Saturday, January 28, 2023

Norwegian Escape - 28 January 2023 - Cruise Review

Norwegian Escape  -  28 January 2023  -  Cruise Review

Just the Facts:

Ship: Norwegian Escape is a 165,000-ton Breakaway+ class ship launched in 2015 with a guest capacity of 4200-5000.  

Ports: Port Canaveral,  Puerto Plata,  St. Thomas,  Tortola,  Great Stirrup Cay

This will be my first cruise on the Norwegian Escape, my 8th cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, and my 196th cruise overall. I’m cruising as a solo. 

Saturday / February 28th, 2023 / Embarkation / Day 1 

I finished packing early Saturday morning and I was off on my drive to Port Canaveral at about 8:20 am. I did the direct route: Hwy 52 to I-75 north, then east on Hwy 50 to the FL Turnpike, then Hwy 528 to the Beachline Expressway to the port and Atlantic beaches. I arrived at Park-N-Cruise cruise parking at about 10:30 am when they opened for departure parking. A nice line already waiting but they are efficient and I was soon on my way. Park-N-Cruise is my overall favorite of all the parking locations and ports in Florida. We were soon at Port Canaveral, busy with six mega ships in port today. A bit of a line to enter NCLs terminal 10 and security, but once inside it went quickly…I was on the ship at about noon. I dropped off my bag at the cabin and went up to the Garden Cafe on deck 16 for a Buffet lunch. I was busy, but a lot of Food Stations for guests, I’ll learn about them soon. Today I had Fresh Shrimp, French Fries, a Turkey cutlet, a Banger Sausage, and Sauerkraut. It was very good. For dessert a Peach Cobbler. I then returned to the cabin to unpack and set up. I have one of the unique Studio Cabins designed for Solo guests. Small with many built-in features. At about 3:30 I went down to the Theater for Muster Drill…yes NCL has just restarted the traditional meet-up before sailing away. You sit in the theater and listen to the safety spiel and they show you how to wear your life jacket. The main problem is that when it’s over you have 5000 guests trying to get back to cabins all at the same time. A mess indeed. We soon sailed away and I had a relaxing short time in my Studio. The WiFi works very well (so far) and I’m learning to use the new, to me, NCL App. At about 6:00 pm I went to the Atrium Bar for two Cosmopolitans. Guests were certainly taking advantage of the inclusive drink program, every bar I passed today has been packed. But guests do tend to party hard on the first day. I had 6:30 Reservations at Sabor the smaller of the two MDRs (Main Dining Rooms). It was busy, but I scored a nice two-top at a window. Dinner was very good, I ordered: Crab & Cream Cheese Wontons, A Baby Spinach Salad (excellent), the Beef Sirloin Medallions with Steak Fries & Broccoli entree, and a Fruit Plate for dessert. The table was very nice with Starched linens, Bread Basket, and good Service including Bar Service. I did a walkabout after dinner. The public areas and even the passageways are smaller which makes the flow seem crowded. A lot to explore but I retired early, I had a long granddaughter day on Friday and a lot of walking today. It was a very nice embarkation day on the Norwegian Escape.
Sunday / January 29th, 2023 / Day at Sea / Day 2 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. Although the cabin is designed for solos only the bed is full-size with two very large pillows…nice. I woke early and watched the sunrise from the forward camera…it will be a partly cloudy, but beautiful day. I went for breakfast in the Sabor MDR. I ordered: a Bloody Mary, Fruit Bowl, and Eggs Benedict with sides of Bacon & Hash Browns. It was good as was the company at a shared table. I did a walkabout on the way back to the cabin and I was amazed that the Bars were already packed with guests. Interesting. At about 11:15 am I did my ship tour starting at the upper decks and working down. The pool decks and sun decks were packed. Decent entertainment on the pool deck stage too. I found one secretive area, port outside on deck 8. It’s the outdoor dining area for several restaurants so unused in the daytime…one bar was open too. I enjoyed another Bloody Mary, then a Pina Colada before heading to the Garden Cafe for lunch at 1:15 pm…I had a Hamburger & French Fries. It was very good and my friends know how particular I am with burgers. I did happen to get a fresh off-the-grill meat paddy and you build your own so it was made with TLC. Sweet relish and no dill available but other items (onions, lettuce) were good. The Fries were hot and fresh as well. Very pleased. Cabin time for a nice nap this afternoon and to watch the NFC Championship football game on the cabin TV.  This evening I went to the Atrium for Cocktails and to watch the Golden Octaves musical group, it was nice. I had another great dinner tonight again in the Sabor MDR.  Tonight I ordered: Scotch Beef Barley Soup, a Cobb Salad, and the Pepper Crusted Roast Beef entree with Polenta & Spinach.  It was an enjoyable evening, but I retired to the cabin in time for the exciting final quarter of the AFC Championship football game.  It will be Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.  It was a very nice first sea day on the Norwegian Escape.

