Meet the Norwegian Encore

Meet the Norwegian Encore (Alaska Cruise 2021)

Posted October 15, 2021 by Amber in Around the World / 0 Comments

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As I mentioned in my September Wrap Up, we went to Alaska at the end of the month! It was an incredible experience and makes the list of my top vacation spots because of its atmosphere, wonder, and beauty. We’ll get to that more in later posts, but as always with cruises, we start with the introduction of the ship! To get to Alaska, we travelled round trip from Seattle, WA on the Norwegian Encore. NCL’s policies continue to be stringent and we were required to show proof of vaccination, get tested before traveling and upon arriving at the port, and wore masks both on and off the ship.

I continue to feel safest on these cruises – safer than at the grocery store or at work. I understand and respect the fear of many people in regards to cruises (if there were to be a breakout, it would spread quickly in a confined space) – I personally am comforted by all the extra measures taken by the company to assure this will never happen. It is far more reassuring than measures required to ride airplanes or have large gatherings.

That said, I do not recommend traveling while the pandemic continues, even with all the precautions in place. Each time we go away, we are taking our lives and the lives of those with whom we interact in our hands. It’s a large responsibility for a selfish, privileged thing. I am grateful for the opportunities I have and we take many precautions to keep folks around us safe… but it is still not recommended to socialize, gather, or travel at this time.

The Norwegian Encore as viewed through a hole in walkway post along the walk at Icy Strait Point.

The Norwegian Encore is NCL’s newest ship, having launched shortly before the pandemic began. It’s the largest Norwegian vessel we’ve been on, a class above the Breakaway and significantly newer than the Jade.

That said, it doesn’t feel like it takes that long to get from one side the the other. Rather, the Encore feels like it’s exceptionally tall, towering over the ocean like a mythological behemoth. She’s very similar to the Breakaway in interior styling, and yet, she didn’t impress me quite as much as I wanted her to.

Sure, the Encore is grand but so many of her features were similar to the Breakaway, albeit more crowded. Sailing at 60% capacity, it felt as full as the Breakaway did at full capacity. Whereas the food we had on the Jade was above-expectations amazing, the Encore was more aligned to what we expect on a Norwegian ship. Which isn’t to say it’s BAD – of the big three, I’ll still argue that NCL has the best food overall. But it lacked that small-ship-first-sailing-since-COVID-started quality. I will say – of all the ships we’ve been on, Encore is the most comparable to the Carnival Horizon and the food was much better on Encore. So if you’re tossed up between the two, go with the Encore.

Since we’ve started with food, let’s stick with it!

Food & Drinks on the Encore

Norwegian runs this sort of continuous deal where you can get a couple meals at a fancy restaurant included, and we always take advantage of that because, why not? On Encore we snagged reservations at Q Texas Smokehouse, and Los Lobos. Both of these restaurants are unique to the Breakaway Plus class at this time, so we haven’t had an opportunity to try them on other sailings. We started with Q on our first night, and honestly, the barbecue was a little taste of home.

Smoked Peach Margarita in front of the “Fire it up” neon sign a Q Texas Smokehouse.

I had a delicious smoked peach margarita, because I love to try the featured cocktail. While smaller than the typical margarita, it was tasty and was far and away the strongest drink I had on the ship. It wasn’t that strong… but all the other drinks were fairly light. We heard nothing but amazing things about the Mojito Bar, though, so if mojitos are your jam, that seems like the place to go for drinks on this ship! I actually quite enjoy mojitos, but the bar was a little too packed for my tastes (even outside of the pandemic). The folks in the room next door to us loved it though, so this recommendation come from them.

I digress. Back to Q!

When you eat at specialty restaurants as part of a dining package, you get an appetiser, entree, sides, and dessert included. Here, I had loaded potato waves which were crunchy and flavourful. For my entree plate I had jalapeño cheddar sausage with a loaded sweet potato, baked beans, and dill pickles. The sausage was good, but not as good as the jalapeño cheddar sausage we had at Moderno back in July. Still good though, especially accented with the mustard barbecue sauce.

I finished the whole thing with a skillet brownie and left overflowing and highly satisfied. I feel like Q is an often-overlooked restaurant offering on the ship, especially as its unique to Bliss and Encore. It’s definitely worth a taste.

