What was Cruise Critic’s 2019 Editor’s Pick for Best New Ship? The Norwegian Encore – and rightly so!
Norwegian Cruise Line has outdone themselves with their brand new Breakaway Plus Class cruise ship. With a length of 1094 feet (about the size of three football fields), the Norwegian Encore can accommodate 3,998 passengers with 1,735 crew members. Not only is the sheer size of the ship impressive, but the Encore is built for non-stop memorable moments. From the incredible virtual reality games at the Galaxy Pavilion to the magical performance of Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Kinky Boots, there’s never a dull moment aboard the Norwegian Encore.
I was invited to spend 3 days cruising from Miami to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Encore’s inaugural sail (November 17-20, 2019), and had an absolute blast! It was definitely the newest and coolest cruise ship I’ve ever been on, and if you keep on reading, you’ll find out why. Below is my Norwegian Encore cruise review, including details about the rooms, activities, dining, and more!
Rooms On The Norwegian Encore
The Norwegian Encore offers a variety of rooms. With 2043 cabins to choose from, you’re bound to find one that fits your every need. During the inaugural cruise, I had the pleasure of staying on deck 14 in one of the balcony staterooms on the starboard (right) side of the ship.
The Norwegian Encore balcony staterooms range from 213 to 367 square feet. Mine felt on par with these dimensions. There was plenty of room for two people to unpack and move around, but if you are planning a trip with more than two people, I’d get a bigger cabin or try to find two balcony rooms that connect.
The cabin featured two twin-size beds (usually it is a queen-size bed for couples), a sitting area with a sofa, a desk with shelves, a mounted TV, USB outlets, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto a private balcony. My room specifically had the bed next to the balcony, which I prefer. The bathroom was simple, but the design of the corner shower and the two upper and two lower shelves provided more space and room for storage.
Overall, the balcony stateroom was the perfect size for my 3-day cruise.
When you stay at The Haven, you’ll have access to the ship’s top accommodations and luxurious amenities. While I didn’t stay here, I had the opportunity to tour some of the rooms and facilities!
Tucked away at the bow of the Encore’s upper decks (Deck 17 and 18), The Haven has 80 beautifully designed all-suite staterooms. These rooms range in size from two-person Spa Suites (340 square feet) to six-person Owner’s Suites (1,459 square feet). Each offers private balconies, luxury showers, fine linens, and modern interiors. The rooms are gorgeous and perfect for those wanting to splurge a little for a luxury experience.
But the Haven is more than just fabulous rooms. In fact, this elite area consists of a private courtyard with its own pool and hot tub (and a retractable roof), a fitness center with attendants, the Haven Lounge (offering drinks and light snacks with views of the sea), and a private dining room with daily menu changes. As a bonus, all Haven guests have concierge service, a 24-hour butler, and are given priority for reservation or boarding tenders to shore!
The Haven is truly a haven for those looking for exclusivity, privacy, and luxury aboard a large cruise ship.
Activities Aboard The Norwegian Encore
- Race around Encore Speedway. If you’ve got the need for speed, don’t miss out on driving around the largest race track at sea! With over 1100 feet of track and high-speed curves suspended 13 feet off the side of the ship, you’re in for the ride of your life. The race lasts around five minutes and costs $15 for both adults and children. Racing go-carts is a lot of fun and totally worth trying at least once!
- Play Laser Tag. This is a fun, interactive activity for people of all ages! Designed after the lost city of Atlantis, this laser tag course is full of surprises. As you run through the ruins searching for your opponents, there are hidden virtual treasures along the walls that come to life once you shoot your laser gun at them. Also, the course is outdoors (located on deck 18) so you can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air! Playing a round of laser tag costs $9.95 for both adults and children.
