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Norwegian Encore will be the fourth and final ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway Plus Class, joining classmates Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss.
Measuring in at approximately 167,800 gross tons, Norwegian Encore will hold nearly 4,000 passengers and is scheduled to launch in Fall 2019. It is currently under construction at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Highlights
An expanded go-karts at sea race track, with a section of the track extending out over the side of the ship Broadway entertainment in the theater with a 90-minute version of "Kinky Boots" The Galaxy Pavilion, a 10,000-square-foot virtual reality complex New-to-Norwegian Italian restaurant concept, Onda by Scarpetta Sails from Miami every Sunday from November 2019 to April 2020, the repositions to New York City
Norwegian Encore will expand its popular go-karts at sea with a two-level race track that's larger than the ones currently on Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy. Upgrades will include a covered viewing area in the center of the track where spectators can provide a turbo boost to passing carts by tagging them with a laser beam. The race track will also extend over the side of the ship, as much as 13 feet.
Norwegian Encore will also have the Galaxy Pavilion, a 10,000-square-foot indoor virtual reality complex which debuted on Norwegian Joy; as well as an open-air laser tag arena similar to the one on Norwegian Bliss. Norwegian Encore's laser tag will be Atlantis-themed, and have some virtual reality elements.
In terms of shows, it will feature the Tony-award-winning musical "Kinky Boots" with songs written by pop icon Cyndi Lauper. Also onboard will be "The Choir of Man," which recently debuted on Norwegian Escape, which combines high energy music, dance and live percussion.
Also returning will be the line's popular "Happy Hour Prohibition: The Musical" interactive theater show, which features 1920s-era cocktails in the cost of the show. Dining
Norwegian Encore will have a full complement of dining options including fleetwide favorites and a new Italian concept.
The new restaurant, Onda by Scarpetta, is being created in partnership with LDV Hospitality, whose Scarpetta portfolio of restaurants can be found in New York City, the Hamptons, Miami, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Newport and London.
Onda by Scarpetta will be located along The Waterfront, and diners can choose to eat inside or outdoors. The menu will showcase a selection of modern Italian dishes, as well as homemade pastas, including such items as yellowtail crudo, branzino, and the Scarpetta signature dish, spaghetti tomato and basil.
Among the returning restaurants will be Cagney's Steakhouse, Food Republic, Le Bistro, Los Lobos, Q (Texas barbecue-style fare), Ocean Blue, Teppanyaki and the American Diner. The ship will also have a Coco's sweet shop, Dolce Gelato on The Waterfront, a full Starbucks and a Bake Shop. Bars & Lounges
As for its beverage options, the ship will have a large selection of bars and lounges, many featuring cocktails on tap created by celebrity mixologist Kathy Casey. Venues will include The Cellars -- A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar, The District Brew House, The A-List Bar, Maltings Whiskey Bar, Mixx Bar, Sugarcane Mojito Bar and the Skyline Bar.
The line's popular Cavern Club also returns, offering standing room only performances by a Beatles cover band.
Norwegian Encore will also have an expanded, extra-fee two-story Vibe Beach Club, the adults-only lounge with private sun deck. Itineraries
Sailing out of Miami every Sunday from November 17, 2019 to April 12, 2020, Encore will sail seven-night itineraries that visit San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Beginning April 22, Encore will resposition to New York City from where it will offer seven-night cruises to Bermuda.
The Bliss Theater (Decks 6 & 7) is the spot onboard Norwegian Encore for big-stage productions, as well as one-off shows by comedians, magicians, hypnotists and other guest performers.
The marquis show onboard is an excellent, full-scale production of the Broadway hit, "Jersey Boys," about the creation and careers of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Parents should note the musical does contain some salty language.
Another big-stage musical is Havana, a passion project driven by Norwegian Cruise Line's chairman and CEO Frank del Rio, who is Cuban born. Created for NCL by Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Warren Carlyle, what is supposed to be a celebration of Cuban music and dance, is instead a trite jumble that comes across as fully inauthentic with lyrics in English and music that sounds only slightly Cuban. The costumes and live band, however, are excellent.
During the day, Bliss Theater might be used for movies, seminars and port lectures.
As on all Norwegian Cruise Line ships, there is lots to do during the day on Norwegian Encore, starting as early as 8:30 a.m. in the atrium with Morning Fitness Fun (essentially an aerobics class). From then on, there is some type of activity in the atrium every 30 to 45 minutes through the early evening. Examples of atrium activities include silly games; towel folding, fruit carving and cooking demonstrations; language lessons (our sailing had Tagalog, Portuguese, Russian and Italian); and circus trick and balloon twisting classes.
