Norwegian Encore was delivered to Norwegian Cruise Line on October 31st, marking the last of the four Breakaway-Plus class cruise ships and the last of 16 vessels to be built for NCL by Meyer-Werft. And when it comes to on-board experiences and amenities, the cruise line truly saved the best for last.
Norwegian Encore is the final ship in Norwegian Cruise Line’s hugely successful Breakaway Plus-class. While she is now off to the United States to begin her season sailing roundtrip from New York after the Caribbean, we were lucky enough to get a preview of the ship during a two-night delivery cruise from Bremerhaven to Southampton.
During a frenetic 48 hours on-board, we compiled a list of all the things we think passengers aboard Norwegian Encore will love about her.
The Boardwalk aboard Norwegian Encore, like her sister ships Norwegian Bliss (launched 2018), Norwegian Joy (launched 2017) and Escape (launched 2015), is actually the promenade deck, or what would be the promenade deck aboard any other ship.
Aboard the Breakaway Plus-class ships though, this isn’t a quiet area, cut off from the rest of the action aboard and used solely for housing the lifeboats. Instead, the action of 678 Ocean Place, the social heart of the ship across her three entertainment and dining decks, is integrated with the ‘waterfront’ area.
Almost every single bar and restaurant on this deck has an outdoor area, just like restaurants along an ocean front boardwalk would. And while on the subject, The Cavern Club, shown in the picture above, is one of the best nightlife spots on the ship. It features a nightly Beatles tribute band that is unequivocally excellent, but arrive early as there’s standing room only by the time you’re belting out ‘Hey Jude’ with everyone else.
678 Ocean Place
Norwegian Encore and her sister ships are beautifully designed, not just in terms of the fit and finish, which is far above the mass market standard, but in terms of the actual layout of the ship. Apart from the theatre in the bow and the largest main dining room aft, all the entertainment, cafes and bars are located across Decks 6, 7 and 8 in a fairly compact area for a 169,116-gross ton cruise ship.
It makes navigating the ship easier, although during our two days onboard we never did manage to stop forgetting which decks different venues were on, and it makes this space extremely lively and social, so that other areas, such as the enormous Observation Lounge, can be used for quiet reflection and relaxation if that’s what you’re after.
Speaking of which, this space, like that aboard Norwegian Bliss, which we also previewed on her delivery cruise, has to be one of our favourites on any cruise ship in the global fleet. It’s extremely rare for a mainstream cruise line to have an observation lounge accessible to all passengers (MSC cruise ships have one, but it’s called the Yacht Club Lounge for a season).
Aboard Encore, the 20,000sqft space is as refined and elegant as that aboard a luxury cruise ship. And because it’s so huge, there are a plethora of nooks and crannies in which to escape to relax, flirt, dine, or chat to your hearts content. There are also plenty of tables and chairs overlooking the bow and the water to port and starboard. And because there’s just a small bar and no dance floor, it never gets overly busy or rowdy.
No Main Dining Room
Norwegian Cruise Line was actually the first to do away with the main dining room as one, huge central restaurant, and instead split it up into several smaller, more intimate venues. It was a move that quickly became a trend, with Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and others following suit.
Aboard the Norwegian Encore the Manhattan Room (pictured above), Taste and Savor, the three ‘main dining rooms’ feel like specialty restaurants, in terms of quality of cuisine, atmosphere and service levels.
Manhattan Room is the largest, but never leaves you feeling like you’re lost among thousands of other passengers and the décor is as beautiful as the food is tasty. See more of our thoughts about the food aboard Encore below.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway-Plus class cruise ships have some of the best quality of food in the mass-market fleet, and aboard Norwegian Encore this remains the case.
On the first night of the inaugural delivery cruise we dined at Q Smoke House, a BBQ steakhouse that was introduced aboard Norwegian Bliss back in 2016.
Plenty of wood and some wagon wheels for the décor compliment the excellent menu that features shareable starters like Deviled Eggs topped with maple glazed bacon, the Lone Star Chili (beef chili topped with jalapenos and served with tortilla chips) and Q’s rendition of classic Fried Green Tomatoes, and main menu items made up of smoked meats from the pit like beef short ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket.
On the second night we had dinner at Ocean Blue, the ocean liner-esque specialty restaurant created by Iron Chef and Michelin Star winner, Geoffrey Zakarian and first introduced aboard Norwegian Breakaway back in 2013.
Ocean Blue captures the fine dining and refined elegance of turn-of-the-century cruise liners but does it in a fresh, modern atmosphere with ocean views. The menu offers classic seafood appetizers and mains, from New England clam chowder, fried squid and Florida Stone Crab claws, to Sea Bass, Baked Sole, or Broiled Salmon and classic ‘surf n turf’.
