In parts One and Two of my Norwegian Escape review I told you all about the crazy circumstances that surrounded our cruise on the Norwegian Escape – sick child, hurricane, and horrible service included. Part three of this series is to impart some wisdom on how to avoid the silverware mic-drop, and otherwise horrifically dismal service on the Norwegian Escape, and maximize your cruise! I will also throw in tons of pics of the ship, because horrible service or not, the design of these megaships really is amazing.1) GET THE DRINK PACKAGE. You may think to yourself, “there is no way that I could drink $1,000 worth of booze on this trip.” You would be wrong. If you do not have the drink package, drinks are between $8-$20. This includes soft drinks (even that Coke I like so much) and anything that you can not get for “free” at the buffets, which is essentially just (bad) coffee, juice, and water. If you book early enough, you can get the drink package for just the tax (that is what we did) and it is totally worth it. If you do not heed my advice and purchase the drink package prior to your trip, first of all shame on you for not listening to my genius, but secondly, you can ONLY purchase it on board the first day. I’m telling you, if you don’t purchase it, you’ll regret it. Unless you’re not a partier, and in that case, how did you end up reading this blog?
2) DOWNLOAD THE SHIP MATE APP. It is a handy tool that counts down the days until your cruise, tells you about the ship, shows live deck cams, and shows the ship’s exact location. It’s fun. Get it.
3) DOWNLOAD THE NORWEGIAN iCONCIERGE APP. It is a convenient way to book shows, dinner reservations, excursions, text message anyone that you are traveling with, and see what is going on at any given time on the ship. Once you have all of your stuff booked, you can look at the “My Trip” tab and it will give you a run down of everything that you have booked. Which leads me to my next tip…
4) BOOK ALL OF YOUR SHOWS, DINNERS & EXCURSIONS EARLY. The original plan on our trip was to sit down right after we boarded to figure out which shows we wanted to see, which of the premium restaurants we wanted to book, and what excursions we wanted to do. We got a little waylaid with sail away cocktails and that didn’t happen. We did make reservations for some things the next day, but the majority of our dinners ended up at 9:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. because all of the premium dining restaurants were already booked. The same goes for the excursions. All of the good times book up fast, and you’re left with spelunking at 6:30 a.m. I don’t know about you, but that’s too early for this
hungover weary traveler.
5) TIP, TIP, TIP. As I mentioned in Part Two of my Norwegian Escape review, service on this cruise line has taken a nose dive since Lane and I last cruised about three years ago. Norwegian has changed their policy so that you are just charged a flat percentage per day to cover gratuity for every Norwegian employee, as opposed to having a ticket printed out (that gives you the opportunity to tip) with each drink order or meal. I understand that the thought behind just charging a flat percentage, and that would be to cover for jackasses who have the nerve to NOT tip, but for those of us who actually do tip based on level of service, this idea sucks. And what it has turned into is a bunch of pissed off employees, providing the same crappy service to everyone, because they’re getting paid the same no matter what. What we discovered is that if you ask for the ticket when you order a drink, and put even just a buck or two on it for a tip, the quality of the service that you receive will increase exponentially. Even when we went back to certain places where we’d sat poolside earlier in the week, the employees remembered us, and all of the sudden it went from “You want drinks?”, to “Oh hello Mister Edward, two Bud Lights? And let me bring you a bucket of ice.” *mists us with a spray bottle of refreshing cold water*
6) ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR DINING OUT. Norwegian has what’s known as “freestyle dining”, where you can go to any one of the main dining rooms and the majority of the items are included in the price of your cruise. They also have “premium restaurants” that are not included in your cruise price, but are still super cheap. Like dinner at the nice steak restaurant on the ship, Cagney’s, was $60 for two people and that included a bottle of wine. The room package that we booked included dining at four premium restaurants. If you get a package like this, be sure to use those at the nice restaurants for dinner, not at the lunch places, because seriously the lunch places will only cost like $10. (#nachos) When I say “adjust your expectations”, I mean that even the premium restaurants do not really operate like a regular nice restaurant on land. There are no pleasantries, and they will take your order all at one time. So be ready when they get to your table, otherwise they get real huffy, and you will be annoyed that they’re real huffy, and the rest of the dining experience won’t be wonderful. This is true more so at the main dining rooms, but at the premium restaurants they do get a little pissy when you break protocol by say, wanting to order a bottle of wine before you order your entire meal. It’s weird, but maybe if you’re more prepared than we were, maybe it won’t put such a damper on your trip.
7) GET THE SPA BALCONY PACKAGE. We did this on the first Norwegian cruise that we took and we loved it. A balcony makes such a difference in the size of your room, and if you’re married to a level ten claustrophobic like I am, then it’s pretty much a necessity. The best part about the Spa Balcony room (with Norwegian) is that you have access to the Thermal Suites at the spa. There is an ice room, a sauna, rain showers, a thermal pool, hot tub, sanarium, salt room, and steam room. What I learned is the most beneficial about the spa access is that you can go get a nice buzz poolside during the day, and then go to the spa for a little bit to chill and sweat it all out so that you have a nice sober slate for the evening. Also, the spa is one of the most beautiful parts of the ship in my opinion. It is at the very front of the ship, on one of the higher levels and all of the thermal loungers have a 180 degree view of the ocean. They also have oranges and infused water and teas and fluffy white robes. I kinda wanted to live in there.
8) AVOID SENOR FROGS. The end.
9) GUARD YOUR SHIP CARD WITH YOUR LIFE. This is your ID on the ship, your pass to get back on the ship when you get off at a port, and basically your “credit card” for anything you want to buy (including drinks with your drink package). We once saw an insanely drunk eighteen year old dude sitting on the side of the dock by the ship, covered in tears and puke, because he’d lost his entire wallet, including ship card and driver’s license, and he couldn’t get back on the ship. He’d been to Senor Frogs, see #8.
10) GET THE UNLIMITED WIFI PACKAGE. It’s $209, just plan for it. TRUST ME, you never know when a Category 4 hurricane will pop up and you will need all the access you can get. We made the mistake of buying the $125 package, and forgot to log out just one time and we were out of juice. It would have been lots less annoying had we just sprung for the unlimited and we wouldn’t have had to worry about it. Or gotten a $500 phone bill.
A final tip, a good travel agent knows the inside track. They have reps for hotels, cruise lines, air lines, etc. So if you’re thinking of going on a cruise, call them up, because they can easily tell you “I’ve heard really bad things about Norwegian lately… let’s try Royal Caribbean” and you can avoid having silverware thrown at your face. I know a great travel agent if you’re in need, just let me know!
And now for my photographic tour of the Norwegian Escape! All photos taken during a sleepless 5 a.m. hurricane worry fest when the public areas of the ship were 98% empty. It was really nice and peaceful and I got to watch the sun rise over Tortola.
What do you think? Will you be cruising any time soon? Did this list help? Let me know, and thank you for coming along for the journey!
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