Norwegian Escape Cruise Review by Wedgie23
- Sail Date: May 2019
- Destination: Bermuda
- Cabin Type: Balcony Stateroom
The Good: Top notch friendly employees, Room size/cleanliness/comfort, Drinks, Large Casino, Mojito Bar, Tapas, Taste/Savor, buffet, Starbucks.
The Bad: Not enough elevators, not enough smoking areas, far too crowded, lots of up-selling, not enough explanation, extremely long wait times at bars. Almost all entertainment/dining options booked up right away, Supper Club, Room service meal.
This was our second NCL to Bermuda cruise, the last was on the Breakaway 2 years ago. The extra passanger capacity between the ships and the nickel and diming reduction of service definitely showed however we were still able to enjoy our time. Other passengers seemed much less happy, as for us we are willing to try Norwegian again but may try out MSC as a replacement.
There were no life jackets in the room. This was by design but concerning none the less. I’m guessing by only keeping them at muster stations and not 1 per passenger at muster and 1 in room they are saving money at the expense of safety.
It quickly grew frustrating the lack of explanation of things/up-charges or even ship information yet the constant attention to advertising. For instance they have 4-5 cruising magazines in staterooms, none of which about the ship you're on, other ships in fleet or ports, all of which are about things you can buy on board. Half or more of the TV channels are dedicated to adverts and just about every other day we came back to the room with robo advert messages left on our phone and in our stateroom account page on the TV. When you just gave them a lot of money for the current cruise it doesn't feel as though they appreciate the business when they immediately go into upsell mode. It really sets a sour tone.
Embarkation- Pier 88 parking was very expensive but worth it. We arrived at 11AM was in the terminal and boarding by 11:45. Previously we arrived very early and waited this time it felt much more seamless. I don't recommend getting to the NYC terminal earlier than 11-12, it was a breeze for us.
Ship- The ship was incredibly large. We were in a forward room, you will get in all your daily steps for the day just leaving and returning to your room a few times. By the third day my feet were sore and I stopped wearing 'cute' shoes, I noticed I was far from the only woman who just gave up and wore sneakers to navigate this huge ship. The main draw back was how incredibly crowded the ship felt at times. Elevators were certainly a 'good luck' endeavor. After the muster drill it took, no exaggeration, 45 minutes for elevators to fit the people who were waiting. After the breakaway I knew not to bother so we stayed where we were and watched others getting increasingly frustrated. Especially the mobility challenged passengers who were unable to get their scooters into the elevators, something that became a common problem as the trip went on. Waiting for elevators was a rather common experience throughout the week, typically anything before 10PM you'd need to wait for 2 as the first that would come would be full. NCL seemed to try to lean into the extra passangers by creating a club like atmosphere in many places. The pool, the casino, several of the bars including Spice which is listed as a designated quiet zone. We stayed on the ship during 2 of the 3 days in Bermuda and it was wonderful. Finally many of the mobility challenged passengers were able to get out of their cabins and maneuver around.
Smoking- We are smokers. Unlike the breakaway where there seemed to be many designated smoking areas the Escape has 3 for over 4K people. 2 of which outdoors on level 17, 1 inside on 8. It was here that I'd hear the majority of complaints and 'Never again Norwegian'. The inside area was what was supposed to be a cigar lounge, it was very small and often crowded. Even as a smoker I found it difficult to be in a small area with that much smoke and no fresh air. The reason I later discovered it was always so packed there was because it was the only smoking area anyone with mobility issues could navigate to. The other two had tables, chairs and a large volume of people you'd need to pass through in order to get to. Spice has several stairs to the smoking area and while there is a ramp you'd have to navigate around every one in loungers to get there. At night when Spice does parties you'd have no way of reaching the ramp. The casino does have a smoking section when it is open so long as you are gambling but this is a pay to smoke option. I'd read the Escape uses a better filtration system for their smoking area in the casino and you can really tell. Even when people were actively smoking it didn't linger and create that cloud it also seemed to really contain itself to the casino area which was impressive.
There are not near enough smoking areas on the ship for the amount of smokers on board.
This time every time we went to a sit down the server asked me for food allergies. I appreciated the attention to it but it became a bit overboard with me being allergic to some shellfish not being served any seafood and even my husband not being served. I suppose with such a big ship cross contamination happens often so even if you're getting a burger and fries it's possible to get shellfish in things they shouldn't be in.
