin we had was on the small side, but if you do a little pre-cruise research like my wife did, you can jam all your travel gear into it for 2 adults and 2 kids and not have any in the walkways. Good service abounds pretty much everywhere you go, whether it's getting on or off the ship, dining, or at the bars and lounges, where we were approached several times and asked by cruise directors how everything was going. (I didn't raise my concerns about the kids' club to them at the time, and kind of regret missing that opportunity).

The only shore excursion we were able to do through the ship was the Jamaican bobsled and Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, and it was seamless and an eyeful. Norwegian is doing passengers a disservice by docking in Falmouth - Ocho Rios is maybe the most beautiful port I've seen anywhere in the Caribbean, and you can see it from the top of the mountain where the bobsled runs. (To be fair, our itinerary was changed due to damage from Irma and Maria last year, and Falmouth may have been a fallback from Ocho Rios due to port space).

We were also supposed to tender at Great Stirrup Cay, but seas were too rough to run the tenders, and based on conversations we've had, it's a common enough occurrence that this should only be considered half a port; there's a very good chance you won't go at all. We steamed to Nassau early instead.

Overall I really want to give a high rating to this ship, and if you're traveling alone or with neurotypical kids you'll probably love it. If one of your tykes is on the spectrum or needs anything resembling personal attention from the kids' club staff, though, expect to have them with you for pretty much the whole cruise. We didn't (and shouldn't have), and it put a pretty sizable dent in what was otherwise an excellent sailing.
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