I recently got to cruise onboard Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship the Norwegian Encore as part of a travel agent preview cruise. It was just a 3 night cruise with a stop at Norwegian's private island Great Stirrup Cay. Three days really wasn't enough time to see all this amazing ship has to offer so it is a good thing the regular cruises on this ship are usually 7 nights. The Encore is 1,094 feet long and 20 decks high. She can accommodate around 4,000 guests. The Encore is part of the Breakaway Plus class of ships in the Norwegian fleet. The Bliss is sister ship to the Encore and they are almost twins but you can easily tell them apart by the design on the front of the ship. The Bliss was designed with Alaska in mind so it has a Wyland design that includes whales and other sea life. The Encore is a little more abstract and brightly colored with it's hull designed by Eduardo Arranz-Bravo. Most of the ship inside is very similar to the Bliss with a few slight changes like La Cucina is replaced with Onda by Scarpetta for the Italian specialty restaurant. Both still have the Go-Karts and laser tag on the top deck. The Encore has a new feature called Galaxy Pavilion which features a bunch of virtual reality games you can play. The Galaxy Pavilion took over the spot where Spice H2O is on the Bliss and personally I preferred having an outdoor area that was adult only instead of the Galaxy Pavilion so I think they made a bad choice on that one. I did enjoy the go-karts and laser tag was fun too. The big production onboard Encore is Kinky Boots along with another original show called Choir of Man. Norwegian is known for excellent shows and you do want to be sure to plan ahead and reserve your seating for the big shows as they tend to be full in advance.
Kelly Clarkson is Godmother to the Encore and I think it is really great how Norwegian designed part of the kids club using her book River Rose as inspiration. One new design onboard that had a lot of people talking was the main chandelier. On the Bliss it is a glittering chandelier full of sparkling crystals. On the Encore I thought the chandelier was still wrapped in bubble wrap since it was still so new but I asked and found out that nope that was the actual chandelier and they are calling it "art" but I was not alone in thinking it was ugly.
If you are looking to splurge and want to feel like you almost have your own private ship inside the ship then the Haven is where you should book your room. The rooms in the Haven are simply amazing! The Haven also has it's own lounge, pool, restaurant, sun deck and more. While I am talking about spoiling yourself I also need to mention the new section of Norwegian's private island called Silver Cove. This is like a private beach on a private island. Our cruise was the first to stop at Great Stirrup Cay after Silver Cove opened. We got to tour the Villas and see the amazing private beach that comes with the Villas. I am not sure I totally understand why anyone needs a bedroom in a villa on a private beach when all I would want to do is be on the beach but these Villas have full bedrooms and bathrooms.
I think Encore is a great name for this ship as I can see many guests wanting to sail on her again and again.
PS - Stay tuned for new sections on the website dedicated cruise line private islands and my stateroom reviews.
2 weeks ago I was onboard the Azamara Pursuit that held about 700 guests and today I am on the NCL Bliss which holds about 6000 guests. As you might guess there is a huge difference! Personally I like the smaller quieter ships but for this cruise we are sailing with extended family so the bigger ship that offers more options made sense. It is also Thanksgiving week so this ship seems to be full of extended families all traveling in large groups. Sailing on such contrasting ships within a month really makes it clear that there is a ship for everyone and also every occasion.
For our Mediterranean Cruise a small ship was perfect since we were visiting ports everyday and were spending all day exploring on land. A smaller ship can get into smaller ports which is a big advantage in Europe. This cruise is in the Caribbean which tends to have more sea days so a ship with more things to do onboard is helpful. The Bliss has 20 decks and includes things like go karts, laser tag, water slides, kids clubs, multiple dining locations, and lots of activities. If you are traveling with kids they will love this ship. If you are looking for a romantic quiet vacation this probably isn't the right ship. There are some adult only areas but this is one thing I think they need to improve on. NCL offers some options to pay more for some private locations on the ship such as the Vibe, a private area on the sun deck, and the Thermal Suite, a private area of the spa. You can buy a length of cruise pass for these. If you really want a private experience you will want to consider booking a room in the Haven. The Haven is like a ship within a ship where you will have your own private decks that include a pool, restaurant, and lounge. The Haven comes with all the pampering you can imagine like a butler and priority embarkation and debarkation.
If you are looking for a floating resort where the ship really contains everything you need for vacation full of activity then one of these mega ships, like the Bliss, are for you. If you are looking for a quieter more relaxing vacation where the ports are the highlight then I recommend the smaller ships. If you want something in between the two there are ships perfect for that as well. No matter what you are looking for there is a ship just waiting to take you sailing away!
I would be happy to help you find that ship and itinerary that is the best fit for your vacation.
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