Other daily fun includes two to three rounds of trivia (including a progressive trivia), bridge lessons and knitter meet-ups, as well as the 45-minute Escape the Big Top escape room experience, which requires teams of up to 10 to solve several riddles. (Clue: Pay attention to the patterns!) Reservations are required for Escape the Big Top, but it's free to do.
Extra-fee daily activities might include Canvas by U painting classes, bingo and wine tastings. And then there are the daily seminars, which cost nothing to attend but are designed to get you to buy something afterward; those include: camera seminars, art history lessons, spa treatment and acupuncture seminars, and port lectures.
Beyond the shows in the Bliss Theater, nights on Norwegian Encore are packed with live music and comedy shows. From sing-along piano music in the District Brewhouse to country and western in Q and rock covers from the ship's house band in lounges around the ship, there are plenty of places to listen to music.
A popular spot on the ship is The Cavern Club (Deck 8), a recreation of the famous Liverpool-based club where The Beatles got their start. On nights when the The Beatles tribute band performs, the space is packed to the gills. The band is good, though we did enjoy the "early" Beatles ("Hard Days Night," "Twist and Shout," "Ticket to Ride") better than the "older" Beatles ("Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "With a Little Help from My Friends). Each show (i.e., early Beatles, later Beatles or never-performed-live Beatles) is performed twice on one night, and a third time on the night after.
For those who like to laugh or dance the late night away, the Social Comedy & Night Club on Deck 6 is the spot to hang out. A few times a week, it's a comedy club with a family-friendly show earlier (usually around 7 p.m.) and an adult show later on (about 9 p.m.) Around 10 at night it transforms into the ship's disco with a DJ spinning tunes until midnight or later if the crowd is good. Some nights are themed, for instance the 70s or 80s.
Once or twice per night, the ship offers a silent disco, though on our sailing they had yet to figure out how a silent disco actually works. On our sailing, participants wore headphones with just one channel (so no changing to another style of music as you'll find at other Silent Discos), while the DJ played what sounded like the same dance song over and over again on the loudspeaker -- thus negating the very name of the activity, Silent Disco. Thankfully, the event is complimentary.
Also once or twice per cruise is the adults-only "Prohibition, the Musical," a racy show set in a New Orleans brothel the day before Prohibition is set to kick in. Featuring hits from the 1920s and 30s ("Let's Misbehave," "Makin' Whoopee," "Happy Feet") as well as five included cocktails (Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, Whiskey Sour and Sea Captain), the show costs $23.94and isn't a bad way to spend an hour.
The ship's casino stretches the entire middle section of Deck 7, and features a glass-walled smoking section and a small VIP room for high rollers. There are lots of tournaments throughout the cruise, particularly slot pulls. Norwegian Encore Bars and Lounges
Mixx (Deck 6): Located in between the Taste and Savor main dining rooms, Mixx is primarily a place to meet someone for pre- and post-dinner drinks. Seating is only available at the barstools surrounding the square-shaped bar.
Atrium Bar (Deck 6): A central location to grab a drink on the way to somewhere else or for those hanging in the Atrium for all the daytime activities.
Social Comedy & Nightclub Bar: Used mostly by the drink waiters circulating through the ship's comedy and nightclub fetching drinks for people.
Skyline Bar (Deck 7): This is where casino players go when they want something to drink, or for anyone who wants to watch a sports match on the wall-sized screen. (On our sailing, it was always a soccer match.) It's also not far from the Manhattan Room, making it a good place to pick up a pre-dinner drink.
The Local Bar and Grill (Deck 7): While primarily a restaurant, half of the eatery is situated near the bar making it great place to grab a drink and hang with friends. To the back of this side, you'll find two lanes of mini-bowling ($5 a game)as well as a handful of arcade games. There are no pub games.
The A-List Bar (Deck 8): Located in between Cagney's and Los Lobos, The A-List Bar is named after Norwegian Cruise Line's president and CEO, Andy Stuart. The new-to-Norwegian bar features a variety of cocktails. The bar's signature drinks, The Boss V & T (Grey Goose, Fever Tree tonic, orange bitter and mint) and Gunners G & T (Tanqueray gin, cranberry juice, Fever Tree tonic, fresh lime juice, lemon and juniper seeds), were designed by Stuart. The square-shaped bar is only open during dinner hours and has limited seating.
Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 8): With indoor and outdoor seating on The Waterfront, this bar is the place to grab a flight of six sweet and savory mojitos ($19.95), or just pick your favorite (each is $10.95) of six flavors. Other Latin America-inspired drinks on offer include pisco sour, Saturn landing and wiki rum punch.
Humidor Cigar Lounge (Deck 8): The only place onboard to relax with a cigar, it's hidden at the back of Maltings Whiskey Bar.
