12/9/18 (Debarkation Day)-
We were up at 7am. We went to Garden Café for a light breakfast. When we were done we went back to our cabin to do our final packing and were down in the Atrium by 9:30am. The 5 of us left the ship and were in a long line to get into the cruise terminal building. Once we got through customs we called our shuttle and met them across the street. There was seven of us taking the shuttle back to the hotel. We all said our goodbyes, Heather, Liz and Mel headed toward Canada and we headed to NH. We hit very little traffic and got home in less than 4.5 hours. (weather: cold,sunny/ miles walked 4.3 miles)
This was another great cruise. Contrary to common postings about the Escape there were “very few lines” or “crowded pools” on this cruise. I would assume that the time of year, length of cruise and the number of children on board were the main reasons for this. It seemed like the majority of people I talked to had gotten upgrades which supports the theory that the ship had a lot of available cabins. We got into several conversations with Alvin the Cruise Director and he told us that there were about 4000 on board (seemed like less to us)? The elevators seemed to only be crowded after an activity concluded, which is logical. We decided that we loved the larger ship and smaller ships equally. We found just as many advantages/disadvantages between the two and wouldn’t hesitate taking either one for future cruises.
Cabin- As I mentioned earlier, we booked a guaranteed inside cabin for 14 days for $529. We had a chance to bid on an upgrade balcony cabin (which was listed for just under $1400 PP) so I bid the minimum of $55. We won the bid and got a balcony cabin on floor #13, cabin number 13146 overlooking the shuffleboard court. The cabin was large with a Full size bed, couch, fridge and coffee maker. We enjoyed the novelty of the balcony but didn’t use it as much as I thought we would.
Cabin Steward- Our cabin steward was “middle of the road”. He was the only steward that ever filled our ice bucket every day without asking but on the other hand we had to remind him to restock several items over the 2 weeks. He kept the cabin clean but seemed to overlook it on a few days.
Ship- this was our first cruise on a bigger ship. We were expecting not to like the size, number of people and lines. Since we learned how to navigate the ship after only two days, there weren’t many lines and the crowds were minimal we enjoyed the Escape very much. We took part in the many activities/recreation on the ship.
Food- We only eat in the Complimentary restaurants and thought the food was fantastic. The service was slow as usual but we didn’t have a bad meal for the whole trip. We thought the meals were the best we’ve had on all our cruises at both the sit down and Buffet restaurants. We actually ate less at the sit down restaurants (5pm seating) so that we could have a snack at the Buffet before it closed after dinner.
Entertainment- We thought the two main shows “For the Record” and “After Midnight” were done very well. The singing and dancing were excellent but neither show was our taste. I had booked both shows twice but we were satisfied with one performance each. The bands and entertainment around the ship was more to our liking. We thought several of the Comedians were great and liked a lot of the smaller shows.
Activities- Like all ships we have been on, the Escape had plenty of activities that we took part in. I wish we had time for more of them. The Escape Room on the ship was well done and we enjoyed watching ballgames and videos on the giant screens. The Rope Course, mini-golf and water slides were a lot of fun.
Atrium- This was probably the one and only thing we hated on the ship. First I must say that the whole Atrium is beautiful. The lighting was always changing and the whole ship (including the Atrium) was nicely decorated for Christmas. I’m not sure who designed the Atrium but it is the most ridiculous layout I’ve ever seen. Everything was run in the atrium and we were there every day for something. Even with the ships lower occupancy the atrium was over crowded. They used the giant 2-story screen for everything from music to games and only the people who were close to the stage could see everything. They put out some folding chairs but that view was blocked by the overhang of the 2nd deck. There was no walking path to move around and people were just tripping over each other. A simple solution would have been to move some of the bigger activities like “Deal or no Deal”, “Towel Demo”, ect to the Escape theater like they do on the smaller ships.
Ports- One of the main reasons we took this cruise was because of the variety of Ports. We enjoyed them but not as we planned. “Port Canaveral” was supposed to be a beach day but because of the Evac which caused a 4:30pm arrival most of the tours/tourist areas were closed. We decided to take the Disney Springs transfer which turned out to be a nice evening. “Great Stirrup Cay” was supposed to be our next port but because of “rough waters” (didn’t see rough water all cruise) this turned into a Sea Day. Third port was “Jamaica”. We planned on staying on the ship but decided to do a little exploring around Port. The port area looks like it has improved a lot. After walking around we stopped at Margarita Ville for a couple of hours where you can use their beach and pool for free. Fourth port was “Grand Cayman”. We had a great day but were hoping to do some snorkeling near the Turtle Farm. We couldn’t find a spot that allowed us to do that so we went to 7-mile beach. The fifth port was “Harvest Caye”. Once again we expected to spend a portion of the day snorkeling which never happened. Our sixth port “Costa Maya” was the only port that went completely as planned with the ruins. Our final port was “Cuzumel”. We waited too long to book the ship’s snorkeling excursion (it was sold out) so we spent the day walking around the waterfront.
Cruise/Hotel Package- In my opinion this is a great deal. Parking at port would have cost us $400. The package cost a little over $300 and included 1 night at the hotel (Hilton Garden Inn), breakfast, parking for the length of the cruise and a shuttle both to and from the pier. The hotel was very nice and clean. It had a workout room, pool and hot tub. There was water, coffee and tea in the lobby. The breakfast was very good and had a nice variety of food. Other than my “omelet experience” it was excellent. A little shakeup in the kitchen would help. My car was safe all cruise and the shuttle to the pier and back worked flawlessly.