Since I discovered the world of cruises, I have been interested in new boats launching. With Norwegian Cruise Line, the company with which it all started for me in 2005, I took what you might call a habit: taking part in the inaugural cruises of their new ship. It started with the Norwegian Epic in 2010, then it continued with the Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Bliss and Encore. I was not able to test the Norwegian Joy which had been sent directly to Asia, but I still managed to climb aboard, later, from Shanghai, an adventure that I will certainly recount soon.
These inaugural cruises are often transatlantic, departing from Southampton to New York or Miami. The only exception was the Bliss: I preferred the 14 nights from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal to the transatlantic that preceded it. And I do not regret it !
The Norwegian Encore therefore began with a Southampton to New York crossing. Initially planned to last 11 nights, it was shortened to 9, with an “overnight” (night on site) in New York. The price had been revised much lower, to calm the complaints of future passengers.
Southampton by night can have a quaint side. That evening, at the end of autumn, it’s drizzling, it’s rather cool, everything to create the atmosphere with the place.
Little pleasure for a cruise ship fan, in Southampton you can often go observe the boats at the end of the quay before boarding later. Here, the night before, the Norwegian Encore was docked with all the trade press on board for demonstration purposes.
Last ship of the Breakaway Plus class, its name is precisely a nod to the success of this line of boat (of which the Escape, the Joy and the Bliss are also part): they are “encore” in the sense of recalls, at the end of a show. Obviously, in French, it can take other meanings, like “another Norwegian boat”, which suits me too!
I chose an aft cabin with a balcony. This is one of my favorite views! I could spend hours, sitting, watching the ocean and the wake left by the boat. Nothing very special to say about the cabins. They are comfortable, with enough storage space to empty your suitcases and forget everything during the crossing. On the first day, the few rewards for loyalty (I have done more than 30 cruises on this company, I am at the Platinum Plus level of their program) are deposited in the cabin: a bottle of sparkling wine, chocolate covered strawberries , bottles of water … there will also be 2 meals in specialty restaurants, a voucher for washing a bag of laundry, and a few other small gifts.
As on all recent Norwegian ships, the chandelier in the center of each ship is specific to them. The one of Encore is inspired by maritime pollution (the plastic bags that invade the seas). It’s special … but successful!
Another classic of Norwegian boats is their spa. With each new ship, a spa that is a little more impressive. It is possible to buy a pass to access the “Thermal Suite”, a space made up of changing rooms, showers and a spa with sauna, hammam, a salt cave and a snowy room, a bath with jets, a jacuzzi … The pass offers a permanent entrance fee, during opening hours (8 am-10pm in general). Ideal for a transatlantic, and getting back in shape! Specific care is possible, but very expensive. On the other hand, when you have the means, the setting is magnificent.
The “fun” part of the boat is not to be outdone. Between a karting track, a setting for virtual reality games, and the “Galaxy Pavilion” in which we find the state of the art in video games, we can have a good time playing against other passengers!
To unwind after this kind of emotion, bars and lounges are numerous and scattered all over the boat. The Observation Lounge occupies a large part of Deck 15, forward, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings and a sumptuous setting. Bridges 6, 7 and 8 (called the “678”) also have enough to occupy their days and evenings. A Starbucks Coffee, a beer bar, a whiskey bar, a wine bar … and multiple places for music groups, social activities (the Social Club where you can also laugh while listening to various comics. . in English …).
These places on deck 8 overlook for the most part the Waterfront, a promenade which is therefore lined with bars, restaurants, an ice cream vendor … and very welcoming canapes. But in November, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it was better to be covered. Even if it is still very pleasant to enjoy it, this Waterfront takes all its interest when the weather is nice and hot!
Several bars offer fresh juices, which I like. A squeezed orange juice is sold for $ 3.50, unless you are lucky enough to have the “Premium Plus” drink package.
And on the catering side, the choice is still as varied as on all the other ships of the brand. The main restaurants (including Taste and Savor or Manhattan) or even the buffet (Garden Café) have varied menus, original or classic (American style). The quality is there.
Specialty restaurants also have pride of place. Their prices are sometimes high, either with a fixed amount or à la carte, but the quality and originality are undeniable. The Ocean Blue, the Bistrot and many others … without forgetting one of my favorites, the Food Republic (article to come).
For the greediest, a visit to Coco’s is a must!
Norwegian Cruise Line has a good reputation for delivering Broadway-worthy shows. They are also quite often very faithful adaptations of what can be seen in New York theaters. On the Encore, 2 of these shows are played throughout the cruise: The Choir of Man, where spectators start their evening with a drink leaning on the bar on the stage … original! And Kinky Boots, musical comedy awarded 6 Tony Awards. Suffice to say that you do not regret your evening when you attend such shows!
Come on, a little video compilation of some good moments from this transatlantic race!
Last little tour, the “ship in ship”, the part reserved for the suites, the Haven. Present since the Norwegian Epic, NCL has constantly improved the concept and offers on the Encore the most successful version of the place. The only downside, apart from the very high price of the cabins, is the complacency of the company to declare the enclave worthy of the most luxurious companies … if for the price it is true, for the service and meals (very good, of course), there is still a gap. The gag: ask for a bottle of mineral water … NCL in the Haven will charge you for it!
Little wink for the return from New York to Paris: we wanted to test an airline that we did not know, La Compagnie. Its planes are only made up of Business seats. Excellent value for money by all accounts and a smooth return.