Maltings Whiskey Bar (Deck 8): For those who like something a little stronger, the Maltings Whiskey Bar has a large selection available, with dozens of scotch, whiskeys and bourbons on offer. Whiskey flights cost $19.95 and feature three or four brands, depending on the flight. Whiskey- , scotch- and bourbon-based cocktails are also on the menu. Indoor and outdoor space along The Waterfront is available.
The Cavern (Deck 8): Situated next to Maltings and across from The Cellars is The Cavern, a replica of the Liverpool-based club where The Beatles got their start. One nights when The Beatles tribute band isn't playing, you'll often find one of the ship's house bands playing a gig. The bar offers the typical range of drinks.
The Cellars Wine Bar (Deck 8): Wine lovers will want to stop by The Cellars Wine Bar for a glass of their favorite Michael Mondavi vintage, plus many other vintners. Daily interactive educational wine seminars and tastings are offered here for a fee ($21.95) twice a day and include such topics as "Old World versus New World," "Wine and Cheese Perfect Pairings" and "Riedel Journey of Sense Workshop." When seminars are not happening, wine is available by the glass, bottle and in three-glass flights ($19.95). Four flights are offered, including "The Jet-Setter," which features one French and one Californian cabernet sauvignon and one Italian red blend. Three tapas-sized bites are available during dinner time: an antipasti plate ($5.99), calamari fritti ($5.50) and a mixed green salad with pear ($4.99).
The District Brew House (Deck 8): Beer lovers will find 24 beers on tap and 50 bottled beers to choose from, including craft beers from Redhook Brewery and Elysian Brewery in Seattle, as well as from Wynwood Brewing Company and M.I.A. Beer Company in Miami. The choice of beer covers all types, from lagers and pale ales to IPAs and stouts. The District is also the spot for funtastic piano entertainment. (If Jim Badger is the piano entertainer on your sailing, we promise you, you don't want to miss it.) Disappointingly, the spot which has lots of charm and plentiful seating, including barside, high tops, couches and at tables is not the place to catch a sports game. In the back is a photo machine and a wall to put a pic of yourself up on for perpetuity.
Haven Lounge (Deck 17): This lounge is only for use by cruisers staying in one of the suites located within the ship-within-a-ship Haven enclave. It carries the usual array of wine, beer and cocktails.
Waves Pool Bar & Surf Bar (Deck 16): These two poolside bars are located on opposite ends of the pool deck.
Chill Bar (Deck 16): Order your favorite margarita to go at this bar that's part of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at Sea.
Observation Lounge (Deck 15): A highlight of Norwegian Encore is this massive, 20,000-square-foot lounge with 180-degree views spanning the entire forward section of the ship on Deck 15. It's an all-day quiet zone, though there's always the hum of conversation. It's one of the most beautiful lounges we've seen at sea -- especially on a mainstream ship -- with gray, blue and cream marbled carpets; and furniture upholstered in lush materials of dark gray, cream, tan and blue.
There are couches, upholstered loungers facing the windows, tables and chairs and comfy armchairs for sitting and reading, playing quiet board games or just napping. It's wonderfully comfortable and with free drink dispensers located in several places you never have to go far for a glass of water, lemonade or iced tea. There's also a bar at the front of the lounge for any other drink need.
The only drawback to the space is how popular it is. While chair hogging has always been a problem on big cruise ships on the pool deck, it was rampant in the Observation Lounge as well, with people showing up at 8 a.m. or earlier to start claiming spots (particularly the loungers). There are no posted signs asking people not to save chairs and no crew watching for unused chairs with towels and books on them, so nothing prevents one person from claiming several spots.
Spice H2O Bar (Deck 17): Adults sunning themselves or relaxing in the Spice H2O area need go no farther than this bar for a selection of refreshing libations.
Vibe Beach Club Bar (Deck 19): Serves cruisers relaxing in the extra fee Vibe Beach Club. Norwegian Encore Outside Recreation
Norwegian Encore has two pools on the main pool deck (Deck 16), one shallower than the other and meant for kids, plus there are four hot tubs (two on each side) one deck up and cantilevered out over the edge of the ship.
Though there's no pool in the adults-only Spice H20 area, there are two hot tubs, as well as a waterfall and water jet feature with a ledge for sitting beneath or amid the spraying water. The extra-fee Vibe Beach Club has one hot tub.
All of Norwegian Encore' attractions for thrill-seekers are located on its outdoor decks.
Borrowing directly from the China-based Norwegian Joy, Bliss features a two-level, nearly 1,000-foot-long (40 percent larger than on Joy) electric go-kart racetrack. Ten people can be on the track at once and, for $9.95, you get to zip around eight times. It's not a bumper car attraction as crew will repeatedly tell you and bumping other drivers is prohibited (though it does happen). Instead, it's meant to be a race-style experience though there's no actual race and no winner or loser. The go-karts can go up to 30 miles per hour but you can take it slow if you like (though you're more likely to get bumped if going slow as someone tries to speed their way around you). We think a slow-session or two would be a great idea for anyone who wants to give it a try but isn't comfortable being on the track at the same time as a bunch of speed demons.