Los Lobos, on the other hand, is a good offering for those who want authentic-style Mexican food, but with muted spices. We like the heat on our Mexican food, so the flavor palate was a little dull for us, but there were certainly highlights! They sprinkle a spice and salt mixture on their chips that Matt absolutely loved. I forgot to take a photo of it, but we had a queso with chorizo that reminded me exactly of the one I had in Epcot a couple years ago, absolutely delicious. And which I found the Enchiladas Verdes a bit underwhelming, the Torte de Chocolate was well-spiced and extremely tasty – although admittedly, I’ve always been a fan of Mexican-style chocolate cake. The cinnamon and … what as a New Englander I’d call “autumnal spices” mixed in with the chocolate was an explosion of flavor.

The highlight at Los Lobos would be a dish we didn’t get. One of their appetizer offerings (included when you use the meal plan!) is table-side guac. Almost every table in the place was ordering it, and like most table side offerings, this guacamole is fresh and flavorful (according to the table behind us). You’re able to customize your ingredients and personalize the guacamole to your palate. I’m a huge fan of made to order, and I’m sure if either of us enjoyed avocados or guacamole (I know!) we would have ordered it. It’s a great menu offering and adds a little pizazz to your dinner.

Entertainment

We were lucky enough on the Encore to be able to catch several of the shows! For those who have been around, you know I often lament not being able to spend as much time as I want in the onboard theatre. Where the Jade had very limited offerings that were booked up very quickly, the Encore had more entertainment available and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Choir of Man – which had been scheduled to perform at the end of the week – unfortunately had to cancel as of Wednesday. We were a little disappointed, as we’d heard excellent reviews of the show from cruise vloggers, but since it’s a Norwegian show, maybe we’ll be able to catch it another time. The show I wasn’t expecting – and was completely shocked to find once we boarded – was Kinky Boots! … I was a surprised at the transphobic lines in the show, especially considered it had been touted on Broadway as inclusive to LGBTQIAP+ folks, so I would not necessarily recommend the show? It needs … a lot of sensitivity updates. But the performers were excellent and I have to applaud the show team on their work. I think Kinky Boots is the first Broadway at Sea production back on ships, and there are a lot of costume changes and honestly… walking, dancing, taking controlled trips in stilettos is so impressive to me on land, let alone when the ship is tossing on the waves. Nicely done to the cast and crew on their work… while still noting the transphobic dialogue, deadnaming, and cisgender-centric story.

Aside from the Broadway at Sea production, we were able to catch alate night comedy show and The Beatles Invasion. I really really enjoyed the Beatles Invasion show – I absolutely adore the Beatles’ music and I thought that the impersonators mostly did a good job matching the voices of the men – in particular, the gentleman impersonating Paul McCartney was great. The show was a mix of music, nostalgia, and humor and overall a lot of fun. Most of their shows are in the Cavern Club (of course) but we were lucky enough to catch the one they did in the Encore Theatre that spanned across decades.

For me, the comedy show was just meh. I’m really particular about my comedy and I separate stand-ups into two categories: those generating laughs by creating relatable content and those generating laughs by making fun of others. I don’t really like the latter type of comedy and unfortunately the comedian I saw spent most of his set insulting women, which I did not like. Matt went to a different show later in the trip and enjoyed it much more, saying the content was better and the second comedian on board performed as well and he was funnier. So this could be about taste and I caught a bad set – I haven’t personally had much luck with comedy on cruises.

Oh! And we went to a mentalist show. I think I know too many of the tricks because I was able to come to the same conclusions as the mentalist based on the language used and the gestures made. These shows can be fun if you don’t know too much, but if you do, skip them. 🙂

The Rooms

As far as lodging goes, I’d say that overall the Encore had the nicest room as a whole, although the Jade still wins for the biggest bathroom. However, the quality of the room is likely directly tied to the fact we were upgraded for this trip – from a regular balcony to a spa balcony. I won’t talk much about the Thermal Suite since I did so back when we sailed the Breakaway from New York to Southampton, but the small differences between a balcony and a spa balcony were luxurious enough to make me happy. From the updated decor to the better quality shampoo (which I love), it was nice to be where we were.

