Haven review on the Escape
I wanted to provide not only a Haven review but also some thoughts about the ship and the overall cruise itself. First, this review is being written by someone that is pretty adverse to large ships and in fact, the last 10 years we have focused on much smaller ships that have a passenger count from 130 to 500. It seems like the older we get the more crowd adverse we have become so the smaller ships became much more appealing. In addition, it allowed us to form some great relationships with people that we still chat with today. What convinced us to take this cruise was the concept the Haven promised. Separate pool, separate restaurant, separate bar, and separate sunning area. In addition, we used the lounge area to find a quiet place to read your book and have a glass of wine. All of this coupled with access to the speciality dining and the bigger and better shows made for a nice combination. We found ourselves truly enjoying the Haven experience and would recommend it highly if you want to go down the path of a bigger ship.
We arrived at the port around 11:00am and checked into the priority desk and then waited for a little while. We were then escorted to another waiting area that was completely full which was a little frustrating but fortunately we were lined up to start the trek towards the ship and ultimately the Haven Lounge. So, we were in the lounge around 11:30 making the whole process pretty painless. Once in the lounge, we were given an introduction and told the rooms were ready so we could drop off our carry on luggage.
Our biggest regret was now revealing itself in that we booked a forward penthouse suite on Deck 12 and the Haven is on Deck 17. While the penthouse suite is truly a treat and we truly enjoyed the extra room and amenities, we regret we did not have a room in the actual Haven area. Next time, we would get a room in the Haven area even if it is a smaller room. Lesson learned.
We made it to our room, dropped off our stuff and then proceeded to explore a bit. That was a little difficult because the bulk of the passengers were now boarding and it was a little crazy so we decided to have lunch at the Haven. Their lunches the entire week were superb. While the menu did not change we continued to try different entrees and they were quite good.
Mid-afternoon we make it to our meeting area for the Muster drill which was at O’Sheehan’s. WOW, the crowd was a little daunting and if you were truly trying to learn about how to see the process of getting on your life preserver, it was difficult due to the very, very large crowds. Shortly after this craziness we found ourselves checking out the Waterfront and found the outdoor bar at The Cellars. It made for a nice spot to quietly have a glass of wine and to watch the sail-away.
The ship itself is truly beautiful and the crew is constantly cleaning and attending to it. In addition, the crew is extremely friendly and exceptional in every respect. Not really any complaints at all with the overall product but I did have the Haven access which made a huge difference. Like many have already stated, the one area that I thought was a poor design was the main pool area. While I did not have to actually fight those crowds, you still have to walk through the upper deck area above the pool that is lined with lounge chairs and it is truly jammed. So jammed that you can have two people walk through the area should to shoulder. You have to go single file and then work with the oncoming pedestrian traffic. One pool with this many people was not a good design. They should have put a smaller adult only pool at Spice H20 and that would have provided some relief.
I can only comment on the specialty dining restaurants and the Haven restaurant because we had the UDP package. While the food was really good for the most part (1 exception) I do have a frustration that I wish the cruise line would consider. When we cruise we focus on lines that have a dress code that is “casual” in lieu of bringing on a tux or a suit. That fits me because I have to wear a suit everyday during the work week. So I bring “resort casual” which consists of a nice pair of pants and either a collared golf shirt, a casual dress shirt, or a Tommy Bahama type of shirt. Personally, I think if you go to a speciality restaurant it should be required for men to wear long pants and a collared shirt. There were many times, we saw casual that consisted of shorts and a tee shirt. In my opinion, if you want to dress like that for dinner you should dine at the buffet. I am a huge fan of shorts and wear them a good portion of the year but when I go to a nice restaurant (like the speciality restaurants) I do wear long pants and a collared shirt.
A quick review on the restaurants we attended:
Cagney’s- We thought this was quite good and I think it compared to some good mainland steakhouses.
Le Bistro- This restaurant was extremely good. The food was fantastic and the service was exceptional.
Teppanyaki- I went into this restaurant with low expectations because the food at this type of venue is OK but typically not a WOW experience. I must tell you, the food was extremely good and the guys doing the cooking are very entertaining.
The Haven Restaurant- My only regret is that I only ate there 1 time for dinner! We did have breakfast there almost every day and had a few lunches there. This food was extremely good and the service was extraordinary. The only thing they need to work on is their speed of service. We found ourselves ordering an appetizer because we learned that the entree took awhile to find our table.
Bayamo’s- This is the only restaurant that we paid for and unfortunately it was not only bad it was quite bad. The appetizer was bad, the entree was exceptionally bad, and the desert was not good. Very, very disappointing and we had the chance to compare notes with others and they had the same impression. The Mojito Bar right outside of the restaurant is very good but the restaurant itself is very disappointing.
O’Sheehan’s- Great place for lunch. Good burgers, good Rueben’s, and I had a Shephard’s pie that was pretty darned good.
After Midnight- Good but pretty long and if you go to a late show, we found it challenging to hang in there to the end.
The Million Dollar Quartet- Do NOT miss this one. My only regret is that I did not do a repeat performance. The talent that this show provides is exceptional and the singer that portrays Jerry Lee Lewis is a gifted performer and one that should not be missed.
Headliners Comedy Club- Very good. Make sure you see the Wednesday night performance where all 3 perform. In addition, the late night session is also very good.
St. Thomas- We are creatures of habit and we continue to go back to Megan’s bay and have for the last 5-6 times we have been to St. Thomas. Crowded, yes, but there were 6 cruise ships in town that day so I suspect everything was crowded.
Tortola- We have been here before and my desire was to take the excursion that went to Jost Van Dyke but it was sold out by the time we boarded. Very bummed! We then took an excursion that was on RIB’s(Rigid Inflatable Boats) that went around the island and stopped at Jost Van Dyke which is what I truly wanted to do. A word of caution, this excursion will beat the heck of you so be aware. So, the excursion was too long, the seats in the boat were pretty uncomfortable, and it cost $179 per person. Other than that, a good excursion!! :) FYI, my wife is still experiencing some physical discomfort in her back and neck from the beating we took on that excursion.
Nassau- Our intent was to essentially stay on the boat because this island is not our favorite. We did get off for a short walk in order to buy the grandkids some trinkets. We went to the straw market and realized why we don’t like this island. We then came back to the ship and did the water tubes on the ship and that was a hoot!!
This went extremely well and upon departing we found a porter went through the customs line and found our way to a taxi and to the airport. Very easy in Miami compared to Fort Lauderdale.
As mentioned, I thought the ship was very nice in most respects. In addition to the overcrowded pool situation, a couple of other areas were a little frustrating. The casino location and the resulting smoke that emanated from this area made it brutal to pass by and not feel like you had just lit up a pack of cigarettes on your own. The ship badly needs some additional venting because the casino area is in the middle of the ship and the smoke is truly bad for us non-smokers. The other area that I attribute to poor design is the atrium area. They tend to have a lot of activities there and it gets very clogged up with people if you are just trying to pass by.
In closing, we did have a great time on the ship but the Haven was truly an oasis in a sea of people. As previously mentioned, we have become accustomed to a much smaller ship by our choice and the Haven provided that small ship within a big ship so we were able to enjoy the benefits of the large ship while able to find a nice place to escape the crowds. In the event you are considering the Haven, I would highly recommend getting your cabin in the Haven area not outside of it. So, would we sail a big ship again?? I think we would but we would make sure we chose the Haven for the benefits it provides.