Buffet- I was surprised to see such a tone down of 'washy washy' only during peak hours did they have someone at the main entrance insuring people washed. I brought my own hospital grade hand spray and we used it constantly. The first night someone threw up in the buffet so they closed it down. We ate breakfast there every day, I wish they served their breakfast a bit later than 11 or had a 'brunch' option between lunch service because I found their breakfast much better than their lunch options. I loved their full salad bar and the breakfast was excellent every day. My husband loved the garbanzo salad so much we'd stop there just for that.
Dining- Food Republic- We were planning on using our first dining credit for here. We made reservations and arrived only to be told Food Republic is not included in any dining plan. I was very thankful the matri-d explained right off the bat before seating us and we racked up a bill unknowingly. No where on the dailies did it say this nor when I selected the dining plan which places it would be good for. We went to guest services and they annotated a copy of the daily with the information on which is up charged on top of dining package and which were not included at all.
Margaritavilla and Food Republic not covered at all
Tapas and Super Club Upcharge
Cagneys and Bleu - Upcharge is for certain items and indicated on the menu.
Being as though it was too late to get another reservation we ended up at Savor and it was fantastic.
Savor/Taste- Really great. On the breakaway it seemed it was the same quality as the buffet just plated and served. Here it was great, my husband had a better steak here than at the steak house Cagnys we went to later. Breakaway it seemed service was incredibly slow, if we went sit down it would be 2 hours minimum and it would typically be faster to go to the bar yourself to get a drink while waiting so we tended to just do buffet but not on the Escape. You were never rushed, servers were excellent and attentive as was the food.
Manhattan Room- I chose the Manhattan Room for our anniversary dinner. On the breakaway it seemed the more upscale option in the most beautiful setting. The setting on the Escape is just as beautiful but they seemed this time to pack far more people into the room and it felt much more casual. What was the dace floor on breakaway was now extra seating so no dancing and what was nice live music was unmanned instruments. The server was great the food was decent. Unbeknownst to us when we handed the matri-d our free anniversary cake coupon they brought it over with a song. My husband and I have a standing agreement to never ask for the 'happy birthday' song for each other (though it is often threatened lol) while embarrassing it was incredibly cute and made it quite memorable and special. The servers, the matri-d even the buspeople, even though they were very busy were incredibly kind and wishing you a good day.
Cagneys- I had heard very good things about Cagneys but found them a bit on the meh side, nothing to write home about but nothing bad either. I think the bar from Savor/Taste was raised too high for me to be wowed. I can't even remember what I ordered but I do remember that as always the service was fantastic. In Cagneys we had our picture taken, on the breakaway they were in our folders so we could order them at the end of the cruise this time when we went to order them at the end we were told eventhough we could see them in our file, we were not allowed to buy them. We would have had to have done so at the table not a big deal just something to be aware about.
Moderno- The Italian place was a bit odd, they were playing American classic hard rock, think Alice Cooper, Guns N Roses etc. While I'm a fan of that it took away from the atmosphere a bit. The food here was good. I ordered a steak with bleu cheese ravioli and thought it was amazing, my husband got one of the pasta options and found it a bit underwhelming and not filling.
Tapas/Pincho- This restaurant was a $7 upcharge per person and does not take reservations. We were incredibly confused on hours and seating. They don't have a designated matri-d section and when you walk up it looks like an empty sushi stand with no one manning it. We waited for a while, saw other people looking around, looking at the menu waiting then giving up. It was now too late to get a reservation anywhere else so we were about to just go to the buffet when I decided to ask the matri-d at the next door seafood restaurant if she knew when the tapas place would be open. Turns out they never man the serving area, it will always appear closed, to get seated you must go to the seafood restaurant. Something so small a tiny sign could help but nothing. They lost the up charge or straight extra business of 4-5 other couples in just the time we were waiting because none of us knew how to be seated. Frequently when passing Pincho you'd see confused people looking around to be seated or walking away.
Once we were seated this was the most incredible meal we had not just on the ship but in years. It's definitely a hidden gem and you might need to work harder than you should to visit it but it is well worth it. We were expecting tiny samples, just tasters really and not only is it enough for a meal everything is incredible and sharing it is so much fun. The server here was incredibly knowledgeable about everything on her menu. Even if you don't have the meal package you need to visit this place. If you have the meal perk, spend them all here and gladly hand over the extra charge.
