One Fed Sails on the Newest Ship in the World: The Norwegian Encore

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By on November 25, 2019 in Current Events with 0 Comments

When I was recently invited to the inaugural sailing of the newest cruise ship in the world – the Norwegian Encore – I could barely hold my excitement.

As a Federal employee spouse, my husband and I love to use our vacation time to explore the world, and we have been on dozens of different ships. But this one promised a lot of innovations – a race car track on top of the ship, an outdoor laser tag, a full-on comedy club, 20+ different restaurants and even Studio cabins for one, a rarity on most other ships.

The Encore’s first cruise sailed from New York so it was an easy drive coming from DC. As we were driving up to the port, we could see the beautiful ship gleaming in the distance, among Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

Parking was easy and we found ourselves onboard in no time. The port is located right in the middle of the city and the views from the top of the ship were amazing!

Ship Amenities

We quickly set to explore the ship. First things first – the car racing track was on top of our list.

Perched atop deck 18, the Encore Speedway is definitely impressive. Far from the smallish go-cart areas found on some other ships, this two-story track track is the longest track at sea and you can speed at up to 35 mph. I am not really an adrenaline junkie, but the ride was not scary at all, and it goes by so fast that we wanted to go back as soon as we finished our first race. But slots for the Speedway fill up quickly, and by the time we tried to reserve a second spot, they were already gone for the duration of the cruise.

Looking towards a curve of the track on the Encore Speedway aboard the Norwegian Encore cruise ship
Encore Speedway on the Norwegian Encore

The laser tag area is equally as impressive. Taking up most of the back of the deck 18, the theme here is the lost city of Atlantis. Serpents coming from the ground, giant ruins and marble arches provide background for two rivaling teams to battle it out while enjoying the view of the ocean around them.

Serpent statue in the laser tag area aboard the Norwegian Encore
Serpent statue in the laser tag area aboard the Norwegian Encore

As if those two attractions did not provide enough of a “wow factor”, the Encore also features the first at sea Virtual Reality area called the Galaxy Pavilion, complete with dozens of VR rides. We tried a very realistic Formula One ride (we could even feel the wind in our hair), as well as a simulated hand gliding ride, a zombie battle and a virtual roller coaster (that was so realistic that I literally screamed my heart out, but then again, I am not much of a fan of regular roller coasters, either). This area definitely houses some top-notch technology that you rarely see on cruise ships and I am sure it will be a favorite hang-out spot for kids and teens (and probably some parents as well).

Kids Activities

Since this was the inaugural sailing of the ship, there were no kids onboard, but you could tell that the ship as definitely built with families in mind.

In addition to several water slides, a mini water park for the youngest kids, and a large pool area, there is also an entire floor dedicated to the kids club onboard. The Teen Club looks like an upscale loft, where teens can play games and hang out, and the rest of the deck is separated into three areas, each for its own age group. Even the “under 3” crowd has a special room with soft toys and books.

Typically, the kids clubs on cruise ships have been indispensable for providing us some mom and dad time in the evenings, so we can enjoy the shows and the night life, while our kids enjoy spending time with their friends. We were told there were many activities designed for kids as part of the kids clubs – scavenger hunts, dance parties, movie nights – so we can’t wait to go back with our kids next time.

Dining

From our first impressions, we could tell the ship was made with entertainment in mind. We counted over 20 different restaurants (though some require an extra charge) as well as a dozen or so different bars.

No matter what your fancy, there is a place for that. From the Wine Cellar, to the District Brew House (featuring over 80 types of beer) to the tropical Mojito bar and the Whiskey tasting room, we barely had enough time to try them all. And the best thing is that a free drinks package is included with most cabins, so we did not have to worry about racking up a huge bill.

Entertainment

Because this particular cruise sailed from New York and the weather outside was too cold for any pool activities, we ended up spending most of our time inside, and we discovered that there was plenty to keep us occupied.

The Comedy Club featured several comedians each night, the Cavern nightclub (built to look like the original Liverpool pub) had a Beatles look-alike band playing till late every night, and the theater featured an array of Broadway shows (we saw both “Kinky Boots” and “A Choir of Men”). Considering that we hardly ever have time to attend even one Broadway show when we are in New York, and we did not have to pay hundreds of dollars for tickets, this was quite amazing.

Design and Other Amenities

Overall, the ship was made to appeal to those who love modern design, clean lines and lots of light. Everywhere I looked reminded me of a boutique hotel, but it was also very accessible and not at all pretentious (there is even a Starbucks onboard).

From giant chandeliers that change colors to an adults-only beach club with its own DJ and a Miami vibe, the ship is almost like a destination in itself.

Photo of the purple lights of the central chandelier aboard the Norwegian Encore
Central chandelier aboard the Norwegian Encore

But there is also plenty of space for relaxation, if that is what you want. One afternoon, tired of walking around, we retreated to the Observation Lounge – a giant area full of comfortable seating and floor-to-ceiling sea views – and read our books (even napped a bit), undisturbed by the other activities going on around the ship.

We had a balcony cabin, which was perfect for the two of us but might have been a bit tight for four people, if we had had the kids, but the ship offers a large variety of different cabins, including family-focused accommodations as well as The Studios, single rooms designed for solo travelers who do not want to pay the price of a double cabin.

We were also able to tour The Haven area – a “ship within a ship” concept if you are looking for more privacy and extra attention. Haven has its own pool, restaurant, bars and hang-out areas as well as various sizes of suites, if you are looking for something more luxurious. But to us, the Balcony cabin was perfect and we loved watching the sunset from the veranda.

If you Want to Experience the Norwegian Encore

The Norwegian Encore will be sailing to the Caribbean from Miami over the winter and then moving to New York in April to sail to Bermuda. It will be offering 4- to 7-day cruises throughout 2020, to accommodate even those who are short on vacation days.

You will get the lowest prices in the off-season – January & February for the Caribbean and September-October for Bermuda. Even though it’s a brand new ship, prices are surprisingly affordable with some as low as $450 pp.

The great thing about Norwegian is that their prices include many extras for free – things like drinks, internet and a limited number of dinners at the specialty restaurants. And if you are lucky, some special deals even offer a “kids sail free” option during the low season.

Companies that offer cruise discounts for Feds and retirees

  • CruiseDealsForFeds.com – they offer hundreds of discounted cruises and extra perks exclusively for federal employees, retirees and contractors
  • GovVacationRewards – sign up with your government or military ID to receive vacation credits, points towards free travel and discounts on hotels, cruises and attractions.

© 2020 Polia Marinova. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Polia Marinova.

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About the Author

A veteran of the travel industry, Poli Marinova is a travel blogger, avid cruiser and a federal employee spouse who is always looking for the next best vacation deal. As the co-founder of CruiseDealsForFeds.com, she negotiates directly with cruise lines to get exclusive deals for federal employees.

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