Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship Norwegian Encore, the fourth and final vessel in the fleet’s acclaimed Breakaway Plus Class, is as dazzling as the bright, abstract hull art designed by Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo, says Becky Wiggins
From the moment you step on board, Norwegian Encore impresses: whether it’s the world’s longest race track at sea, or the largest outdoor laser tag arena, this ship just feels a little, well, special.
There’s the same notable attention to detail as on its sister ships including Norwegian Bliss, winner of Best New Ship at last year’s British Cruise Awards: tiny shoals of fish on the stateroom level carpets guide guests forward, and digital touchscreens dotted about the ship allow you to do everything from booking dining to reserving seats for the shows.
Add chic, thoughtful cabin layouts with ‘do not disturb’ and ‘please make up room’ buttons, well-designed, spacious bathrooms with tons of storage, and sustainable water cartons instead of plastic bottles (by 1 January 2020 Norwegian Cruise Line will be the first major cruise line to eliminate plastic bottles across its entire fleet) and it seems that sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.
Plenty of thrills
Thrill seekers large and small are spoilt for choice: whizz around the dual level competitive electric racetrack complete with four high-speed curves extending up to 13 feet over the side of the ship; play open-air laser tag in the lost city of Atlantis (complete with monstrous sea creature), or ride the tandem Aqua Racer waterside or free-fall slide down the double Ocean Loops that extend out over the side of the ship.
There’s the opportunity to step Tron-like into the virtual world of the huge Galaxy Pavilion where you can soar high over mountains and cities in a computer-simulated virtual reality hang gliding experience, or feel every twist and turn of an adrenaline-fueled racing car simulator, although pester power might make this an expensive addition to a family holiday.
Thrills and spills aside, there is a whole host of fabulous entertainment onboard; guest favourites the Liverpool Beatles return to the Cavern, performing different eras of Beatles music on different nights; with stunning voices and standout harmonies, The Choir of Man perform an immersive, entertaining and strangely moving show from ‘The Jungle’ public house; the Social Comedy Club will have you crying with laughter; and Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots will have you dancing in the aisles.
Norwegian Encore sees the return of many of the restaurants and lounges that have made the Breakaway Plus class one of the most successful in the company’s history, including speciality restaurants Los Lobos, serving Mexican fare; Japanese Hibachi restaurant, Teppanyaki; outstanding bbq at Q Texas Smokehouse; seafood restaurant, Ocean Blue, and Asian fusion Food Republic.
New on board this ship is Onda by Scarpetta, serving classic Italian dishes with a New York City aesthetic.
Complimentary restaurants include The Local pub, serving a tasty range of comfort food favourites (the hot dogs are heavenly); main dining restaurants Taste and Savour, offering a chic dining experience, and The Manhattan Room, with it’s fabulous floor to ceiling windows, offering elegant dining in a bright, spacious setting.
The Garden Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet style, with plenty of appealing options and ocean views;, and we love The Waterfront, an outdoor, oceanfront promenade where you can experience many of the dining venues, including Ocean Blue, Cagney’s Steakhouse and Sugarcane Mojito Bar al fresco.
Back inside, for pre-dinner cocktails and post-theatre drinks, Sugarcane Mojito Bar overlooks the stunning three-storey atrium, complete with spectacular colour-changing chandelier and mood-lit glass staircase; the A-List Bar, named after outgoing NCL President Andy Stuart, offers hand crafted cocktails; and the cosy, funky District Brew House serves more than 50 different bottled and 22 draft beers, plus some great live music.
Wine lovers will adore The Cellars, and the breathtaking Observation Lounge offers stunning views from the 180-degree panoramic windows.
Stateroms range from compact studio singles, interior and family interior cabins to oceanview and balcony cabins (we love the mini suites, with double-width sinks and shower – perfect if there are four of you sharing) through to Haven Spa Suites and Penthouse Suites.
Hidden away at the top of the ship, The Haven, Norwegian’s rarefied ‘cruise within a cruise’ section allows guests to enjoy their own luxurious, spacious private suites; elegant member-only observation lounge; exclusive dining room and chic, covered pool area, with 24 hour butler and personal concierge service as well as priority access to everything from boarding to reserved seating in the Encore Theatre.
There are 50 cabins within The Haven, plus 30 other Haven cabins dotted around.
If you’re haven’t bagged a Haven suite, the Mandara Spa offers tranquillity for the cost of a thermal suite pass.
The decent sized wellness area manages to be both elegant and cosy, with an inviting Vitality pool, a bubbly thalassotherapy pool, a range of herbal steam and sauna grottos, tropical rain showers and even salt and snow rooms.
There are also plenty of heated ceramic loungers to take in the fabulous view from the panoramic windows. Encore also offers a fitness centre boasting a range of gym equipment and fitness classes (the ocean-view yoga sounds particularly appealing), plus a beauty salon and barber shop.
With slickly produced entertainment, superb dining, a host of innovative activities and clever design details at every turn, Norwegian Encore manages the difficult task of pleasing both the thrill seeker and the luxury lover, and this could just make it the most impressive ship in the fleet.
Norwegian Encore will be officially named by Godmother Kelly Clarkson on 21 November 2019 in Miami before commencing 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises from 24 November, and Canada and New England itineraries from New York City from April 2020. In December 2020 she will return to Miami for Western Caribbean itineraries before sailing to Alaska for Seattle cruises in Spring 2021.
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