Super Club- This was so bad we actually complained at guest services. After we booked I was on the website and saw I could book a dinner theater show here and prepay, so I did. We arrived 30 minutes early which was advised and right off the bat it was nuts. The server came over and in the thickist accent I've heard from anyone on board tried to take our order before we even sat down. Apparently they need to put in your dinner order right away, the only option is fish or beef. You do not get to choose any courses and you are not able to know what they are, they are brought put down and you figure it out for yourself. They advertise a 5 course meal and this is by far the worst when it came to my allergies. The main server asked if I had one, I told him shell fish he took the wine list off the table as we were sitting down, apparently they did not have enough so I needed to steal one from another table so my husband could read it which he wasn't given enough time to do before the person taking drink orders came around and they never came back.
Once we sat we noticed the table was not secured to the base. We had to be incredibly careful not to flip it all night. The pictures they show online of big booths reminiscent of a 50s jazz lounge is not at all what it’s actually like. They brought over a colored ‘foul’ placard and put it in front of me, I thought it odd but with the rushing was given no explanation. Apparently the bulk of their courses, which we didn’t know would be predetermined were seafood of which I would be served none and only 1 of which had an alternative, the alternative was a few slices of canned beets. My husband even had seafood pulled away from him because we had a placard at the table. I was asked no less than 7 times what my allergies were, I had desert served to me then pulled back up because they needed to check with the kitchen staff if it had been contaminated. There was a larger table behind us with 2 foul placards and after enough people being passed over by the third course got rather upset and told them to take the placards away and bother telling them what the courses were so they could decide for themselves. My 5 courses turned into 2 plus the addition of some sliced canned beets on the side. Several times I moved my placard slightly off to the side so I could have my drink or one of the plates I was allowed to have in front of me and 3 separate times I had someone move my plate, drink or purse so the placard would be in front of me at all times frankly it was getting embarrassing.
We figured whatever, one pretty awful experience won’t ruin our trip and I can always go to the buffet later. However we found out that not only did I prepay, but it counted against our meal package. What I paid was not the fee but the uncharge all for food I was unable to eat and given no alternatives. We went to guest services and explained that we were never informed what I paid was an uncharge and I wasn’t even served 3 of my supposed 5 courses that I’d paid for. Jeff in guest services was very apologetic and acknowledged the website does not tell you the $36 fee is the uncharge on top of your dining credit. He not only gave us our credit back but went out of his way to get us into Moderno on the last night (we were planning on just going to the tapas place for lunch again with our last credit as everything was booked from that point on) apparently if you’re going to buy/reserve ANYTHING on the website do it over the phone instead where they can tell you if what your paying is the actual full charge or not.
Oshehans- We went to Oshehans the night of the Super Club failure so I could have dinner and again for lunch. Great bar food, great service. Always incredibly busy and packed but the servers seem to really take it in stride.
Room Service- We did this once late night. I think it was really meant more for very drunk people than anyone else. I ordered a salad and a hot dog- hot dog was nuked, burnt and exploded missing the onions and fries were replaced with potato chips, missing the deli pickle advertised on the menu. Husband ordered fruit and yogurt plate that was missing the yogurt. Salads were good though.
Bars- This is the place where you’re going to feel the added passengers more than anywhere else with exception of the elevators. Bars were often packed and it could be very difficult to get drinks. If you had diner reservations and decided to stop for a drink you must allocated about 20 mins of wait time and that is not an exception. At least once a day we would wait at one bar for 15-20 minutes, see no end in sight so move to another bar and wait again. The bar tenders were really trying but there just isn’t enough of them for the amount of people they are expected to serve. Often times you’d see people just holding up at the bars, unlike the breakaway where they would get their drink and move on. If you planned on a drinking night it seemed you needed to scope out a chair in front of the bartender if you wanted more consistent service, again not their fault. Even at the casino, which we visited every night, I was able to get two drinks at the slots my husband was only able to get a drink once. Bars were another place you’d hear ‘Never again Escape or Never again Norwegian’ even late at night the casino bar turned into a club and Oshehans was packed. If we ever do Escape again we will not get the drink package, for the two of us the added tips alone were $250 that is probably what our drink charges + tips would have been for all the drinks we were able to get served to us at the ship bars.
