ONBOARD THE NORWEGIAN ENCORE -- When
Harry Sommer, the incoming president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, spoke to
travel advisors aboard the line's newest megaship, the Encore, he reeled off a
list of its activities: 29 dining options, a collection of virtual reality
games, laser tag and the 1,100-foot racetrack.
But surprisingly, it was the "huge, huge" observation lounge
that elicited spontaneous applause from the travel advisors in the audience.
"Prime waterfront property," Sommer said. "I think some of
our cruise line competition uses that to put cabins; we like all our guests to
experience that type of view. Exact same view the captain gets from the bridge."
He then deadpanned, "Though he hasn’t invited me yet."
Sommer wasn't kidding when he said the observation lounge
was huge. It takes up a generous chunk of Deck 15 and offers vistas both port
and starboard plus two-deck-high, floor-to-ceiling windows over the bow. There
are loungers galore for disappearing with a book plus couches grouped in
The decor is done up in soothing shades of sea green, taupe
and wood tones, and basket-style chandeliers are suspended from the very
forward part of the room. Three buffet stations and a bar offer food and drink
at various times of the day.
Haven passengers get their own generously sized forward
lounge on the deck above.
The Encore is the billion-dollar finale in Norwegian’s
Breakaway-Plus class, so many of the travel advisors who saw the ship in New
York, like those who would later tour it in Miami, were familiar with the ship's
layout. Agents, media and Norwegian VIPs were able to tour and stay on the ship
during a two-day visit to New York -- a "cruise" in name only, as the Encore
The Encore is not too different from its sisters, although,
of course, there are tweaks here and there. More than one travel advisor on the
ship raved about the interior decor. More than one executive pointed to the
design influence of Frank Del Rio, the CEO of parent company Norwegian Cruise
A unique feature on the Encore that is destined to become a
recurring feature on other ships is a new restaurant, Onda by Scarpetta, which
specializes in upscale Italian cuisine.
On the interior entrance, Onda is tucked behind Cellars, the
wine bar run in partnership with Michael Mondavi. But it's also part of the
wraparound Waterfront dining and drinking promenade and as such has tables for
Also unique to the Encore is the slate of entertainment, and
advisors I spoke with talked up the main-theater productions of "Choir of Man,"
which got two standing ovations during my viewing, and the Tony Award-winning
musical "Kinky Boots."
In the category of super-active vacation, the Encore doesn't
The Speedway go-kart racetrack is wider and longer than on
other Breakaway-Plus ships, and each participant gets to drive for eight
minutes, a suitable number of laps around the track. Passengers who aren't into
driving can watch the action from the observation platform.
Behind the go-karts is the laser tag zone, where teams of up
to five players each are pitted against each other in the ruins of Atlantis.
Adjacent is the gravity-defying Ocean Loops waterslide that twists and turns
off the side of the ship.
One deck below, passengers will find the Galaxy Pavilion, a
collection of intense VR games, and yet another deck below that is the gym -- and
the spa, for when they're ready to trade activity for a massage.
Another feature new to Norwegian, although not unique to the
Encore, was the presence of water cartons instead of plastic bottles. In his
remarks to agents (see report, this page), Sommer talked about Norwegian’s
investment in "doing the right thing," which includes eliminating single-use
plastic and plastic straws fleetwide.
"You can’t get a plastic straw on any of our ships" he said.