The 4,248-passenger Norwegian Escape launched in November 2015 as the line’s biggest ship, with all the fanfare you would expect. “Firsts” include a variety of new shows and restaurants, but the ship has — for better or worse — inherited a lot of its design from Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. This means wonderful outdoor dining and drinking spaces on The Waterfront deck, spacious bathrooms (even in standard cabins), and the playfully designed Studio Cabins for solo travelers. Alas, it also means the sound levels at the open-air casino and bars make it hard to escape the noise.
What We Love
Food Republic: This is not only the best restaurant on board, it’s the best new dining spot we tried at sea this year. The fusion menus offer comfort food from around the world, as well as innovative dishes such as pastrami dumplings and buffalo shrimp maki. Everything is tasty and well-prepared, no matter what you choose to order.
District Brew House: This brewpub serves up 75 beers (25 on tap), including craft beers from Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company. Unlike, well, almost every other bar at sea, it feels like a cool hangout in an urban area run by people who care about the regional American brews as much as the atmosphere. Look for Monk in the Trunk amber ale and Rock Bottom’s Choco Porter, as well as tabletop beer pong, live bands, and tasty sliders.
Best Known For
Bayamo: Food Network’s Iron Chef Jose Garces launches his first restaurant at sea with this à la carte Pan-Latin spot. Dishes include seafood ceviches (the chef’s signature), a tuna dish that’s layered with watermelon to play on color and texture similarities, lobster enchiladas, and swordfish in a coconut broth. For dessert, try homemade chocolate ice cream laden with chili and grapefruit spiked with tequila. If you want something quicker, get a taste of Garces’ deft touch with seafood a la plancha at the Pincho Tapas Bar next door.
“After Midnight”: This straight-from-Broadway musical based on the music of Duke Ellington is a stunner. The show is richer on costumes and vocals than it is on story line, but retreating into the world of the Cotton Club makes for a gorgeous evening. The best part: The first few months the ship sails, the lead is played by Brenda Braxton herself.
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Who It's Best For
Families: This ship serves a lot of different groups: The elegant spa and seriously cool new restaurant concepts speak to many grownups, while the multiple waterslides are sure to be a hit with most kids. Sadly, we can’t comment on the snow room (the second of its kind at sea) or the new side-by-side racing slides: Both were out of commission on our early sailing.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
This Is One Noisy Ship: There are a variety of dark, loud areas onboard, including the casino, which on sea days seems to spill noise into otherwise lovely wine and cocktail bars nearby.
Margaritaville Is Very Popular: This lunch venue is crowded for good reason. The food is fun and well prepared, and there’s no additional charge to eat there (for now, at least). This is shocking, considering it’s such a big upgrade from the buffet. Go early on sea days, or expect to wait. We liked the Baja-style fried fish tacos and the crispy conch fritters ... but next time we’ll definitely order the much-hailed “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” rumored to be the best on the line and one of the best at sea.
“For the Record: The Brat Pack” Is for Fans Only: This dinner theater production, a clever mix of numbers from John Hughes movies, is as much about the experience as the show itself. The three-course dinner is fine, but if you’re a fan of 1980s hits, such as “Say Anything,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty In Pink,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” you'll thrill at the familiar characters. Somehow missed these flicks? Brush up before you board, or skip the inside joke-filled show.
Sherri Eisenberg is a New York City-based writer and editor. She is the former editorial director of ShermansCruise.
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Norwegian Escape at a Glance
- Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
- Class: Breakaway Plus
- Number of Passengers: 4248
- Ship Size: Mega
- Launch Date: 2015