On the breakaway the drinks were incredibly consistent Escape speed seemed to be the primary concern. Little corners cut, such as the mai tai recipe calling for cinnamon, breakaway had cinnamon sticks as stirrers here all cinnamon was left out completely though it still remained on the menu. There were also several specialty bars and it could get a bit confusing who was serving what. There was a whisky bar that seemed to just exist for the people in the small smoking room to drink something and navigate people over to one of the ships bars. There was a margaritaville tie in bar called 5 oclock somewhere that also had a special menu and did not serve anything else. There was a specialty mojito bar that only did mojitos. No where at any of these 3 bars did they have a sign or anything stating they were not normal bars so the over worked bartenders had to keep repeating it over and over and over again.
The mojito bar was incredible. We only stopped there because it was the one bar that didn’t have a line even though by then wed realized they were mojitos only. We went back again and again, by the end of the cruise it seems other people were catching on to how good they were and it became another packed placed hard to get a drink at.
Straws- I was relieved to see they had gotten paper straws but dismayed to see them so stingy with them. You could get one if you asked or if you got a frozen drink. I support their effort to be green but I don’t believe thats why they are doing it. If they cared about the environment they wouldn’t be using plastic disposable cups, they wouldn’t be denying people straws they would have moved to paper or plastic less ones. They are doing it to save money at the expense of customer enjoyment and spills all over the floor and in every elevator every night. Speaking of plastic cups the NCL logo ones are no more now it’s clear cheap plastic. It seems everything that costs a few pennies but isn’t absolutely needed is being removed.
Disabled Passengers- We’ve been considering bringing my parents on a cruise. My mother is mobility impaired, she can walk and stand but only for limited periods so this cruise I tried to pay special attention to the conditions from a disabled persons perspective and frankly I do not recommend cruising, at least on Norwegian for anyone who relies on a mobility scooter. I had debated renting one for my mother thinking she wouldn’t need to worry about walking but seeing what people in those scooters went through it would be easier to carry her on my back if I had to. I’m now debating bringing her one of those seated walkers but unless I can find one that folds I still don’t think it would go well. The elevator situation on the Escape while bad for all passengers seemed a right nightmare for the disabled. One man mentioned they should have one dedicated elevator for people needing scooters and I completely agree. The buffet showed handicapped placards but you’d still need to be able to move a chair out of the way, there were chair lifts for the areas not accessible by elevators but you needed to call someone to use it. I don’t know why they couldn’t have a special key card but even then, how would you get the scooter up there? Main hall ways were virtually impassable at times as is and for some reason in room hallways they put the housekeeping cart in the middle of the hallway instead of making it slightly shorter to fit in the concaves of the room doorways. It would be impossible for anyone in a scooter to leave or return to their room. It seems the only times most were actually able to use the ship was during it’s time in port. How sad to pay the same for a vacation as everyone else and be able to enjoy only a fraction.
Room- Previously we stayed in the mini suite, this time we were in a regular balcony. The only difference was the bathroom was smaller but for 2 people it was more than adequate. It took me 3 days to realize I was in an obstructed view balcony as for me it just meant I could see other people below me. We went through a travel agent who warned us it might be possible to get an obstructed view so I was worried. At least in my case the obstruction was something most wouldn’t notice or mind.
Despite being far forward there was very little movement. The only noise was the occasional slamming door. I asked our room steward for extra coffee and creamer for the coffee maker and an extra blanket. Not only did he do that, he left me extra coffee and creamer every single night from then on. One evening I decided I wanted tea and thought about asking him to bring some extra that night but I didn’t want to be a bother, sure enough as soon as he noticed I had gotten into the tea he put in extra and also took note of the sugar I was using to leave more of that as well.
I was so very happy to see towel animals as I’d heard they were phasing them out. No I’m not a child, no this wasn’t my first Norwegian cruise I just love them. I know you can request they be made but most people don’t want to bother others for things that are not needed. I made sure to tell our steward how much I appreciated him taking the time to make them without having to ask. Both verbally and in tip. I also left it in the note for his hero card at the end of the week.