- Experience the high-tech, virtual world at the Galaxy Pavillion. This was by far my favorite activity aboard the Norwegian Encore! Inside the Galaxy Pavillion are dozens of VR games that allow you to explore different worlds and immerse you into thrilling experiences. My personal favorite was the 7D Cinema, which is a 3D mini-movie theater where you (and 1-5 other people) get buckled into chairs that shake while you shoot a laser gun at zombies on the screen. This zombie shoot-em-up game totally terrified me, but it was so much fun! Games start at $8 per play. You also have the option to do 90 minutes of unlimited play for $29, or you can purchase an unlimited pass that lasts the entire cruise for $199.
- Try your luck at the Casino. Located on deck 7, this award-winning casino offers hundreds of games for every kind of player. Whether you’re a beginner or a regular at the poker table or maybe you prefer slot machines, there’s always a way for you to get lucky here!
- Disconnect at Vibe Beach Club. This 2-story private retreat has incredible ocean views, hot tubs, private cabanas, a full-service bar, chilled towels, and light snacks. But the best part – this club is exclusively for those 18 and over! So join the adults on deck 19 & 20 and enjoy your relaxation time. Passes for Vibe Beach Club are available for purchase at the Guest Services desk. Day passes cost $99 per person and weeklong passes cost $209 per person.
- Have some fun at the Aqua Park. Yes, you can relax by the pools, but why not channel your inner kid by going down the two multistory waterslides: Aqua Racer and Oceans Loops? Aqua Racer is a typical tandem slide, while Ocean Loops is sure to thrill as you whoosh over the side of the ship on a double loop slide! Whatever you decide, the Aqua Park is the place to be on a sunny day at sea.
- Unwind at the Mandara Spa. You deserve to treat yourself, so why not get that hot-stone massage or facial you’ve been longing for? The Mandara Spa offers many services, but if you would just like to use the amenities for the duration of the cruise, you may do so with the purchase of a Thermal Suite Pass. This gives you acceess to the Vitality Pool, Salt Room, and Snow Room.
- Catch a late-night show. Whether it’s comedy shows or musicals, the Norwegian Encore has you covered! Some of the spectacular shows include The Choir Of Man (classic rock singalong), Happy Hour Prohibition (New Orleans speakeasy musical), and Kinky Boots (Broadway hit and six-time Tony Award winner). My personal favorite was The Choir Of Man since it was an interactive show, but the others were just as amazing! Once you’re able to reserve tickets, do it immediately. These shows sell out quick, and you don’t want to miss out on this late-night fun.
- Bar hop. Alcohol is readily available throughout the ship, so you won’t have to wander far to find a bar. The Norwegian Encore is home to 13 specialty bars and lounges (which don’t include the restaurant’s bars). Some of my favorites include The District Brew House, Sugarcane Mojito Bar, and the Observation Lounge. For those looking to get wild, consider doing a bar crawl! It’s a great way to let loose and get familiar with the ship.
- Expand your palate. Whatever you’re craving, you’ll surely be able to find it onboard. With over 20 dining options, The Norwegian Encore offers everything from smoky Texas-style ribs at Q Smokehouse to shrimp tempura rolls at Food Republic. Since there is so much variety, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. This is an excellent opportunity to be adventurous and try something new! After all, that’s why we travel, right? To learn more about my favorite restaurants onboard, keep reading!
My Favorite Restaurants Aboard The Norwegian Encore
As I mentioned earlier, there are over 20 dining options onboard. However, only 6 of them, or 7 if you are a guest of The Haven, are free. These dining options include Taste, Savor, The Manhattan Room, Garden Cafe, The Local, Observation Lounge, and The Haven Restaurant. All are great choices for any meal of the day – except the Observation Lounge, which only serves light bites for breakfast and lunch.
If you’re looking to try some of the specialty options, expect the food to be delicious but expensive. Most restaurants have la carte charges with an additional 20% auto-gratuity tacked on the final bill. Norwegian Cruise Line offers specialty dining packages starting at 3-meals for $99.00. You can get more information about the dining packages here.
During my 3-day cruise, I was able to try out a few of the specialty restaurants on the Norwegian Encore. The places mentioned below were my favorites!