We’re not the most social cruisers as a rule (although we met our next door neighbors this time and they were lovely), and we sep d a lot of time in our room. Having the nicer room made that just so much more cozy.

I am obsessed with those long cylindrical pillows and even though our beds at home are decidedly Not Fancy, I really want one. They’re amazing to put under your back or next if they’re sore.

I find the beds on Norwegian ships relatively comfortable. As much as I know you’re supposed to favour hard beds and they’re better for your back… I just… hate them? Norwegian’s beds are hard but they still have some give – enough that I never wake up sore unlike some of the other cruises I’ve been on. Of course, the firmness of a mattress comes entirely to taste. I like these ones, but others may not.

The biggest perk in the Spa Room was the balcony. I love the balconies, I use them constantly on all our trips. One of my favourite things is to wake up early and try to catch sunrise on the balcony, then once it’s light enough, sit there and read, draw, write… just be. These balconies are my happy place.

The Spa Room Balconies on the Encore were the widest and most comfortable ones we’ve had on any ship. It was also the cleanest, but that may be because we were up on the fifteenth floor. I loved the balcony and all the little perks from the Spa Room… at least for this trip.

That said, I don’t know that I’d spring for it normally just because I’m not super inclined to use the Thermal Suite? I’m not comfortable in my own skin and so I’ve fallen out of love with things like swimming (or really, anything involving wearing a bathing suit). However, for Alaska being in this Spa Room was particularly nice because we were just about as high up as you can get on a ship, which meant we got the best views. When it came to sailing Glacier Bay National Park, that made a huge difference.

The Ship Itself

As a ship, the Encore was good but despite my knowing that it was a larger ship than the Jade or the Breakaway… it somehow didn’t feel like it. If anything, I feel that the extra space on the Encore was taken up by adding more rooms rather than more venues or restaurants or even making the rooms larger. It was like sailing on the Breakaway, but less cozy. The only big add, I think, was the Observation Lounge.

As a concept, I like the observatory. We spent some time there early in the trip just to get out of our room so our lovely steward could clean it. If I didn’t have a balcony on the day we sailed Glacier Bay, I’d’ve flocked to the Observation Lounge or to topside I think. It’s a beautiful panoramic area, comfortable, and a good place to while away some time.

I don’t think the addition of the Observation Lounge made up for the small theatre or the lack of creative, themed venues on the ship. The Cavern Club is a copycat of Fat Cats and the Encore Theatre is easily half the size of any other onboard theatre we’ve seen, entirely lacking a balcony. The atrium is the same size as Breakaway’s as well, and The Local doesn’t have the same feel as O’Sheehan’s.

678 Ocean Place rolls together with that crisp, unremarkable feel of a shopping mall. The only truly vibrant piece of the onboard promenade is the signature color-changing light fixture.

While I was and am always enamoured by these, it still felt less impressive than those on other ships. I personally see a flower design, but Matt shrugged and said it looks like garbage bags thrown over cylindrical lights. So there you have it.

Missing, too, are the themed façades and the character of each of the restaurants and storefronts. All the bars have the same decor with a different name, nothing like Shakers or the Ice Bar on the Breakaway. Not catchy and fun. They’re places to go get a drink and what more can you ask for?

Please don’t misunderstand and think I’m completely dissing the Encore – I’m not! There’s a whole VR playground and laser tag and go karts, all of which will make the Encore a great choice for families. But considering she’s a Breakaway Plus class ship, I didn’t feel there was much enhancement from the Breakaway class and if anything, it was downplayed in order to support more passengers. It is what it is.

I don’t think I’d personally seek another Breakaway Plus class ship, but then again, we rarely pick a trip for its ship – we look for the itinerary. The Breakaway Plus classes rule Alaska waters, whereas smaller classes take in Europe and Asia and I look forward to sharing those with you as well. It’s a comfortable boat, big without feeling insurmountable, and we enjoyed our journey.

send me your thoughts

What’s the biggest boat you’ve been on?

A kayak? Ferry? Cruise ship? I’d love to hear your nautical adventures!

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

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