Monday / January 30th / Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic / Day 3 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We were docked when I woke up this morning. We did turn back our clocks overnight and the MDR hours changed from 7:00 - 9:00 on port days, but I did manage to get to Sabor before it closed. I did have a nice 4-top table with tablecloth (I’m poking fun at Carnival) and very good service. I had my Texas Country breakfast: three Eggs sunny side up, Bacon, Ham, Hash Brown Potatoes, Fruit Plate, Danish (2), Tomato juice, and Hot Milk. It was excellent. The only negative was a fat old man wearing a sleeveless shirt in the formal dining room…no one wants to see your hairy armpits in the morning (another Carnival slam). After checking on the usual Monday morning business on the internet I went ashore at about 10:30 am. The new Taíno Bay Cruise Port facility is very nice. It is an attraction and destination in itself. I planned on walking the old town today so did the hardest first going to Fortaleza San Felipe a 15th-century Spanish fort with a long and colorful history. It is now a museum located at the entry to the harbor and now a nice public park and observation area. Only a $2 admission. I then walked over to El Faro de Puerto Plata, the old lighthouse. Next, I stopped at the unique Puerto Welcome Sign located between the park, the shore, and the Old Town for a photograph. I then walked up to the main Plaza and enjoyed watching the tourist groups pass by and seeing some old friends from a previous visit. I was glad I touring was on my own today. A visit to St. Philip the Apostle Cathedral to reflect as I like to do in these old cities. I made my way to Pink Street, an attraction for Tourists but unique so worth the visit. There I stopped at Pachuche a Boutique Wine Bar (owned by a Cigar Company) for a nice rest and enjoy two local Presidente beers. Good Wifi and a sea breeze as well. I began my return walk passing by Umbrella Street and many Cigar shops, some touristy, but other actual production facilities. It was an amazingly interesting day in the old town. Once onboard I went directly to the Garden Cafe before it closed, I had a great bowl of Pho from the Noodle Station, a small Hamburger, and several Diet Cokes. Finally time for a refreshing shower in the cabin, and I mean it is in your Studio Cabin, not a separate bathroom. I took time to update the blog and have a nap. I went to the Garden Cafe for a wee dinner, a mixed salad with a Chicken Breast I sliced for the salad and a Pork cutlet with Mashed Potatoes. Not busy when I went at about 7:30 pm. I didn’t want cocktails so I went to The District Brew House which is also the defacto Piano Bar. The good news is that the beer is great, but the bad is the Piano player…really bad. I had a new (to me) beer on draught: Funky Buddha Floridian…it was great I had another. At the very last moment I got into the 9:30 show in the Theater and scored a seat in row 6 center…the Karma is good. This is the show every lady on the ship has been raving about, The Choir of Man. It was a great show, I love this musical concept, even two acapella numbers. Many ladies sitting down low where I was sitting had to be regulars and one would think we were at Chippendales. They loved it. A very long and busy day for this old guy…it was a great port day and ship day on the Norwegian Escape.
Tuesday / January 31st / St. Thomas, USVI / Day 4 
Calm seas overnight and I slept well. We have a late arrival so a good day for sleeping late and having a relaxing morning. I got some Banana Bread this morning from the Studio Lounge next door for an early snack. Then did some online work while watching us sail into St. Thomas on the forward camera. I went up to the Garden Cafe at noon as planned but debark was running late so it was packed with guests…I did get some great Bacon as breakfast was still out. They finally opened the gangway at about 12:20 and it cleared out and they brought out fresh food for guests. I had a Hamburger, as it was hot and my first one was so good earlier in the week. I had a prepaid ticket from NCL for the Gondola up to Paradise Point so that was my plan for the day. We were the last ship in so at the outer pier and a long walk to the Gondola Station but I had lots of time. I was at the top of Paradise Point at about 2:00 pm and I had a nice table in the shade with a nice view. I enjoyed two of their special Painkillers and enjoyed the view. The weather was very nice with a cool breeze so it was nice. I returned to the ship at about 4:00ish. I refreshed and had a nice nap. At about 7:00 I went to the District Brew House for two of the Funky Buddha Floridian beers. Nice. I had an 8:00 reservation at Savor and was given a nice table at the window with something to actually see with another cruise ship on our port side. Tonight I ordered the Minestrone Soup, Roasted Beet Salad (excellent), and two entrees: Whole Roasted Sirloin with Baked Potato and the BBQ Mixed Grill. I was curious about the BBQ and correct that not up to standards, but the Steak was very good. For dessert, I had the Bananas Foster. After dinner, I wanted to see Howl at the Moon in the Headliners Comedy club as I met one of the entertainers, but the room was really packed. From what I could see it looked like a lot of fun with dueling piano bar + drums set up. This show alternates each night with the Comedians in this venue. I retired to the cabin and watched my first movie of the cruise, a Star Wars feature. It was a good day in St. Thomas and on the Norwegian Escape. 