- Food Republic – If you’re into international cuisine, you’re going to love this spot! They serve a variety of dishes such as Peruvian beef skewers, tuna poke nachos, hamachi taquitos, shitake, sticky pork belly buns, and Thai chicken lettuce wraps. I ordered the shrimp pad Thai and a few different rolls of sushi, and everything was terrific. In fact, it was my favorite meal on the Encore! Food Republic has a la carte pricing and is open for lunch and dinner.
- Los Lobos – This upscale Mexican restaurant offers traditional flavors with a modern twist. The menu consists of popular dishes such as carne asada, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and of course, fresh guacamole – which is prepared tableside. The plates are big enough to share, making it the perfect dinner spot for groups. Los Lobos has a la carte pricing and is open for lunch and dinner.
- Teppanyaki – For those looking to have some fun, Teppanyaki is the place to be! This Japanese-style hibachi steakhouse offers a multi-course meal with a show on the side. Each table has a chef who is eager to show off their knife and cooking skills through a memorable performance. The meal includes chicken, vegetables, or seafood for the main dish with soup, salad, fried rice, and grilled veggies on the side. The food was outstanding, but our chef’s hilarious egg tossing act is what made the experience unforgettable. Teppanyaki is open for dinner and costs $39 per person.
Tip: Make a reservation as early as possible if you want to dine at a specific venue at a particular time. Walk-ins are welcome, but the wait may be long unless you go early or late.
After a delicious meal, why not tempt yourself with some sweets? While most restaurants have dessert options, there are a few specialty shops you must stop by! For the best gelato on the ship, check out Dolce Gelato. If you’re craving some truffles, macarons, or cupcakes, then visit The Bake Shop (the indoor portion of Dolce Gelato). And last by not least, savor a decadent Mad Milkshake at Coco’s. I promise your sweet tooth with thank me!
Visiting Norwegian’s Private Island: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Acquired back in the 1970s by Norwegian Cruise Line, Great Stirrup Cay was the first cruise line private island! This 250+ acre paradise is close to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and reserved only for Norwegian’s cruise ships – meaning the only way to visit the island is on a cruise. To get to Great Stirrup Cay, you have to take a 15-minute tender boat ride.
Once at Great Stirrup Cay, there is an array of activities to choose from. For those seeking adventures, look into snorkeling, kayaking, jet-skiing, parasailing, and ziplining. There are also excursions out to the famous Bahamas pig beach of Treasure Island!
Tip: Look into booking these activities with the concierge service onboard the Norwegian Encore ahead of time. There is limited space and they tend to fill up quick.
If you’re looking to relax, there are three white sand beaches near the port where the tender boats dropped you off. These beaches are lined with lounge chairs, hammocks, and cabanas. Relaxing at the beach is the most popular activity amongst cruisers. While there are quite a few lounge chairs, the area does get congested as the day goes by. If you want to get a spot close to the water, I recommend going to shore on the earliest tender available.
Great Stirrup Cay also offers luxury amenities at Silver Cove, the latest expansion to the island. At this exclusive retreat, you can rent the luxurious oceanfront villas that range from studios to two-bedroom villas. Each is equipped with a full bathroom, daybed, retractable glass wall providing unobstructed views of the private beach, outdoor patio and lounge seating, TV with complimentary on-demand movies, A/C, and access to Silver Cove buffet. These villas start at $340 per person (for both adults and children). Yes, it is quite expensive, but if money is no problem, I definitely recommend getting a private villa. Having the private bathroom with a shower, air-conditioning, and access to a private beach (away from the other 3,998 cruise ship passengers) will really make your experience more enjoyable.
Tip: Walking is the easiest way around the island, but if you’re going to Silver Cove, you’ll want to take a complimentary tram ride. The pickup spot is near the information stand, across from the buffet restaurant.
Thank you so much to Norwegian Cruise Line for inviting me to the Encore’s inaugural cruise. I had an enjoyable experience! As always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.