Enjoying lodging, dining,
entertainment and activities plus visiting tropical islands or
several cities without having to repeatedly change "hotel
rooms" -- it's all-inclusive on a cruise ship -- is certainly
appealing to me and to the other adults in our travel-loving
A cruise vacation grants us lots
of fun time together as well as time to engage in our own
interests. For our multi-generational vacation, we all decided
to book Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, Norwegian Escape.
The ship sails on 7-day round trip cruises from
Miami to three islands
ripe with beauty, history, pirate lore and gorgeous beaches:
Tortola (BVI), and Nassau
in the Bahamas.
My grandchildren like going to the beach. The Caribbean
itinerary was an easy choice.
Weighing almost 165,000 gross tons,
totaling 19 decks and accommodating 4,200 guests, Norwegian
Escape is a huge ship filled with activities, diversions and
amenities. The decor is stylish and casual, the color tones are
soothing and there's a relaxed atmosphere -- ingredients that
make for a comfortable, laid back, enjoyable getaway.
The rule on this ship is that you
do what you want, when you want; eat what you want; wear what
you want. There are no formal nights so jeans are okay. There
are early and late sittings in the dining rooms, but you
can also choose whatever time you prefer. You do have to make
reservations if you're eating at one of the alternative
restaurants where there is a charge for your meal.
There are too many things to do and
places to explore for any passenger to feel trapped or bored on
this ship. On the contrary, the attentiveness of staff and crew
makes guests feel pampered and special. Who doesn't enjoy that?
Escape was designed for families.
Any child will go crazy over some of the features and,
let's face it, if the kids are happy, the adults will be
happy. The ship has an
Park that includes
multi-story water slides. A three-story Ropes Course features
two planks and five sky rails. A basketball court at the Sports
Complex as well as Entourage, a teens-only lounge, are
additional fun places for older kids to hang out.
The slide in the Aqua Park
The atrium chandelier on Norwegian Escape
Although my grandchildren are beyond the "day camp" age,
it's nice to know that Norwegian Escape has a
young children creative play and a
School where they
can learn to juggle. There is also a Guppies Nursery for
toddlers and for babies as young as six months. Parents and
their babies can engage in sensory-based games in the open play
The ship's Ropes Course
I have seven grandchildren, two of
whom couldn't join us on the cruise, but how convenient the teen
lounge was for my four teenage grandchildren who spent time
chilling out there with other onboard teens. My grandson Hunter,
who is 12, was happy to devote every spare moment to the slides,
the ropes course and the games Arcade.
I expected my grandkids to venture
off in search of fun. After all, it was their vacation as well
as mine, but I found ways for us to share time. The Escape made
that very easy.
One of the swimming pools on Norwegian Escape
We ate just about all of our meals
together, attended the onboard theater's live shows, played
games, relaxed by one of the onboard pools, and challenged each
other at the ship's miniature golf course and the bowling
alley. Yes, Norwegian Escape has a modest bowling alley! We also
treated ourselves to "sweet" moments at the Bake Shop and Dolce
On the second day, I and my grandchildren explored the
ship. This led us to Deck 8, the "promenade" deck, the location
of an oceanfront boardwalk where bars and restaurants offer al
fresco dining and drinking. Deck 8 is part of "678
Ocean Place," composed
of three decks loaded with restaurants, shops and entertainment
venues, including the expansive casino and upscale boutiques
like Chanel, Carolina Herrera and LaCoste.
|The Tobacco Road Bar on
In the ship's atrium, we discovered
an unexpected "light show" that so enchanted us, we kept
returning to the atrium during our cruise in order to "watch"
the chandelier, a 3-story-high stainless steel structure
composed of crystals and LED lighting that slowly changes from
pink to aqua, lavender and other colors, as does the adjacent
We had a multitude of choices when it came to mealtime and
snack time. One night, we ate dinner in the stunning Manhattan
Room, one of three complimentary dining rooms. Reminiscent of a
private New York City
supper club, the Manhattan Room features a dance floor and
two-story high, floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows.
|Margaritaville at Sea on
"Grandma, will you dance with me?"
my 15-year-old grandson Andrew asked. How flattering! Andrew led
me across the dance floor as the live band played. Seldom have I
had such an adorable dance partner. It became a family affair as
Hunter and Spencer (age 14), and then Andrew, took turns gliding
around the floor with my two daughters (their mothers).
Most of our family opted for the prime rib as an entree.
