Norwegian Escape Cruise Ship Review

Norwegian Cruise Line's Newest Ship, Norwegian Escape, sails seven-night cruises to the eastern Caribbean, with ports stops in St. Thomas, USVI: Tortola, BVI; and Nassau, Bahamas

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Norwegian Escape Cruise Ship Review

 norwegian escape alongside tortola

Itinerary: St. Thomas, USVI; Tortola, BVI; Nassau, Bahamas
Cruise Duration: 7-nights 
When: January 9 - 16, 2016

Ship photos   St. John Highlights   Drive to the Baths   Walk to the Baths


About us

We are:

- a middle-aged married couple with grown children;
- traveling alone;
- long-time residents of southwest Florida and usually cruise from a Florida port;
- seasoned cruisers, sailing about thirty times with various cruise lines including, Carnival, Celebrity, NCL, Princess, and RCCL.

We like:

- cruising for the serenity and a chance to rejuvenate, and of course the party;
- good quality food but it's not a deal breaker;
- cruising to the Caribbean or Mexico, and at various times of the year. We have traveled as far south as Trinidad.

We booked:

- this cruise to be part of the Norwegian Escape's inaugural year festivities;
- using Norwegian's online reservation system eleven months in advance, just so we had a good selection of staterooms to choose from and get double Latitudes Points.


Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star gold star5 out of 5 stars

We live about three hours northwest of Miami and prefer Miami over Ft. Lauderdale these days thanks to the new tunnel and express lanes . Drivers can bypass downtown Miami and travel directly to the port from I-95. The drive to the port takes about 3 hours from home and usually drive down to Ft. Lauderdale -- a thirty minute drive from PortMiami -- the day before our cruise, just in case.  We had a check-in time reserved for 9:30 -10:30 a.m. at Terminal B (we didn't have the option to pick a check-in time until about three weeks before our departure.) We arrived at parking garage C, around 9:45 a.m. and we noticed people still leaving the ship at this time.  The bag porters were busy with incoming and outgoing passengers so keep your patience if you plan to drop off bags early in the morning. Parking rates for personal vehicles start at $20.00 per day. You pay with cash or a credit card on the way out after your cruise.

There was a small line for check-in but we breezed through the process in fifteen minutes. We were given "Group 3" for boarding.  There were plenty of seats to choose from in the waiting area along with complimentary refreshments including, hot coffee, hot water and tea, ice water, and ice tea.

We noticed a group of about 100 people with suitcases waiting to leave the cruise terminal - it was about 10:15 a.m. Can't say if they were passengers or crew but they stood there for almost an hour before the line moved. Thirty minutes later we were cleared for boarding.  At the end of the gangway we were met with music, and hand clapping staff with huge smiles. We always appreciate the warm welcome we receive on every NCL cruise and their enthusiasm is really appreciated. It's a great way to kick off the week ahead.

We had a few bags with us and wanted to drop things off in our cabin before heading to lunch so we made our way to the elevator. The waiting area for the elevator was packed with people and luggage, and all you can do is wait your turn and grab a spot when you can. We rode the elevator to deck fifteen, stopping at every deck on the way up. Our cabin was still being cleaned so we dropped our carry-on luggage off in our closet and then searched for our cabin steward. We found him in the next cabin, introduced ourselves and let him know about our luggage. We grabbed lunch at the Savor Restaurant and then took a tour of the ship before the mandatory 3:30 pm safety drill. The muster drill was the best organized we've ever experienced on any cruise. The drill was over in fifteen minutes. Fantastic!  

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
group three NCL asks you to pick a port terminal check-in time when you complete your check-in documents online. Check-in early to secure the earliest times (beginning at 11:30 a.m.)  Check your  account online at the NCL website for this option.


The Ship

Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star 4 out of 5 stars

At 144,000 GRT, Norwegian Escape is the largest ship in the NCL fleet. She carries about 1,750 crew members, 4,200 passengers at double occupancy, and 5,400 passengers maximum capacity. The Norwegian Escape sailed smooth on calm seas and rocked a little when we left Miami and late in the evening after we left Tortola. The seas were never more than five feet and the good weather lasted our entire cruise.

Maneuvering around the vessel was easy and we never got lost or turned around. If you have ever sailed on the Epic, Breakaway, or Getaway, you won't have any problem maneuvering the Escape as everything is in its place.

There are two elevator lifts, each with six elevators. One lift is located mid-aft and one is located mid-forward. There are no atrium lifts so all traffic heading to the atrium, aft or forward must use one of the two main locations. If you're located all the way aft or forward, put your walking shoes on. 

The Escape is decorated with dark earth tones that I liked but some passengers thought the decor was too dark. You won't find glitz on this ship other than the Atrium chandelier. The hull art was commissioned by Guy Harvey, a widely recognized marine wildlife artist and champion of ocean conservation.