The high-quality food extends to the main dining rooms and buffet as well though. All cruise lines offer great cuisine in their specialty restaurants, but to offer it in the main dining rooms and other venues for free is far rarer. By splitting up the MDR into the Manhattan Room, Taste and Savor, each feels like a specialty dining experience and the food is made to match.
One major disappointment with the food aboard Norwegian Encore, as has been pointed out by other bloggers, is the lack of vegan options in any of the 28 MDRs or specialty restaurants, or even the buffet.
Onda by Scarpetta
While on the subject of food and specialty dining, we have to talk about the new venue introduced aboard Norwegian Encore. The name is derived from the Italian expression, ‘fare la scarpetta,’ which means to savour a meal to the last bite and the menu features a selection of seafood and signature dishes, such as Yellowtail Crudo,Branzino, pastas made in-house daily such as Scarpetta’s famous Spaghetti Tomato and Basil, and desserts that channel the Italian ‘la dolce vita,’ or ‘the good life,’ experience.
The creamy polenta and the pasta were extraordinary, especially the scialatieli, shrimp, clam, mussels, white wine garlic sauce;and Scarpetta’s signature spaghetti, which is just pasta, tomato and basil, yet has a surprising richness to it. It’s worth noting that Norwegian Cruise Line’s incoming CEO Harry Sommer chose to dine here every night of the cruise for dinner.
Choir of Man & Kinky Boots
Norwegian Encore continues the trend of top-notch evening entertainment in its main theatre. Productions onboard Breakaway and Breakaway-plus ships are some of the most well-known shows from Broadway and the West End, such as Rock of Ages, Million Dollar Quartet, Jersey Boys, After Midnight, and Footloose. Kinky Boots and Choir of Man have been introduced aboard Norwegian Encore and were a huge hit with the media and travel agents on-board for the delivery cruise.
Choir of Man takes place in an Irish Pub with an eight-man cast dancing, singing, jumping on tables and over the bar. It’s rowdy and chaotic, but seamless at the same time. Each performer gets a chance in the spotlight, with a narrator that introduces them and their hopes and dreams, but there’s no plot, just 45 minutes of pure exuberance.
Kinky Boots is a totally different experience. The almost-two-hour production takes place in the main theatre in the bow and tells the story of a man hoping to turn his struggling shoe manufacturing plant in England into a success by putting out high-heeled boots for drag queens. It’s all set to a soundtrack of Cyndi Lauper songs and it works spectacularly. The production aboard Norwegian Encore is a half hour shorter than the Broadway original, but features the same number of songs and hits all the same notes and plot points.
Norwegian Encore introduces the 10,000 square foot Galaxy Pavillion, a virtual reality arcade featuring a Jurassic Park jeep drive, VR roller coaster, hang-glide simulator and so much more.
It all comes at a cost, so be careful about your budget, because these games and experiences are seriously addictive, especially the simulated racetrack where you can compete against your friends.
There’s also a 4D cinema that doubles as a zombie shooting arcade and a virtual reality space walk experience, complete with… rabid rabbits, which you have to shoot to survive.
Ah, the iconic Breakaway-Plus racetrack. Norwegian Encore has the biggest of them all at 1,100 feet, around 100 feet more than Norwegian Bliss, and 200 feet longer than Norwegian Joy’s.
The racetrack on Norwegian Encore loops around across two decks and features two long, curving sections that arch out over the sides of the ship.
There’s a viewing gallery, like on Bliss and Joy, but aboard Encore its covered, and spectators can also now fire a laser at the cars to give them a turbo boost.
Designed in partnership with Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company, The District Brewhouse is an adults-only venue introduced aboard Norwegian Encore to great reviews. There are 50 different bottled and 22 draft beers to choose from, along with hand-crafted speciality cocktails in a space that is reminiscent of a ‘man cave’ with a sophisticated, gender-neutral twist.
The seating areas with dark leather couches flanked above and to the side with large glass windows are particularly welcoming. There is also a separate keg room behind a glass wall and if you’re really into your beer, and like to make lists, you can get a list of all the different beers available and the bartender will tick them off for you as you order.
Okay, this one is a potential hit or miss, depending on your preferences. If you like to hit the casino on your cruise, you’ll love it, because it’s huge, with 303 slots, and integrated with the main action of 678 Ocean Place. If you are of the opinion that the casino is tacky and should be hidden away, you’ll hate it. If you particularly don’t like smokers, you’ll hate it even more because smoking is still allowed in the casino and because it’s not closed off, the smell wanders down to Deck 6 and up to Deck 8.
Categories: Cruise Lifestyle