The electric cars run silently so as not to disturb other passengers, but speakers near the driver's headrest pipe in the sounds of a race car engine so drivers get the full experience. The racetrack can be used in damp conditions (we tried them out during a drizzle), so even when the ship is in Alaska (where it rains a lot), cruisers can try their luck behind the wheel. Reservations are highly recommended. However, we found that most people opted to give the go-kart a go earlier in the cruise and it was less crowded toward the end. There is no age limit, but drivers can be no shorter than f4 feet and weigh no more than 300 pounds. Kids shorter than 4 feet who want to go on the go-kart can go as a passenger in a two-seater with a parent.
Also straight off Norwegian Joy is an open-air laser tag course (Deck 20). On Bliss, the course is themed as an abandoned space station and is open during the day and into the evening, when cool lighting gives the space a more out of this world feel. There are plenty of places to hide behind and the laser guns have settings that allow you to shield yourself for four seconds or build up power so that one shot will take out another player -- usually it takes several shots to fully eliminate a player. All players have unlimited lives, you just have to go back to "home base" to recharge if you've been eliminated. Teams accrue points for every successful shot and every elimination. There are no prizes, just bragging rights.
Open sessions are held every half-hour during which everyone who's signed up for that session is divided into two groups to square off against each other. The cost is $5 and you get two five-minute sessions during that time. Reservations are recommended. There are no age or height restrictions, participants simply need to be able to hold their own laser gun.
Also on the upper decks are two water slides (both Deck 17) and a kids' splash area (Deck 16). Not for the faint of heart, the high-speed Ocean Loops free-fall water slide drops riders into two heart-pounding loops: both extend over the side of the ship and have sections of see-through tubing. Riders must be taller than 48 inches, and must remove all jewelry to go on. Swim skirts and shirts can slow you down or even stop your progress in the slide, so are not recommended.
The second water slide, the Aqua Racer, is not actually a racing slide, but instead requires participants to get into an inner tube to ride down the water slide in. Inner tubes are built for one or two people, who each must be at least 40 inches tall. One person going alone, or two people going together combined can weigh no more than 300 pounds. Special lighting effects change colors and patterns as you zip down the looping water slide tubing.
The splash zone features a tipping water bucket, water cannons, climbing structures and spray jets.
You'll find plenty of loungers for tanning and napping around the pool on Deck 16, as well as one deck up.
Two other sun decks are for adults only. The free adults-only Spice H20 is located on Deck 17 and features two hot tubs and a bar, while the extra-fee adults-only Vibe Beach Club is on Deck 19, and features one hot tub and a bar. Passes to Vibe are $99 per person for the full weeklong cruise or $25 per person, per day. At Vibe, you'll find extra comfy loungers and clamshells.
Norwegian Encore Services
All of Norwegian Encore' main service desks (reception, excursion, loyalty and Next Cruise) are located on Deck 6 in the atrium. There's even a desk specifically to deal with onboard credit questions or to apply Norwegian Cruise Line gift cards to your account.
You can also make dinner reservations at a table placed in the atrium or use one of six internet terminals in the ship's nominal Internet Cafe. (That spot is also where you go for any help with your Wi-Fi or internet package.) Internet can be purchased in several types of packages: $125 plus a $3.95 activation fee for 250 minutes (audio and video streaming not supported); $14.99 per day for the unlimited social media plan (view, post and upload pictures and videos to common social media sites); $29.99 per day for unlimited standard service (social media plus the ability to check e-mail and check out most websites); and $34.99 per day for unlimited premium Wi-Fi (all the above plus the ability to do video and audio streaming, as well as use VPN).
Most of the ship's retail is located on Deck 8, including shops that sell fine jewelry, clothing, duty-free alcohol and tobacco, souvenirs, Norwegian Cruise Line-branded items and sundries. There's also a Margaritaville with branded merchandise and funky margarita glasses for sale. The photo gallery is up here as well and has lots of cameras and equipment as well as photo accessories for sale. The Park West art gallery is on Deck 6, between 678 Ocean Place and the Taste and Savor dining rooms. It's got the usual mix of Peter Max, Thomas Kinkade and other unknown artists the auctioneer will try to convince you is worth the investment.
There are no self-service launderettes on the ship, but you can send your laundry out to be cleaned and pressed for you. A special promotion is available all cruise long -- fill up a bag and get everything cleaned for $20.
Hidden away in a small corridor between the atrium and Q are two meeting rooms and the ship's small library with a decent selection of books organized by category (biography, romance, poetry, mystery, etc.). There are also children's books and a selection of board games.