Making Waves: Cruising with the Norwegian Encore

From a Tony–winning musical to hot-stone massages and the longest go-kart speedway at sea, the world’s newest mega-cruise ship packs plenty of diversions onto its 20 decks. Here’s a look at what’s onboard. 

Like its sister ships, the Norwegian Encore sports eye-catching hull art, in this case the work of Spanish painter Eduardo Arranz-Bravo.

With sea foam washing against its vibrant hull art, the 17th ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet left the German port of Bremerhaven in late October on its inaugural voyage to Southampton, England, from where the vessel proceeded to Miami for a season of sailings in the eastern Caribbean. Christened the Norwegian Encore, this is the fourth and final addition to NCL’s Breakaway Plus class, a billion-dollar colossus with room for almost 4,000 passengers, more than 1,800 crew members, and myriad entertainment,  leisure, dining, and cabin choices. Together with a host of fellow journalists and industry guests, I was aboard the Encore for its two-night run across the North Sea—not long enough to preview every offering, but enough to know that even on a week-long cruise, no one’s likely to get bored between shore excursions.  

The Observation Lounge affords 180-degree views of the passing ocean through floor- to-ceiling windows.

The Atmosphere

Catering to a broad range of people and budgets, NCL’s “freestyle” cruise philosophy translates as a relaxed and casual vibe free of dress codes, fixed dining times, or rigid itineraries. Like its fleet mates, the Norwegian Encore also puts a premium on fun, with amenities ranging from a two-deck go-kart track that extends over the sides of the vessel (a first-at-sea innovation pioneered with the 2018 launch of sister ship Norwegian Bliss), to an Atlantis-themed outdoor laser tag course, tandem waterslides, and—another first—the Galaxy Pavilion, a virtual-reality playground complete with simulated Formula One car races and exhilarating hang-gliding rides. 

A Haven suite bedroom.

The Berths

The Encore has a cabin to suit every cruiser, from balcony staterooms and mini-suites to wallet-friendly inside accommodation for those who don’t care about having a view. All feature meltingly comfortable beds, good-size bathrooms, interactive TVs for booking excursions and onboard attractions, and minibars stocked with Just Water, Jaden Smith’s bottled water brand that comes in plant-based cartons—part of NCL’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic bottles across its fleet by the new year. The most exclusive rooms are in The Haven, a “ship within a ship” enclave of spacious butler-serviced suites with its own lounge, restaurant, sundeck, and pool. 

The Entertainment

The Encore’s signature stage production is a pitch-perfect version of the sassy Broadway musical Kinky Boots, which features a Tony Award–winning score by Cyndi Lauper. Other shows include The Choir of Man, a foot-stomping jukebox revue set in a British pub; and Happy Hour Prohibition: The Musical, a theatrical cocktail-hour experience with a New Orleans speakeasy backdrop. Fans of the Beatles can take in live cover tunes at the late-night Cavern Club, while those looking to try their luck can head to the casino one deck below. 

Food & Drinks

Diners will be spoiled for choice. In addition to its five complimentary restaurants, the ship has a globe-trotting range of specialty (i.e. for-fee) dining venues, among them Cagney’s, NCL’s signature American-style steakhouse. There’s also a teppanyaki grill, a French bistro, a Texas smokehouse, and, new to the Breakaway-Plus lineup, Onda by Scarpetta, an elegant Italian venue created in collaboration with the acclaimed New York–based Scarpetta brand that serves up flavorful dishes like short-rib ravioli and branzino with charred cauliflower and lemony salmoriglio sauce. Like some of its deck mates, Onda spills out onto a wraparound promenade where patrons can dine alfresco on balmy nights. 

Drinking options are likewise diverse, from The Cellars wine bar to Sugarcane Mojito Bar, District Brew House, Maltings Whiskey Bar, and the top-deck Vibe Beach Club (pass required), where you can splurge on a private cabana.

The skylighted private pool in The Haven, an exclusive “ship-within-a-ship” enclave on the Encore’s top three foredecks.

What Else?

With its 180-degree panorama and full-service bar, the forward-facing Observation Lounge on deck 15 will likely command much of your time. For somewhere even more serene, there’s a Mandara Spa and the adjacent Thermal Suite, which features a snow cabin, a Himalayan-salt room, and vitality pools.

The Details

The Norwegian Encore will sail seven-day eastern Caribbean cruises (from US$399 per person, sharing) from Miami until April, 2020, when it will reposition to New York to offer Bermuda and Canada/New England itineraries for the summer season (852/2165-6000). 

More information here.

This article originally appeared in the December 2019/January 2020 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Making Waves”).

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