For my first course, I ordered a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder.
They may be the two best food choices I made during the cruise.
The prime rib was so big, pink and juicy that I took a picture
of it. The clam chowder brought back memories of my childhood
visits to Manhattan's
Horn and Hardart Automat, where I loved the wonderful
tomato-based clam chowder.
The perfect prime rib served on Norwegian Escape
Norwegian Escape's dining options include a Brazilian
steak house, Cagney's (steak-chops-seafood), Italian, French and
Japanese restaurants, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at SeaŽ,
Food Republic (guests order small plates of food via iPad
menus), and Latin dishes at Bayamo, Iron Chef Jose Garces' first
restaurant at sea. O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill, a round-the-clock
Irish pub, serves comfort food like burgers, soup, sandwiches.
iPad Menus at Food Republic on Norwegian Escape
For adults, the many bars and lounges on Norwegian Escape
include the District Brewhouse (dozens of beers on tap or
bottled); the 5 O'Clock Somewhere bar (cushioned seating along
the boardwalk); The Cellars (a Michael Mondavi Family wine bar);
and Tobacco Road, a cozy, intimate bar dotted with leather
chairs. The bar's signage tells the story of the original
Tobacco Road, a landmark watering hole prominent in
O' Clock Somewhere bar
on Norwegian Escape
Michael Mondavi Family Wine Cellar bar
On the pool deck, there's a
buffet-style Garden Cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at
food stations. We ate waffles and made-to-order omelets here for
breakfast and for lunch there were carving stations, a pasta
station, salad bar, ethnic foods and a dessert station.
My grandchildren and I developed a
daily ritual of meeting each other at the self-serve ice cream
machine to swirl soft ice cream into a cone. We made time to
enjoy the swimming pool, play Chinese checkers (Hunter and
Andrew were impossible to beat), or wander around public areas.
Playing Chinese Checkers in the ship's cafe.
Martin E. Sandler
I had adequate time on my own. When my
grandkids ventured somewhere by themselves or with new-found
friends, I'd visit the fitness center, sit by the pool, hit the
slot machines or take a nap. I chose not to visit the ship's spa
in spite of the indulgent massages and treatments there. Ah, the
joy of a cruise. Do something. Go somewhere. Do nothing. Go
nowhere. Freestyle cruising is what the cruise line calls
it. It's liberating.
After dinner, there usually was a
show for guests to see. The comedy club is called Headliners. In
the Supper Club dinner theater, the three-course meal was less
impressive than "The Brat Pack," a musical tribute to the 1980s
films of John Hughes ("The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's
Day Off," "Pretty in Pink,"etc.)
The talented, hard-working cast
deserved the applause they garnered, but I couldn't identify
with the 1980s era that defined this show, and there should have
been a warning that the risque language it contained was
unsuitable for children.
What I related to and loved --- our
entire family enjoyed it – was the Escape Theater's live
production of the Tony Award-winning musical "Million Dollar
Quartet," based on a 1956 event – a one-time jam session among
Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
"Blue Suede Shoes," (Perkins); "Great Balls of Fire," (Lewis);
"I Walk the Line" (Cash) and "That's All Right, Mama" (Presley)
get the vocal spotlight, here.
Norwegian Escape's other big production, the Tony
Award-winning musical, "After Midnight," vibrantly captures the
songs, dances and rhythms that permeated
Harlem's Cotton Club during the
Duke Ellington era. Among the show's songs are chestnuts like
"Stormy Weather" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street."
My daughters' and grandchildren's
staterooms were located on a deck different from mine, but my
balcony stateroom was spacious enough to include a couch that
accommodated Hunter when he asked me if one night he could sleep
in my room – his ploy to get away from his two older brothers!
|The Boardwalk on Norwegian
The Norwegian Escape has a plethora of inside, outside and
balcony staterooms, but it also offers convenient Studio rooms
that are compact rooms just for the solo traveler. The Haven, a
sort of ship within a ship, is a separate private section filled
with suites and a restaurant and pool area exclusively for Haven
In St. Thomas,
sightseeing and shopping are popular activities, but on this
family getaway, sun-sand-beach was what my grandchildren craved.
If the kids are happy, the adults are happy, so…..
When the ship pulled out of port,
we were back onboard, ready to continue our vacation "escape" on
a ship that lives up to its idyllic name.
For information, contact Norwegian
Cruise Line, (1-866) 234-7350;