OJ ON LOCATION -- NCL Rolls Out The Blue Carpet To Christen Encore
Karen Dahdah, Open Jaw

A mega-ship newbie shares her impressions of NCL’s 17th ship

Being invited to the christening of a ship is a prestigious occasion and for this first-time mega-ship cruiser, it was more than I ever expected.

Whimsical artwork on the hull of the Encore, created by Spanish artist
Eduardo Arranz-Bravo

From the moment you see her, as you drive along the busy Miami freeway, the sheer size and presence of the Norwegian Encore leaves you in awe. 

As I gazed up at the whimsical artwork on the hull of the ship, created by world-renowned Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo, I also thought about the remarkable engineering that must have gone into building this ship and the figure eight waterslide that overhangs 13 feet on the starboard side. I knew this was going to be a special voyage.

Kelly Clarkson on stage at the christening ceremony

Preparations for the christening ceremony were underway with food and beverage stations and mini stages along the blue carpet walkway. There were photo installations ready for the token celebratory selfies, but little did I know that the main event was going to be shoreside inside the adjacent warehouse, enough to fit over 4000 guests.

The christening ceremony featured a pair of entertaining MCs, in this case Miami’s own Froggy and Elvis Duran, also godparents of the NCL Bliss last year. There were speeches from the executives, notably outgoing President and CEO Andy Stuart, incoming President and CEO Harry Sommer, and, of course, Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. 

The Encore Speedway race-track on Decks 18 and 19

Blessings were made by a Priest and a Rabbi and finally there was the ushering in of Encore’s godmother, singer song-writer Kelly Clarkson, to the stage.

The countdown from 10 to release the ceremonial champagne bottle was followed by pyro-technics and glittering streamers raining down from the ceiling. And if that wasn’t enough excitement, Kelly Clarkson and her band put on a performance of the artist’s popular hits.

 Kinky Boots performance at the christening ceremony

Rocking To Rolling

All aboard, it was my mission, on the first day at sea, to indulge in some Encore’s amazing onboard activities.

Never did I imagine I’d be putting on a helmet and racing a go-cart on Deck 19 of the Norwegian Encore, let alone while the ship was travelling at a speed of 20 knots. The really cool thing about Norwegian Encore's Speedway is that it was inspired by Frank Del Rio’s grandkids when he asked what they’d like to experience on a cruise ship.

 Guests enjoying a beer on stage with the cast of Choir of Man

What could they possibly come up with next? Laser Tag? A complex of virtual reality games? Check and check!

What about the Encore Theatre? I don’t know about you, but going to a musical is not something I do every day back home, so I felt a little spoiled seeing the Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots one night and the hilariously touching, interactive, sing-along of Choir Of Man the next! 

Fun fact: you can hang out with the cast of Choir Of Man for a beer on stage before the show starts.

Elana Karpman and I at the post show meet and greet with some of the cast

Getting Down To Brass Tacks

Grab your pedometer and sunscreen. It was a beautiful clear morning, the ship was anchored and I set out to tour the ship’s staterooms on Decks 10, 11, 12 and 15, plus The Haven by Norwegian. It’s a pretty darn big ship, when you factor in walking bow to stern, deck by deck, but my reward at the end was a visit to Great Stirrup Cay.

With 4,000 staterooms, the Norwegian Encore is the final Breakaway-Plus class ship. It features 50 suites inside The Haven complex, and 30 suites outside the complex, where guests of these suites enjoy exclusive amenities, like the private restaurant and lounges, Vibe Beach Club and The Haven Courtyard pool.

 The Horizon Lounge at The Haven by Norwegian

Though I haven’t cruised like this before, I can see why Freestyle Dining is so popular. Encore has nine speciality restaurants, each with its own unique culinary style and flavour. Overall, the ship offers a total of 29 dining options plus Starbucks at Sea, so the choices are endless.

The Mandara Spa is available for treatments on board and on land at Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.

Interior of specialty restaurant Food Republic

When you come ashore at Great Stirrup Cay, you are transported to an exclusive luxury island resort combined with an adventure park. Like their saying goes, ‘Do it all - or nothing at all - the choice is yours’. 

Booking an excursion in advance is key, if you want to experience zip-lining, parasailing or swimming with the pigs. 

It is also recommended to book a cabana or Silver Cove Villa in advance too. Cabanas can accommodate up to 6 people with rates between US$199-$449 while the 8-person cabana goes for US$249-$499 depending on the season. One-bedroom Villas with a full bath accommodate 6 people for rates ranging from US$299-$699. Two-Bedroom Villas accommodate up to 16 people for rates starting at US$1100 per day.

What Travel Professionals Are Saying About NCL Encore:

Vanessa Lee, Cruise Strategies: “Norwegian Cruise Line is to be congratulated on the arrival of the Norwegian Encore, the third-in class ship joining sisters Bliss and Joy. She is also the final ship in a series which has elevated the brand with more attention paid to design, décor, stunning art and also to a superior culinary offering. The Encore is very like the Bliss  which I thought was a fabulous ship although she showcases a few new elements including the Italian restaurant, Onda by Scarpetta which was the hotspot on our recent cruise. 

Great Stirrup Cay ip-line tower, beaches cabanas and more!

Marc Kamel, Expedia CruiseShipCenters Montreal
: When you walk on decks 6,7,and 8 every floor and every lounge tells a different story. I’ve been on 12 NCL cruises and try to convert my resort clients to cruise clients, because it’s the best value for money, especially with Freestyle.

Andrew Jones, Flight Centre Canada and Liberty Travel USA: Norwegian is one of our key players and top strongest partners. It’s always great to get on a new ship and to see the product. They did a really good job of the layout and placement of the restaurants.

David Harris, CEO Ensemble Travel Group: The ship as a destination is spectacular. Norwegian has done an amazing job. They are so visionary and ahead of the curve like their entire organization has been historically. Whether it’s with Regent or with Oceania, they’re all very progressive thought leaders and this is very exciting for consumers and industry partners alike.

One bedroom Villa at Great Stirrup Cay

Karen Dahdah

Karen Dahdah Columnist

An avid traveller, adventure seeker and travel expert for over 15 years, Karen has toured over 35 countries around the world. She shares her first-hand knowledge of unique and off the beaten path destinations including hidden gems in Asia, adrenaline-rushing African safaris, and the fascinating culture of French Polynesia.

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