Wednesday  /  February 1st  /  Tortola, BVI  /  Day 5 
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked well before I got out of bed this morning. I was just here two weeks ago so no rush to get off the ship. I did some online work before going up to Garden Cafe. Opposite of yesterday with many guests off the ship and few at the buffet. I had made to order 3-Eggs over easy, Bacon, White Toast, Hash Browns, Orange Juice, and Milk. It was very good. I discovered on the message board in the elevator that the back on board is at 12:30…well no need to go ashore. I got a good table outside on deck 8 with a great starboard side view. And the nearby bar opened at noon. I brought my laptop so I was content. After sailing away I enjoyed watching us sail through the Little Sisters chain of islands of BVI, very scenic and had a great cool ocean breeze. I upgraded my two Diet Cokes to two Frozen Mango cocktails…even nicer. I had cabin time in the afternoon and monitored the market for the Fed announcement. A good day in the market. I had not been to the Sugarcane Mojito Bar yet so went there at about 6:45 pm.  I had two hours before dinner so I decided to try all six of the featured Mojitos on the menu. The bartenders were very cooperative and it became a fun event for me. I sampled them all plus an extra shooter the bartenders offered during the process. IMHO the Pineapple Coconut and Raspberry Guava mojitos were very good, and the Bacardi and Coco were good, but the Jalapeño Cucumber and Spicy Passion ones not so much. One can’t go wrong with the basic Mojito recipe either. I had a late reservation for dinner tonight in the Manhattan MDR. It’s the larger MDR with a band and even a dance floor. Not the best option for a solo diner, but I wanted to see the venue. The food and service were good, I ordered: the Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli, and two entrees: Pan-seared Pacific Hake Fillet and Bacon-wrapped Cajan-spiced Shrimp. Both entrees were large portions and filling but the small ravioli appetizer was the best. I did a small walkabout of the ship before retiring to the cabin. It was a relaxing day on the Norwegian Escape.
Thursday / February 2nd / Day at Sea / Day 6 
Smooth seas overnight and I slept fair, but late. I had a Banana for breakfast and did online work until noon when I went up to the Garden Cafe. I had a small amount of sliced Pork from the Carving Station, Chicken Milanese, Red Potatoes, & Meat Balls with Tomato sauce. In lieu of dessert, I had a small Asian plate of Kung Pao Chicken and Noodles. All good. After lunch, I went to deck 8 outside and luckily scored a table to enjoy the weather and sea breeze while surfing the Internet. I stayed outside all day until the market closed and I had run out of power on the laptop. A server kept me in Diet Coke all day so very nice. At about 6:15 pm I went to the Sugarcane Mojito Bar for the two mojitos I thought best, I can confirm that the Pineapple-Coconut was my favorite. I had my big premium dining experience tonight, I choose the Teppanyaki experience. Typical set up with nine guests around the Teppanyaki grill and a Chef who prepares your food and entertains. We had our two starters, Soup and Salad, while the Chef cooked the Fried Rice. I ordered a Steak & Scallop combination but ended up with three portions that included Shrimp. It was a huge meal and very good…best meal of the cruise and individually one of the best of my cruise history. I had two Lycée cocktails and the Assorted Fruit for dessert. Tonight was my actual reservation for the production show The Choir of Men. I attended as I really enjoyed it on Monday night. I was early tonight and caught the unique opening that included audience members coming on stage for a beer. Another great performance. I did skip the encore so that I could avoid the mass exodus of the previous Monday, it’s become harder for me to walk up flights of stairs at the end of a day. I did retire to the cabin and updated this blog. It was a great day with a great meal on the Norwegian Escape. 
Friday / February 3rd / Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas  / Day 7 
Slight seas overnight and I slept very well. I was up early and watched us arrive at Great Stirrup Cay as I ate breakfast in Sabor. My final breakfast so I wanted it to be a good one: Fruit plate, three fried Eggs sunnyside-up, Bacon, Ham, Hash Browns, Tomato Juice, Toast, and hot Milk. It looks like it will be a good day for tendering so Guests should be happy. I had business to do today but I took a break to ride the tender over to Great Stirrup Cay just to get some sea air and a photo (left) of the ship…that was successful. I got off the tender and walked over to the next one departing…that process took an hour though. Upon return, I had a Hamburger for lunch, then finished up my business. The short nap was good too. No events or even alcohol for me today I want to get an early clean start in the morning. I did sit out on deck 8 again at sail away. It’s getting cooler. Tonight I had my final dinner at Sabor, my go-to place for sit-down dining, but first my aperitifs at Mixers. Tonight I ordered: the Scallops in sauce, Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli, Rolled Beef Sirloin, Veal Bratwurst, and Apple Cobbler with Ice Creme. A final walkabout before returning to the cabin to start packing. Unfortunately, I feel a bug coming on so retired early. It was an easy final day on board the Norwegian Escape. BTW— I have been pronouncing the name of the ship as Es-Cop-A…people smile (my goal) so they like it or they think I’m a bit touched. A bit of both is true.

