Living in land locked West Midlands, we’re very much a land based family. We love days out to the coast with a paddle in the sea but rarely spend much time on the water. When Norwegian Cruises invited me along with some other Mumsnet bloggers on board their newest ship to the fleet, the Norwegian Escape for its inaugural sailing from Southampton, I was excited! I was also a little apprehensive as I’ve always got a little bit seasick on ferries and boats in the past, would I really feel like I was on the water being on such a big ship? Would I get sea sick? I was also quite intrigued to experience the freestyle of a Norwegian cruise, what’s on board to keep us occupied, would my fussy toddler be happy with the food selection and would it be a family friendly alternative to a land based holiday? Although I was travelling without my toddler in tow, I tried to imagine what life would be like if he was there and what we would get up to as a family.
Norwegian Cruise offer a resort-style holiday experience with freedom and flexibility on-board. There’s so much to see and do; you could really tailor your time on board to make it your ideal holiday. I tried to see as much as I could whilst on board but didn’t get chance to do as much as I wanted as I just ran out of time. There are bars, restaurants, a theatre, an aqua park, the only high ropes course at sea, mini golf, hot tubs, a spa, I can definitely see the appeal of being on board whilst travelling around the Caribbean, I don’t think we’d be bored at all!
I was given a mini stateroom with a balcony and was pleasantly surprised. With a guest capacity of 4,200 I had imagined the rooms to be quite small. My room was much bigger than I had imagined. It had a queen size bed, a seating area with TV, tea and coffee making facilities, a large mirror with hairdryer, and a mini bar. There was also a great sized modern bathroom with a walk in shower, toilet and double sink. The room was certainly big enough for a family of three and we would have made use of the space quite well. I imagine the sofa would have been swapped for a single bed but given that the ship is enormous, we would probably only use the room to sleep and wash in anyway.
Having said that, it was nice to sit on the balcony and get some fresh air after my shower and watch the ship pull out of Southampton and into the Solent. I imagine sitting on the balcony in the Caribbean sunshine is such a chore (ha!)
Food and drink
There are plenty of places on board to find something to eat. There’s 29 restaurants and bars to choose from depending on what you fancy. Some of the restaurants are complimentary (similar to paying for full board whilst on a land holiday) and others are speciality dining where a cover charge applies and it’s advised to book in advance if you want to try out their a la carte menu.
For lunch, I joined my fellow Mumsnetters and we ate in The Garden Cafe which is a buffet style restaurant and you can help yourself to as much or as little as you like. Think salads, soups, pizza, Indian food, pasta, burgers and hot dogs, plenty of self service food to suit a range of tastes. Tea and coffee is available as well as juice and soft drinks. The range of food available was brilliant and would make any fussy eater happy.
I was invited to have dinner in one of the specialty restaurants, Food Republic during the evening so I joined Donna (The London Mum) Heidi (Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk) and Kiran (Mummy Says) for some global cuisine.
I’m not very adventurous when it comes to my food but wanted to try some new dishes so we decided to order a selection of dishes and then share them between us. The waiter recommended we order 3 plates each so we took his word and ordered 12 different dishes. Within 10 minutes we had plates of amazing looking food being served to the table. Ordinarily guests would order their food choices via the iPad menu on the table which is a fantastic way of letting diners choose their own dishes and discovering what it will look like and importantly what was actually in the dishes. My favourites were the Bulgogi Tacos, Dates with Chorizo and the Brussel Sprouts with bacon (so delicious, honestly!)
For breakfast I headed back up to The Garden Cafe and enjoyed a bleary eyed plate of sausage, bacon and scrambled eggs and I couldn’t say no to the pancakes, a croissant and a mini waffle. My stomach was feeling slightly delicate (I haven’t yet found my sea legs) so the carbs definitely helped as did the coffee.
Family friendly facilities
Norwegian Cruises are fully aware that families want to have fun on board the ship. Families need things to do and there’s plenty to do on board the Norwegian Escape. There’s the rope course where you can walk the plank, mini golf, the Aqua Park with splash pools and 5 slides to keep the most active of kids entertained.
Inside the ship, the Splash Academy is a supervised kids club for children aged 3 to 12 years old. It’s a great space with a large programme of activities on offer for younger guests to enjoy whilst their parents enjoy some child free time.
Don’t be put off by the tidy appearance in the photographs, as far as I know, there weren’t any children booked in when we had our tour so all the activities, toys and games are stowed away.
A first for Norwegian Cruises is the Guppies Nursery, a bookable service for little ones aged 6 months -3 years old. The need for parents with young children to have time out on a family holiday has been recognised and early years qualified and trained staff are on hand to look after babies whilst parents get the chance to enjoy some child-free time. The service is bookable to ensure ratios are met and standards adhered too.
For older kids, there’s an exclusive teen zone which is a hip and trendy lounge that transforms into a teens-only nightclub in the evening. How cool is that?
There are plenty of bars and restaurants for adults to enjoy. We had a drink inside The District Brew House which had a relaxed vibe to it and great views out to sea. I would have loved to have tried out the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, Spice H20 and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea. You could visit a different bar and lounge every evening whilst on holiday to really get the most out of the ship. There’s also a casino on board and on the very top deck, a DJ playing the latest tunes and open aired bars to sit in and soak up the atmosphere!
In the Escape theatre, there’s two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals headlining; After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet. There’s also the Supper Club which is an unforgettable dinner and show combination with For The Record: The Brat Pack Live at The Supper Club and the Headliners Comedy Club which Shilts would have loved!
If you’re into relaxation and fancy a spa day whilst you’re on board, the Mandara Spa offers over 50 signature services including massages and facials. As with all spa’s, you’ll find a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, dry sauna and whirlpools on the Escape. I would most definitely love to enjoy a spa day whilst sailing around the Caribbean, thank you please!
If money is no object, you could stay in The Haven which is a rather exclusive part of the ship which has it’s own luxury accommodation, restaurant and sun deck. Having had a look around one of the suites, they are completely stunning and have amazing views out to sea but unfortunately for me, it’s a little on the pricey side!
Is cruising for us?
I really enjoyed my taster cruise on board the Escape. There’s so much to see and do, you can’t physically experience it all in just under 24 hours. I imagine it would take a day or two to get used to being on the sea (if you don’t have sea legs like me). There was only really an hour or two when I felt like I was on a boat bobbing about in the water and unfortunately it was during our meal for dinner but for the majority of my time on the ship, I didn’t feel like I was on a boat.
Having had my experience on the Escape, I would most definitely consider a cruise with the family in the future. The appeal would be definitely being on board such a fun ship with plenty to see and do for the whole family whilst cruising around some of the most beautiful parts of the globe and being able to soak up the sunshine when you want to. My only concern would be enjoying the same facilities (the pool, the ropes course, the hot tubs etc) as everyone else when the boat is sailing. I would assume quite a few people would get off the ship when docked in the remote islands to see the sights and local culture but you’d want to do the same and get off the boat whilst you can.
I’d love to price up a cruise on the Escape in the Caribbean for the three of us, it would be a holiday of a lifetime but one that would be pretty unforgettable.
I was invited on board the Norwegian Escape courtesy of Norwegian Cruises with Mumsnet. Huge thanks for their hospitality and for allowing me to have a good nosy on board.
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher as a token of thanks for this post.