The ship is gorgeous inside and out and the rating would be five stars had it not been for the outdoor decks. Read more details below. 

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
norwegian escape kiosk
Self-service kiosks are located on every deck near the elevators. Use the kiosk to book appointments, production shows and excursions.



Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star gold star5 out of 5 stars

Our forward Spa balcony located on Deck 15 was well appointed. The tan carpet with pretty swirls caught my eye immediately and the space felt warm and cozy. Escape rooms use the  key-card to activate room lights. There were USB charging ports on both lights located on either side of the bed.  The vanity area/wet bar featured a large mirror, hair-dryer, a cubed storage container doubling as a seat for the vanity, three electrical outlets, a one-cup coffee maker, and the usual ice-bucket with drink set-up. We had plenty of shelf space both in the sleeping area, the closet, and the bathroom, but there were no drawers anywhere except underneath the sofa; the steward uses this space for extra bedding but you can ask that it be removed. The closet space was generous with four large shelves and room for shoes on the floor. The sliding doors were easy to open, and they close shut on their own as they near the end of the track. However, the closet location is in a horrible place if you have a set-up with the bed right next to the closet like we did on the Getaway. I'm a fairly petite person and didn't have trouble getting in and out of bed, but to maneuver clothes and shoes in and out was a real pain sometimes. The Escape ship is little wider than the Getaway ship, by 3.5 feet, and the extra room on the balcony is noticeable. 

Benefits of a Spa Balcony: Allows the first two passengers in the cabin unlimited access to the Thermal Suite one deck above. The Spa is open from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. Note: the spa closes early at 8 p.m. on the last night of the cruise for cleaning.

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
fish point forwardNCL makes it easy for passengers to know which way to go. Just step outside your cabin and look for the fish printed on the hallway carpet. The fish always swim forward.

Pool Area

Overall score gold stargold star 2 out of 5 stars

You will find the pool area located midship, on deck 16 and includes the main pool, the kids splash pool, and the family pool located next to the splash pool. There is no aft pool. The main pool area features four hot-tubs, two bars, and a bandstand. The band performed live music in the late mornings and early evenings. We were disappointed with the layout of the pool deck space. The area is small and cramped. There's no real space between the pool and the bandstand to dance or play games and there was no space between deck chairs on the sun decks. The running track intersects Margaritaville on deck 17; the track location is a major design flaw.  It circles around the water slides and Margaritaville. Runners and walkers had to compete with other passengers for space, especially at the entrance to Margaritaville. A more suitable space to walk is the Waterfront area on deck 8 when the restaurants are closed. 

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
vibe beach club Vibe Beach Club - Space is very limited. Inquire as soon as you get on the ship. Back to back (B2B) cruisers and VIP have an advantage to be the first passengers in line for a pass.


Sports Deck

Overall score gold stargold star gold stargold stargold star5 out of 5 stars

The Norwegian Escape features a ropes course, a nine-hole mini golf-course, three waterslides, and you can walk the plank that extends over the side of the ship. 

The ropes course was exciting and went along pretty quick - definitely worth doing, and the slides too. The slides and ropes course stayed busy during good weather, and especially on sea days.  The ropes course moves along at a pretty swift pace but the lines for the slides move at a snail's pace.  Keep in mind that NCL has a dress code for some of the sport activities. No jewelry (including all rings) on the racing slides, and no open toe or heel footwear on the ropes course.

insider tip Shipdetective Tip read the rules for slides To avoid the crowds and enjoy the slides over and over, plan to use the slides on a port day when most passengers are off the ship.



Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star 4 out of 5 stars

The food service area is difficult to maneuver during peak times so be patient and expect folks to be slow and cut in front of you. The food was consistently good and the café offers plenty of seating but with 5000 passengers onboard, you may need to walk around a few times looking for a clean table to sit down. The Garden Café buffet offers a good quality assortment of typical cruise buffet fare; the variety doesn't change much throughout the week. If you're doing back-to-back cruises, you may get bored with the buffet food. We love having the condiments and utensil set-ups already at the tables, and the dining stewards did a great job grabbing dirty plates off our table when we went for seconds.

Complimentary Dining Rooms
Savor, Taste, and the Manhattan Room offer the same menu. We ate at Savor the first night and preferred this venue over Taste. At the Manhattan Room, staff were still working out the kinks. Food was good but service was marginal.  Overall the food in the complimentary dining venues was good.

Specialty Restaurants
We didn't eat in any of the specialty restaurants. Cagney's is always a hit and we heard great things about Food Republic, just never found the right time to get in there for a meal. There was plenty available in the complimentary restaurants to try.


insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
osheehan's restaurant If you want made to order eggs from the breakfast buffet, find one of three omelet stations.  Otherwise, eat your meal in Taste, Savor, or O'Sheehan's.



Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star gold star5 out of 5 stars

There's more than enough to do on the ship day and night. You may actually run out of time on a week cruise to do all the things you want to do. The younger kids have their own play area including a family pool. The parties at Spice H2O are worth going to if you like to dance. A band plays at the pool deck during the day and then there's always the pool games. There are plenty of different bars to hang-out at day and night. The Atrium and O'Sheehan's bar opened early in the day. Sugarcane Mojito bar and 5 O'clock Somewhere Bar were popular hang-outs in the evening. Some of the shows were cancelled during our cruise so we didn't see any of the production entertainment. Note: You must book all shows in advance.

Thermal Suite and Fitness Center

Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star gold star5 out of 5 stars

We booked our first spa cabin in 2014 and now we're hooked. We thoroughly enjoyed having unlimited access to the thermal suite - heated lounge chairs, hydro-therapy-pool, sauna, steam room, salt bath, snow room, and refreshments. The suite decor is very calming and the delicious smell of aromatherapy was everywhere.  The thermal suite was heaven and truly the best spot on the ship for relaxation and tranquility, less the loud talkers that sometimes invaded the pool area. We went to the spa at least two times a day. It did break up our day a little bit and we missed some activities trying to fit in a spa visit before meals, but we figured whatever we didn't get to do on this trip, we'll do on the next trip. If you're considering a week pass, do it. It's well worth the cost, even if you only use it once a day. For sure get a port day pass if you're not doing any excursions or sightseeing.

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
mandara spa Mandara Spa Thermal Suite week pass includes use of the vitality pool, steam room, dry sauna, and lounge chairs. Cost:  $219.00 per person for a week pass.


Overall score gold stargold stargold stargold star gold star5 out of 5 stars

Overall, service was exceptional. The dining room staff at Savor went out of their way to make every experience enjoyable. The hostesses, officers in white, and the maître d, jumped in to help wait staff during peak times; staff from all over the ship arrived to help meet the demand. It was an impressive display of teamwork.

All the staff from stewards to guest services performed like seasoned veterans, and we have nothing but praise and appreciation for a job well-done. NCL staff is best in the business for making you feel part of a like a Norwegian.

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
mandara spa We had superb service from our humble cabin steward, Rosario. If you have a need, let your steward know; they are happy to service you. Take care of your stewards because they will take care of you.


Port Destinations

Tortola, BVI

We visited the Baths (a geological wonder comprised of awe-inspiring granite boulders, which form sheltered sea pools on the beach's edge) at Virgin Gorda, BVI and loved every second of it. A ferry takes you from the pier in Tortola to Spanish Town where you're greeted with a safari bus that takes you the rest of the way to the Baths National Park. Going through the cave system to reach the other side of Devil's Bay can be a bit challenging but if you can do it, you should go. The water is spectacular at Devil's Bay but keep in mind the tides are strong and you should be a good swimmer on rough weather days. Highly recommend this excursion.

Note: the straw market in Road Town is still under construction.

insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
baths at virgin gorda Take the earliest excursion you can get to avoid crowds as long as possible.


Nassau, Bahamas

Overpriced amenities and rude service providers has been our experience with Nassau. We stay on the ship and wish they would replace the stop in Nassau with anywhere else.

St. Thomas, USVI

We scheduled a laid back "Tour of St. John" USVI to see the fabulous beaches on the island. Our ferry to St. John picked us up at the end of the cruise pier. The ride to Cruz Bay took about 35 minutes. We especially enjoyed seeing Maho Bay, and the Cinnamon Bay Campground.

We did some shopping at Havensight before heading back to the ship about 4 pm.


insider tip
Shipdetective Tip
trunk bay USVI   We recommend you skip the tour and take the ferry from Red Hook Marina in St. Thomas to St. John, and grab a taxi to any of the beaches on the island. Trunk Bay is a favorite with cruisers..  



The Norwegian Escape cruise ship will appeal to all types of cruisers. The ship is pretty to look at from the inside out. The decor is is easy on the eyes - decorated in dark woods and earth tones. The studio cabins make single cruising comfortably affordable. There is something always happening on the Norwegian Escape. Parents will appreciate the Splash Academy facilities and the many activities offered for kids of all ages. Young adults will enjoy the sports court, nighttime deck parties at Spice H2O, the main pool deck and waterslides during the day. Older adults will appreciate the Waterfront, Vibe Beach Club, Mandara Spa, Margaritaville and the 5 O'clock Somewhere Bar, and the hot-tubs on deck 19.  Other entertainment options include first-rate stage shows, comedy shows, trivia games, dance classes, bingo, Jeopardy, and more.

 Overall the cruise was everything we expected and more.

insider tip
Shipdetective Recommendation
norwegian escape review We recommend this ship for:
- families;
- folks who like big ships with lots of amenities;   
- anyone that wants flexible dining options.