Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Norwegian Escape: For the foodie, the family and the party

Norwegian Escape: For the foodie, the family and the party

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Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio and ship godfather Pitbull were raised on platforms during the Norwegian Escape's christening. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
At first glance, Norwegian Escape looks like the party ship of the Norwegian fleet. But after further review, the ship is so big that it offers a little something for everyone.
It is no mistake that Miami-based recording artist Pitbull was picked as the ship’s godfather. His high-energy “Don’t Stop the Party” anthem seems a fitting theme song for Escape.
“Mr. 305” pumped up the crowd before a preview sailing of Escape, which is the first in a line of enhanced “Breakaway Plus” vessels largely based on the Norwegian Breakaway platform of 2013.
Later, at a performance of “For The Record: Brat Pack Live” in the Escape’s Supper Club dinner theater, the edgy, sexual themes of John Hughes’ teen films were prominent and the cast wasn’t afraid to show some skin.
Escape has more hot tubs than its predecessor ships and a water grotto has been added to the Spice H20 adults-only area.
But look a little closer and there are additions and features that cut across the image of Escape as mainly a party ship.
Water slides on the Norwegian Escape.
Water slides on the Norwegian Escape.
There’s a new nursery for kids ages 2 and under, as well as an aqua park for children too young for the thrill-style water slides.  On a trip through the ship midday there were children learning to juggle and perform circus tricks in the atrium.
So Escape is a family ship, as well.
Norwegian is also improving the quality of its food to match the quantity of choice. The Food Republic by Miami’s Pubbelly Group serves sharing-type menus, while the District Brew House will make some serious craft brewing waves with its two dozen draft selections, most of them undiscovered.
Everyone I spoke with who had eaten at Bayamo, the new high-end seafood restaurant, said good things. “It was delicious. I was really surprised,” said Patrick Luciani, owner of Travel Only, Toronto.
So it is a foodie ship, too.
It’s even a bit of a nature educational vessel, with its Guy Harvey hull painting of stingrays, sharks and other Caribbean marine life. Harvey gave a well-attended talk, largely about sharks and the dangers they face from man.
The most impressive thing I saw on Escape in the 24 hours I had to look around was After Midnight, a Tony-award winning Broadway review inspired by 1920s Harlem that had great costumes, compelling music and sophisticated dancing.
The District Brew House has several craft beer selections.
The District Brew House has several craft beer selections.
The biggest letdown was Margaritaville, which had long wait times and whose theming seemed thin, at least in comparison to the Margaritaville Resort that recently opened in Hollywood, Fla.
Travel agents aboard were pretty satisfied overall.
“I think it’s really nice,” said Chris Lackstrom, director of supplier and market development for Ensemble Travel.
“I love the ship,” said Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners.
Fee, who was hanging out in the lounge in the ship’s two-story Haven, said the ship will only enhance the brand’s reputation as one that gives guests a lot of options.
“What Norwegian does best is that there are choices,” Fee said.
 The truth is that any ship that caters to 4,200 passengers like Norwegian Escape can’t really be one thing and survive. It has to have a multiplicity of appeals to draw on three, or four or six different types of customers.
Norwegian President Andy Stuart summarized the pitch at a news conference aboard the ship: “For every size and shape of family and pocket, we have something,” he said.