Norwegian Escape

Cruise Ship Review: Norwegian Escape

Meet Norwegian Escape, the cruise line’s newest and largest ship.

By Theresa Russell

A godfather you say? How many ships have a godfather?
But there we were on an incredibly hot day in Miami, as Norwegian Cruise Line christened its newest and largest ship, Norwegian Escape, in a pier-side ceremony that included a performance by her godfather, Armando Christian Pérez. Also known as Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide, he is Miami icon and rapper, Pitbull, who once told CNN reporter Nischelle Turner: “When you make this music that makes everybody feel good, that is the goal. When you come and see me … I want you to escape.”

And escape we have.

Substitute “ship” for “music” and you understand that Norwegian Escape has a similar goal. How appropriate the choice of a godfather rather than a godmother, considering Norwegian consistently breaks out of the traditional mold with its many industry firsts.

Norwegian Escape, at 164,600 GRT, is the largest ship in the Norwegian fleet and the fifth largest cruise ship on the seas, knocking out fleetmate Norwegian Epic from the lofty position. The first ship in the Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Escape has taken the best from the line’s Breakaway class (Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway) and added a variety of new elements to take it beyond the ordinary.

First Impressions

Colorful hull artwork by famous artists such as David Le Batard, aka Lebo, and Peter Max has set a new standard for design on Norwegian’s ships. For Norwegian Escape, marine-life artist and conservationist Guy Harvey artfully connects the ship with the sea with a steel canvas stretching more than 1,000 feet in length from bow to stern. His signature sailfish, as well as sea turtles, whale sharks, stingrays, and other tropical fish (much like the fish on the carpets inside the ship), all swim forward to the bow.

Besides the hull design, Guy Harvey also contributed to some of the children’s programming on board as well as the merchandise in the ship’s stores (a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation). During the first weeks of sailing, Harvey graciously lectured and presented films that highlighted his research and foundation work, some of which will appear on the cabin televisions. The ship’s stunning hull hints at the crowd-pleasing features and the emphasis on pop culture elements that await within.

You’ll notice a modern and contemporary décor from the moment you enter your stateroom or suite, whether it’s an oceanview stateroom, a Studio Stateroom designed for a solo cruiser, or one of the accommodations in The Haven, a two-deck key card access “ship within a ship” area complete with a private pool, courtyard, sundeck, restaurant, and lounge.

Dinner Shows and Evening Entertainment

On board entertainment runs the gamut and there is likely a show for every taste. The popular For the Record: The Brat Pack delivers a great mix of live music and famous scenes from John Hughes’ classic teenage angst films from the ’80s including Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club. The Tony award–winning musical brings to life the characters and themes from the films interwoven in an innovative way. (The show is rated PG-16 due to language, sexual themes, and other components that might be inappropriate for children.)

Being able to identify characters and scenes from the films will enhance the experience, but even those who have no previous exposure to the films will enjoy this carefully produced conglomeration of movie scenes and music. The dinner portion of the show includes a three-course menu complete with a piece of pink Sixteen Candles cake for the finale.

Broadway performer Brenda Braxton stars in After Midnight, another Tony award–winning musical showcasing Duke Ellington’s years at the Cotton Club. The costuming is as impressive as the music. Braxton also stars in her own cabaret dinner show one night a week, which features a 5-course meal and a performance of a variety of music styles appealing to the varied tastes of the crowd. And did you know that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins once came together for an impromptu jam session? Million Dollar Quartet lets you join in the session on board as it brings to life that legendary evening through a score that ranges from rock ’n’ roll to gospel, R&B to country.

RELATED: Norwegian Escape Christening Ceremony

Sip and Savor

Foodies, wine, and craft beer aficionados — it’s all here! Norwegian has updated its menus, following the lead of family brand Oceania Cruises, as well as formed several new culinary partnerships to bring some well-known names to sea.

The Cellars – A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar is the place to enjoy a glass of wine, indoors or out, in an intimate atmosphere. Norwegian’s first wine bar at sea, The Cellars offers the chance to learn about and enjoy wine whether you’re a novice or an experienced wine aficionado.

Craft beer lovers will appreciate the partnership with Wynwood Brewing Company of Miami that brings guests the District Brew House, a warehouse-inspired space that features a selection of 24 beers on tap, more than 50 bottled beers, and custom handcrafted cocktails created by Miami mixologist Gabriel Orta. Sit at a high-top table with friends or relax in the more intimate spaces in comfy furniture while listening to music and enjoying the ocean views. Be sure to try out the fun photo booth and leave your photo strip on the pin board for all to see.

Foodies should be sure to grab a bite from Food Republic, a new one-of-a-kind dining venue created in partnership with Miami’s Pubbelly Restaurant Group that serves dishes from around the world that are perfect for sharing. Other new specialty dining venues include two by James Beard Award–winning Iron Chef Jose Garces: à la carte Bayamo, which features seafood with a Latin flair, and the more casual Pincho Tapas Bar for traditional Spanish-inspired small plates.

Top 10 Highlights aboard Norwegian Escape

A week is hardly enough time to see and do all that Norwegian Escape has to offer. But if you’re the planning type, here are 10 more not-to-be-missed moments to check off your list.

  1. Try the Snow Room in the Mandara Spa. Part of the enhanced Thermal Suite, it is a less stressful alternative to an ice-cold plunge pool.
  2. Parrotheads: Order a Cheeseburger in Paradise at the first Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea, and then wash it down at the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar, which features both indoor and outdoor seating.
  3. The three-story Ropes Course has two planks that extend eight feet out from ship, 5 ziplines including one that glides out over the water, and a variety of water slides, with miniature models for kids.
  4. Children 6 months to 2 years now have their own dedicated Guppies Nursery (Norwegian’s first ever), which is part of the Splash Academy kids’ program.
  5. Tobacco Road, Miami’s oldest and most legendary bar, has been re-created at sea within 678 Ocean Place. Try the Chili Mule.
  6. Wine Lovers: The Musical is not a dinner show, but a light-hearted lunch show that takes place in The Supper Club and focuses on experiencing wine.
  7. Norwegian Escape’s casino is the largest in its fleet with more than 19,000 square feet, 357 slot machines, 28 gaming tables, and the Skyline Bar for digital poker and ever-changing views on surrounding LED screens.
  8. The Waterfront is a quarter-mile promenade featuring plenty of al fresco eateries and bars that are perfect for taking in the views and connecting with the sea.
  9. Spice H2O is reserved exclusively for adults 18 and older and features a large movie screen, two hot tubs, and a waterfall grotto.
  10. Signature favorites abound such as Cagney’s steakhouse, La Cucina, and Le Bistro; O’Sheehans Neighborhood Bar & Grill and the Sugarcane Mojito Bar; and Headliners Comedy Club and Howl at the Moon.

Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line

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