December 2015 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Escape
This was mine and my significant others first cruise. I was very impressed by the size of the ship, the size of my room including balcony (much larger bathrooms than other cruise ships), and the ability to explore the whole ship whenever you wanted to. I didn't know what to expect other than the fact that I was going to have a great vacation no matter what.
Let's talk about some of the positives first...
Food. Dining rooms were great! Cagney's (a la carte) was amazing and the service was good throughout all of the dining rooms including Taste, Savor, and the Manhattan Room. Freestyle dining was great too. Come to think about it, I would never want to sit at the same table with the same people like other cruise lines since you might get complainers, who act as a rain cloud on a blue sky day. I am not a big fan of buffets, so I always hated making my way up to the 16th deck for that headache. Now if buffets are your thing, then you will be all set. One thing to be aware of. The hours for breakfast and lunch for the waitstaff dining are only available for about 2 hours.
Rooms. We had a stateroom with a balcony on the 13th floor. It was even better than what we expected. The room didn't feel cramp at all. A balcony you could actually walk around on with 2 chairs and a table to admire the great view. The bathroom was much larger than I expected. I thought it was going to be a toliet/sink/shower all cramped together, but you had plenty of elbow space and a nice sink with room to store all your personal needs. The closet was decent sized and we were provided 20 hangers which was great. Staff made sure room was clean and ready every day.
Activities. Ship had tons of stuff to do. So much, that we didn't get a chance to do everything! After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet were amazing. Water slides were fun. Howl at the Moon was just as great on this ship as it is on land (and not as raunchy. Think more like JellyRolls at Disney). Brewhouse is a great place to unwind at the end of a long day too. Better half says the Mojito Bar (Mango) was the best drink on the ship. No matter your age, there is always something to do. The excursions were great! The sail and snorkel on St. Thomas (that takes you to St. Johns) is well worth the money. That crew was fun to be with.
Packages. IF YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE ONE THING AWAY FROM READING THIS REVIEW IT'S THIS...PURCHASE AS MANY PACKAGES AS POSSIBLE!!! We had the drink package which is well worth it if you are going to have more than 4 drinks a day. Drinks range from $8-$12 for normal, well drinks so it's much easier to just take that out of the equation. We also purchased a dining package for 3 specialty restaurants which was worth it. Cagney's is worth 2 trips alone. If you want to use the spa, buy the package! Since so many patrons buy the all-week spa package, they only offered individual spa packages on days that we were in port. IF YOU PLAN ON GOING TO THE SPA, BUY THE WEEKLY PACKAGE! Plus it's worth it. Very relaxing and quiet.
Now some items that need some love...
Pool area. 4000 cruisers. 1 tiny pool. If spending time by a pool is a major thing for you, I would recommend NOT going on this cruise ship. Yes they have 4 hot tubs (1 kids only), but the whole pool area is a free-for-all cluster-bleep. Chairs are stacked millimeters from each other, and basically on top of each other, 1 bar that is extremely busy so waiting for drinks takes time, and located right next to the buffet.
Location of shops/restaurants. I don't think they thought out some of the placements of things. For example, we ate at La Cucina (which was great), a nice, sit-down, upscale setting. Right next door is the 5 o'clock Somewhere Bar, which has karaoke and loud patrons. Not exactly the ying and yang combo you're looking for. The casino is just a mess. I love to gamble, but the whole casino is smoking, and the smoke leaves the casino into other places (such as O'Shehans and La Bistro to name a few). Table games have a higher minimum then I'm use to, and the casino staff wasn't too friendly. Many of them didn't even say hi to you let alone try and make small talk.
Staff. Not impressed. I worked in customer service for over 12 years including Walt Disney World and Universal Studios which specialize in outstanding customer service. I wasn't expected to be pampered, or being wow'd, but I would have just like standard service. Most of the staff doesn't know anything except the area they are assigned to work. Not a lot of smiles. Bartenders were 50/50. Some were good. Some were lousy. When at dinner, better order more than 1 drink because once you order the first time, you won't see a drink server again during your meal. Some were complaining how much they had to work, etc. The entertainers were all great, but most of the other staff seemed miserable most of the time.