Entertainment- We made our own entertainment for the most part. Unfortunately a lot of the things I was interested in watching took place in the Atrium. The Atrium is far too small, even being two floors to see anything let alone get a seat.
We saw Melinda Doolittle at the supper club, she was fantastic. We also went to the late night comedy show I don’t remember his name but he was pretty decent. He did seem to go on and on about farms though and the audience seemed to get pretty sick of it. We went to the 90s party and it was incredibly packed, we had a really great time though just be aware the H20/Spice night shows are a very club like atmosphere.
While the ship was in port we were able to make use of the Bocci set, the Mini golf and the large chess set. Mini golf was a bit strange, parts of the floor seemed to be sinking where you’d stand other than that all of the equipment seemed in good shape.
Other entertainment options sold old very quickly. To me it sort of doesn’t agree with the freestyle vibe if you absolutly must reserve a dining room or a theatre ticket by 5PM sunday that you might want to go to on Saturday. It didn’t bother us too much though but be aware your ‘freestyle’ vacation might need to be planned meticulously as soon as you get on the boat as there just isn’t enough showings for all the people on board to get a seat.
Bermuda- We’d been to Bermuda before and we are planning on going again. It’s incredibly beautiful and it’s so wonderful to be in an area that you feel so comfortable and safe in. This time we decided to enjoy the empty ship but we did visit tobacco bay. There was a $5 cover per person, this is certainly not a swimming style beach and if you visit water shoes need to be warn in the water as it’s very rocky with bits of glass. You can see beautiful little fish through the crystal clear water here. This is not one of the pink beaches but it is close enough to the ship you can walk, just follow the little green feet on the sidewalk and it takes you there.
The absolute best show of the cruise will be watching the runners trying to make it back to the pier. Even the locals show up for this one.
Employees/Tips- The vast majority of employees are really fantastic. One morning at breakfast they sang songs and offered people pastries. Very often they smile and say Hi or wish you a good day. I’d say the people they have working for them make the cruise.
That being said I found the added gratuities a touch excessive when I did the math. Bartenders are not included as they are covered under the tips added from the unlimited drink package, which @ 270 for 2 people is excessive in and of itself. If you have 10 drinks a day that still equals out to almost a $2 tip per drink, even if they just hand you a beer. The added tips at the end is $15 per person per day or for us, was $210 specialty dining tips aren’t included in that nor is room steward. We ate at sit down main dining rooms 5 times 210/5 means we left a $42 tip each time. I’m all for tipping and tipping well but this is excessive. You can remove it at the end of the week I did not but before I go again I will do more research as it is probably much better to just cary enough cash to tip on the spot and forgo drink package as well. At least then you know for sure it’s going to the person and not the company.
Shopping- I’m not one of the people who go on board to shop unfortunately there was 1 thing I was looking for which was the ship model and I wanted to collect every ship I’ve been on. Unfortunately even on day 1 they did not have it. I’m not sure if they discontinued them or not. I was also very surprised to see the large duty free liquor and tobacco store they had on the breakaway was much much smaller and melded with the general store on the Escape. It seems they gave all the room to the more upscale perfume or jewelry stores. I took note of some of the ship priced for toiletries a small bottle of mouth wash for $9 a dollar store disposable razor for $7. It’s good to know they have these things but be aware if you forget the mark up is huge.
They had a starbucks on board though they did not advertise it anywhere. It’s in the atrium they call it cafe something but it’s starbucks. Surprisingly the mark up here isn’t that bad. The coffee on board really wasn’t all too great so we stopped here about 3 times. Each time someone asked me where I found a starbucks when they saw my cup. This goes back to not informing people of the amenities of the ship they are on and instead saving all the room for advertisements.
Overall I enjoyed my time, if you’re not the kind of person who can go with the flow and not let little things ruin your day Escape might not be for you. We have decided to try at least 1 more NCL cruise on a much smaller ship, The Dawn to see if it fares any better with fewer people. NCL has it’s saving grace and that is it’s wonderful staff. I don’t wan’t to feel like a commodity with someone’s hand in my pocket, begging and begging for more money after I’ve spent thousands on a vacation and that’s what it seems NCL is becoming.
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Room was clean, bed was extremely comfortable. Bathroom and closet more than enough room for two people. Lots of storage options be aware on the Escape you will not be given life jackets in the room.