Not the Escape we'd hoped for...
Norwegian Escape Cruise Review to Caribbean - Eastern
Sail Date: January 16, 2016
Cabin Type: Inside
Cabin Number: 13407
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 1 year ago
This was the 8th cruise my wife and I have been on and we were really looking forward to it as it would be a repeat (but much more modern version) of our very first cruise some 33 years ago. That was also an NCL cruise on the SS Norway, which was a re-purposed ocean liner (the former SS France) and it also took us to the Virgin Islands. We have fond memories of that trip but thought it'd be a dramatically nicer experience on NCL's most modern cruise ship.
And it was nicer in some ways. The water slides and ropes course are fun, recent inovations, the food-whenever-you-want is much more convenient and relaxing and it's hard to beat free drinks. But unfortunately, the negatives were over-whelming.
Of course there were crowds--it's a huge ship, you've got to expect to see lots of people--but they didn't seem well equipped to handle everyone. Long and slow lines during the loading process, clearly an inadequate number of elevators, many of the shows were sold out well in advance, and debarkation when we returned to Miami was also quite a zoo.
We did like the NCL app which let you make show reservations on your phone and we did that and so got to see most of the shows--but they were mostly disappointing. There were a couple of very good singers, but most were merely adequate. (To be fair, one of the major shows was cancelled cause one of the performers took the old "break a leg" thing too literally). But there was no spectacular show, like other cruise lines have had. (I still fondly remember the show Carnival had with fireworks, magic, singing and dancing, zip lines over the audience--quite an extravaganza! And Royal C had quite an ice-skating show on one ship).
But they sure do have music everywhere you go on the ship--and it's always very loud, even to us hard-of-hearing elderly. I'm a music lover so was OK with it most of the time, but when I wanted to read, there literally was no place on the ship that was quiet. I searched long and hard and could find no public areas without loud music playing at all times (well, not in the library, but it also doubled as a game room so there were always people playing cards or something and talking).
Food--of course there was lots of it and it was sometimes pretty good, (had one really good steak and they also served prime rib 3 different days). But you couldn't get lobster without paying $30 extra--altho they did have large prawns one nite. They did have 8 varieties of hand-dipped ice cream available most of each day, so that was unique. But otherwise, the desserts were the usual pretty but tasteless items. And the bakery goods were mostly disappointing--just premade stuff that they bring in frozen and reheat, like Panera or a grocery store "bakery". There was something freshly made on two mornings--cinnamon rolls one day and pecan rolls another and they were both quite good.
And I have to complain about the table tennis--only one of the 8 ships I've been on had tables indoors where you can actually play the game--On Escape and the other 6, they're all outdoors where the wind completely makes it a different game entirely. I did play in a couple of their tournaments anyway, but neither of the sports guys they sent to coordinate it knew even the basics of the game--like scoring, for instance--so again it just made it plain that they didn't care in the slightest for doing things right and trying to make their passengers happy.
WiFi--One of the freebies they gave us was 250 minutes of internet connectivity. It worked part of the time, I think 4 of our 7 days-but it was awkward and slow to sign in, only one of us could be on it at once, and of course it was pretty slow. So it wasn't good for much.
I should also mention how extra loud all of the sound systems were. On deck for games and live music, everything was set at a blaring-away level. Indoors, they also conducted a lot of various game-show type contests and the young folks running them could probably have been heard a mile away. Now I've been to plenty of loud concerts and surely my hearing ability has surely been somewhat reduced, but I literally had to cover my ears while walking thru some of these venues because the amplification level was so extreme. I don't know how younger people with normal hearing can tolerate it.
Ports--The American Virgin Islands are very pretty and also pretty modern. There were a large number of huge yachts docked near us so the rich folks must like it a lot. The BVI was much more of a 3rd world country--also very attractive from a distance, but not so much up close. They also had an amazing number of small catamaran boats for rent, as it's a fine place to head off on your own for a few days. At Nassau, we were one of 6 cruise ships in port that day--nuff said, eh?!
Altho half of my cruises have been on NCL and we've really liked a couple of them, they've now lost their preferred standing with me. Our recent cruises on Royal Caribbean and Princess has been better.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
I can no longer recommend NCL. I've had better experiences on Royal Caribbean, Princess, and even Carnival.