Being one of the first passengers on a newbuilt ship is always a pleasure. On October 23rd I embarked on the NORWEGIAN ESCAPE, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest vessel freshly delivered the day before from the Meyer Werft
During 48 hours I ran around, taking pictures for various customers, attending press conferences, meeting up with international friends and colleagues, and enjoying some of the 28 dining options onboard.
Let’s start with The Haven, the most luxurious part of the ship and only accessible for the guests staying in one of the 95 The Haven suites.
The Haven includes a lovely private restaurant, a cocktail bar and a concierge desk where The Haven guests can relax, have a drink and make dining, entertainment or spa reservations through the dedicated concierge.
The advantage of being onboard during an inaugural cruise is the fact that you can visit every stateroom and suite category. What do you think of these The Haven suites?
The Haven Owner’s Suite 17102
The Haven Owner’s Suite 17102, the bar
The Haven Owner’s Suite 17102, the bedroom
The Haven Courtyard Penthouse 17126 is also suitable for disabled guests
The Haven Penthouse 14300 is located aft, but still offers all the facilities related to the status of “The Haven” customers
Who wouldn’t want to have such a bathroom on a ship? (Penthouse 14300)
The Haven Deluxe Spa Suite 16102
And the neighbour, Deluxe Spa Suite 16100
After all the splendour of The Haven it is time to look at the rest of the ship. Norwegian Cruise Line has been the first to develop a neighbourhood for solo travellers, not only with dedicated cabins but also with a private food and beverage area. It makes it easier to meet other solo cruisers and to socialize with them.
One of the “studios” on Deck 10
The NORWEGIAN ESCAPE can accommodate 4,200 passengers in a wide variety of staterooms and suites, with or without balconies, suitable for couples, families etc..
A Family Mini Suite on Deck 9
Inside staterooms with connecting doors
Before continuing our discovery tour I want to show you how we left Hamburg in style: with magnificent fireworks.
The heart of the ship is the central atrium, which links Decks 6, 7 and 8. That’s where you find most of the bars, dining and entertainment venues, and shops.
That’s the view you get when dining on the terrace of Le Bistro
The Atrium makes it easy to navigate through the ship
Don’t ask me how many bars the ship has. New is The Cellars, a Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. You can go for just a good glass of wine, or you can have it together with some tapas à la carte. Of course there will be tasting sessions too.
As a Belgian I can only be enthusiast about the new District Brew House. This hip, urban craft beer café has 24 draft beers on tap (including Leffe, which was so popular that the ship ran out on the first evening) and more than 50 different bottled beers.
One of the nicest features on this class of ships is The Waterfront. More than a promenade it is a deck where a large numbers of restaurants and bars have their terrace. Dining inside or outside? It is great to have this choice. The ship is to sail from Miami year round, and I can imagine the joy of dining outside on a warm winter evening.
Sailing the North Sea in October can only make us dream of Miami
We have been told there were 28 dining options on board. That includes room service and bar food. However, the number of restaurants is still impressive, as well as the variety of the offer. During this short shakedown cruise I had the pleasure to eat in the Garden Café, the O’Sheehan’s Neighbourhood, the Manhattan, the Savor and the Teppanyaki. I wanted to try the new Food Republic, which -alas- was fully booked.
Norwegian Cruise Line is the company which invented the concept of Freestyle Cruising, and a large number of dining options are an important element of the concept. Most restaurants are included in the cruise fare. For some specialty restaurants an extra fee has to be paid.
Manhattan, main dining room
La Cucina, Italian restaurant ($)
La Cucina, Italian restaurant ($)
The NORWEGIAN ESCAPE is the newest big resort ship. It is a paradise for children, certainly when you see the Aqua Park.
It features four multi-storey water slides, a dedicated Kids’ Aqua Park, two pools and four hot tubs. Slides include the new Aqua Racer, Norwegian’s first tandem waterslide at sea, and Free Fall, the fastest waterslides at sea. For those who prefer a more relaxing ride, there is a family-friendly open-flume body slide.
Far away from the splash action is the Mandara Spa, where reaching a deep state of relaxation is the goal. When I tried to photograph the Orchids for my client Dauerflora I had to show my patience. The 17 heated loungers attracted so many people, as if half of the ship wanted to try them. I must say, the view is pretty awesome.
There’s also a Snow Room, for arctic refreshment in the hot Caribbean.
Entertainment is King, and is everywhere at any time of the day. It can be a pool party, comedy, life music, and there are some big productions too. I saw the Broadway musical After Midnight, based on jazz by Duke Ellington and the Harlem’s Cotton Club. No pictures allowed (and they were very strict about it). Hence the picture of an empty Theatre.
Before ending my report I would also congratulate the event team of Norwegian Cruise Line for an impeccable organisation.
I am also very impressed by Hamburg’s new Steinwerder terminal, and the way Hamburg has done everything to become the Miami of Europe. During the shakedown cruise staff from Hamburg Tourismus were onboard to promote their wonderful city.
NORWEGIAN ESCAPE sails a 7-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary from Miami. Ports include St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.
Norwegian Cruise Lines website: www.ncl.eu
Report and photos by Mike Louagie
Aerial picture of NORWEGIAN ESCAPE by Michel Verdure