The much anticipated release of Norwegian’s new ship, Encore, didn’t disappoint. We arrived at the Port of Miami on Sunday, November 17th for the three night inaugural sailing to Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. Check-in was a breeze as we arrived early. We had to wait in the pre-boarding area for about two hours before embarkation which was just after noon.
I’ve sailed on all of the Breakaway Plus Class ships (Escape, Bliss, Joy and now, Encore). I love knowing the basic layout of a ship. Encore was familiar, but not redundant. Some of my favorite hangouts – the District Brewhouse and the Waterfront – were our first stops. While I spent loads of time in the Observation Lounge on both the Bliss and Joy in Alaska, this warm weather cruise had us spending our time in the sun and feeling the ocean breeze. For that reason, I highly recommend that adults traveling without children pay the additional fee for the Vibe Beach Club on warm weather cruises.
Our balcony stateroom was typical of all other Breakaway and Breakaway Plus class ships. There was plenty of space for two people. I would appreciate drawers instead of shelves, especially if I was going to be sailing for a week. Also, note that while body wash and a shampoo/conditioner combo are provided in the shower, most people with longer hair are going to want to bring at least a separate conditioner.
Onto my favorite subject – food. We managed to score reservations in the specialty dining restaurants all three nights. The first night we ate at Cagneys, NCL’s steakhouse. It was amazing!! My filet was tender and juicy and paired with an excellent red wine. This is where Norwegian shines. Their Free at Sea promotion allows travelers to dine at specialty restaurants INCLUDED! If they stay in a balcony cabin or above, that glass of wine is INCLUDED, too! We ate at Ocean Blue on the second night and again, we were not disappointed. Our final night we enjoyed the hibachi-style Japanese at Teppanyaki. This was our least favorite meal. Other places we ate during the cruise included American Diner for lunch, the Garden Cafe for breakfast and The Local for breakfast, lunch and late night snacks. All of the food in these restaurants was above average or better.
There are so many activities onboard the Encore that we didn’t have time to try them all. Our daytime favorites included the Encore Speedway go-kart track (for fee) as well as the Ocean Loops freefall waterslide. For evening activities, we loved the silent disco. If you are looking for entertainment, Encore has an abundance. From the Beatles in The Cavern Club, to comedy, to the amazing “Choir of Man” show – there is something for everyone.
My review would not be complete if I didn’t mention our stop at Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay. This place has come a long way. The new Silver Cove villas are beautiful. Guests can rent one of three sizes of air-conditioned villas and enjoy a private beach with umbrella and two lounge chairs as well as access to the upscale Silver Cove buffet. These villas are perfect for families with small children who may need a nap or for small groups wanting to add a bit of luxury to their vacation.
Who is a good fit for NCL’s Encore – families, multigenerational groups, singles (the Encore has Studio cabins) and couples who enjoy large ships with lots of activities and dining options (be sure the book the Vibe Beach Club). Luxury clients may even enjoy the Encore in the Haven, Encore’s ship within a ship.