The Great Escape - Cruise Like a Norwegian

So, in a departure from my typical Disney theme, today I am going to write about my recent cruise on the new Norwegian Escape.  On November 28, I departed on a hosted cruise with the Janelle & Co Crew on the 3rd even voyage of this brand new ship.  It was a fun experience from start to finish!  

So let's start with accommodations: we stayed in a balcony room, and it was very nice. 

As usual, there are several clever hidey-holes and such to help keep you organized throughout the week.  The staterooms were furnished beautifully, and it still had that "new ship" smell. In the picture above, you'll notice 2 beach towels; each stateroom comes with 1 beach towel per person to use throughout the cruise.  These can be exchanged for clean ones at any time on the pool deck.  There is a $25 charge for a lost towel, however - so keep track of it. :) And in case you're wondering, I found the bed to be quite comfortable. 

The ship itself has a lot of "bells and whistles" so to speak, including a 3-story ropes course, several waterslides, a jogging track, and the first Margaritaville at sea!

And the kids were certainly not left out, either! There were lots of areas just for them to enjoy the company of other kids.  Entourage, the Video Arcade, and a huge splash and play zone were just some of the kid-friendly options.

Never fear; the adults had some private areas, too!  Spice2O is located aft, and it is a space for adults only.  This space is quite popular, so it's a good idea to grab a chair early.  There is a really cool Misting Grotto that's great for cooling off. After 7pm, this space is used for family-friendly deck parties, including a glow party and an 80's themed dance party.  The 80's party was pretty incredible!

For an even more adult setting, you can also pay to use the Vibe Beach Club for the week.  This area of the ship has a private entrance, and once inside it has a bar, lounge chairs, and other great accommodations away from the hustle and bustle.  If you want to enjoy this, you definitely need to book is as soon as you board, as there are no pre-bookings at this time.

For those of you unfamiliar with Norwegian, it is a freestyle cruising experience.  Most cruise lines have set dining times, early and late, with a show either before or after.  You have a set location to dine with the same staff each night, and depending on how large your party is, you are sometimes seated with other guests.  Freestyle Cruising is different in that you schedule (or don't schedule) when you want to eat, see shows, and who you sit with.  If you are a party of 2, you can have a table for 2.  If you want to dine with friends, great! There are 3 dining rooms, and you can eat in whichever "floats your boat" each night.  And just as you are used to when cruising, everything is included (except soda and alcohol, of course).  Have 2 or 3 entrees if  you like -- or all 4 desserts -- no one is judging. Taste, Savor, and the Manhattan Room were all fabulous.  The chocolate lava cake was probably the best I've had.

There are also multiple specialty restaurants aboard.  If you want to "upgrade" to a specialty restaurant, there is either a cover charge or else you will order á la carte.  Of course, Norwegian offers packages that include most of the specialty dining establishments, which eliminates the upcharge for the meal.  We took advantage of adding on this special offer with our "Freestyle Choice", and we were so glad we did! We enjoyed the specialty restaurants a LOT!  Moderno, the Brazilian Steakhouse, was incredible.

We ate at La Cucina (Tuscan style dining) the next night...

And then, what may have been the best meal of the trip - Cagney's Steakhouse!

Of course, there is always the option to dine at the buffet on Deck 16 - The Garden Cafe.  This place had great food - better than you'd expect!  I was very happy with my meals here.  

Entertainment-wise, there are 2-3 Broadway Style shows to choose from.  One is a dinner venue and requires an upcharge, but the other two are free - however, reservations are suggested.  Million Dollar Quartet and After Midnight both boasted amazing casts, and they were some of the highest quality shows at sea that I have seen.  I would even say the caliber was close to that of a Disney Cruise - and you know that's saying something coming from me!

There was also a "Howl at the Moon" dueling piano bar that had shows 4 of the nights.  Although I missed the first one, I didn't miss any others -- they were THAT good. We sat for a full 4 hours listening one night.  

Of course, there is a casino, and there are several other spots to hang out in a more "nightclub" atmosphere after dark should you so choose.  There is never a lack of things to do.  Oh - and since it's football season, the brewery always had the latest games on the TV via satellite.

One last area to mention is the spa.  I am a spa junkie, and it has become a big deal to me to treat myself to a Thermal Suite on my cruise vacations.  The facilities were beautiful here.

I very much enjoyed the facility offerings, although I honestly felt like the oversold passes into the thermal suite.  Finding lounge chairs actually became difficult, and the noise level was much higher than is usual - and so the experience was not as relaxing as I had hoped.  The steam room was broken for a couple of days as well.  I am hopeful that it was due to it being a new ship, and hopefully these glitches will work out given time.  The Spa Manager was very apologetic and promised to look into everything, so I would give this a try again. 

One other neat thing is that there is now a Norwegian iConcierge app available for iPhone and Android -- you can keep in touch with your onboard friends with unlimited calls and texting via the ship's wifi all week for the cost of $7.95 per user.  You can also check out what's going on throughout the ship!  If you want additional internet services (for Facebook, email, etc), there are packages for purchase.

Of course, as this was a hosted cruise, there were lots of friends on the ship - and we had the privilege of making many new ones.  Want to try Freestyle Cruising for yourself? Join us on the Great Getaway next October! We would love to have you aboard with us!