Saturday / February 4th / Debarkation Day / Port Canaveral, FL
Rocky seas on our last night. I woke early to finish packing.  At about 7:15 am I went down to deck 7 and joined the line for self debark.  They started about the time I got down there.  It was Facial recognition at Customs so it went well, I was soon on the Shuttle bus and left the lot at about 8:00 am…fairly smooth process.  I stopped and saw family in Orlando before getting home before 3:00 pm.

The ship is huge, but the lack of a larger central atrium and narrow corridors in the public areas makes the ship crowed and difficult to navigate from one area to another.  The passageways on passenger decks are even narrower making it difficult to pass guests let alone dodge cleaning carts.  Only two sets of elevator banks, but ten elevators in each bank. Art and decor is only fair IMHO although some theme areas are cleverly done.

New to me are the Studio cabins for solo guests. The Studio cabins have their own area and a lounge. I had cabin 11501 near the lounge and private entry so good location.  The bed is full size, the storage along one wall that includes your TV, shelving, and a small sink A Shower unit in the corner. The toilet is in a separate space across from shower.  The unique mood lighting system is interesting.  Small but fine for a solo.

All are well trained and efficient. Most of the crew are from the Philippines and there seem to be a lot of crew for the passenger ratio.  Friendly and nice.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

Fantastic to have Tablecloths in the MDRs. I love it.  The Bars are almost always packed with guests…makes since since almost all passengers have a drink package as a part of the NCL booking system.  The bartenders are quick, drinks are good and the passengers were very courteous.

Highlights of the Cruise
The Choir of Men
Teppanyaki Dinner
Puerto Plata Day
Sabor Main Dining Room
St. Thomas Day


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