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AVOID NCL ENCORE AT ALL COSTS


crusintime123
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5 hours ago, boatseller said:

Encore, like Bliss, seems to be designed for more northern itineraries where lounger space isn't a premium.  So it's not a matter or 'avoid Encore', it's more choose the right ship, such as one with Spice H2O.

My only experience with Encore was the TA when the deck chairs spent most of their cruise strapped down.

I recently did the deck chair thing for the first time in forever and, well, not for me.  Same with the hot tub.  But living in Miami, those things aren't exactly exotic... 🙂

In my opinion then- having been on the Escape to Canada/New England maybe the Bliss and Encore would be good for this route as well? There weren't as many people out on the decks on my sailing as it was more port intensive over 4 days. 

However, I see the Breakaway with a SpiceH20 is now doing this route- in my opinion weather isn't as great and they should move the Breakaway back to Bermuda for a few sailings it was great.

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I don't know about the title but I will be very wary of booking on NCL in the future if what has happened during the Corona Virus episode with the Jade and Spirit and the communication and "refunds" shambles is repeated.   We have 5 cruises booked on Princess that will ensure we are at least equal in level to NCL so the pull to NCL has easily been lessened.

 

Pull Finger NCL in your communications to passengers.

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The above review is somewhat dramtic. We were on the same sailing 2/16. Does the pool deck get crowded? Absolutely but we arrived at the pool each day around 11 and 12 and never had an issue finding a chair. Some days it took 10 minutes or so of walking around but eventually we always found something on deck 16 or 17 right above. You just have to be a little persistent.

 

We had 6 people in our party and ate in the main dining room each night around 5 or 6. The wait times were not bad at all and we were always out of there in 1.5 hours or less. The food was pretty good. We always sail Celebrity and their food is a little better but we never had a bad meal in the main dining room and never experienced delays or felt they were understaffed.

 

This was our first NCL cruise and we read a lot of horror stories about the Encore but its really a nice ship and the service was great. The bartenders told us many of their best people came to Encore from the NCL fleet. Choir and Kinky were both terrific. The only negatives that I can think of are things we knew going into it. The lack of bottled water options in the all inclusive drink package is pretty ridiculous. This and get charged drink/food taxes while in ports Miami and San Juan seemed a little cheap. Celebrity never does this. That was inconsequential though as those taxes only added up to maybe 50 bucks for all 6 of us so not really that big of a deal.

 

We had kids with us and our 13 year old loved the virtual reality, go karts and laser tag and our 19 year olds loved the social especially at night. This is definitely a great ship for families especially teenagers and we had a great time. If its just adults though , Celebrity still wins in almost every area.

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Glad you had a good experience. I agree that Celebrity is one of my favorites for getting the most "bang for your buck". Same holds true for Princess. Both are very consistent and I have been doing this for 40+ years. Never had any serious issues except with NCL? That's ok because there are plenty of lines I prefer. We did 12 cruises last year and outside of the Pearl all were very good. I also like MSC because their ships are beautiful. Especially the Seaside however they do cater to a European crowd. On my last sailing is was 70% non American which is ok except they make announcements all the time in several languages and that gets a bit boring. Their MDR is not the greatest by far however the buffer is fabulous. Especially for desserts. A lot of smoking also. 

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14 hours ago, casofilia said:

I don't know about the title but I will be very wary of booking on NCL in the future if what has happened during the Corona Virus episode with the Jade and Spirit and the communication and "refunds" shambles is repeated.   We have 5 cruises booked on Princess that will ensure we are at least equal in level to NCL so the pull to NCL has easily been lessened.

 

Pull Finger NCL in your communications to passengers.

 

Edited by rkelly21
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On 2/25/2020 at 10:22 PM, megansdad1 said:

I agree.  This is the Op's personal experience. And when it comes to chair hogging, that always brings out some interesting replies.  I guess the problem for some is the post is sensationalized.  That we should avoid the Encore at all costs!  It is a little dramatic and over the top.  

I plan to avoid Encore at no cost to me. It's the most absurd ship NCL has ever built, and it meets none of my needs. I have 16 cruises on NCL, but I don't plan on sailing on them again anytime soon. The OP reacted exactly as I would expect most passengers to react. Conversely, I find it shocking that anyone would praise Encore. 

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Thank you for your review.  I had booked and cancelled Encore for last Thanksgiving break because of comments from posters here.  Your experience confirms I made the correct choice.  I am a sunbather, and fighting for deck space is a deal breaker for me.  I wouldn’t like being so close to my neighbors, either.  Like, where would you put your drink- you couldn’t even reach down by your side to put it under your chair.  Guess you have to put it by your feet and enter and exit the chair by crawling in at the foot of the chair.

 

I was originally turned off by the Encore by the go carts and the height requirements to drive the cart.  I usually travel with kids, and my child is not tall enough to drive the cart by himself.  I feel this is such wasted deck space.  Hopefully they retrofit the back into Spice H2O during drydock with enough complaints?  Honestly, I don’t go on a cruise to ride go carts, play laser tag, or go on roller coasters - I can do that where I live for less money and a better experience.  The slides, ropes course, etc are enough.  I don’t like how all these mega ships are trying to outdo themselves with gimmicks.

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I'm a frequent NCL cruiser and personally I think the Bliss is where NCL finally got everything "right" on a Breakaway/B+ class ship.  Regardless of anything else on the ship, the fact they removed Spice H2O on the Encore is a total deal breaker for me.  

 

That being said, I guess the Encore is probably perfect for a certain segment of cruisers and I'm glad for them, but I won't be cruising that ship.  

 

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We are not sunbathers and did not used the pool deck area other than to cross from side to side and our experience during the thanksgiving week 2019 on Encore changed our love for NCL. We will sail again on NCL but never ever again on Encore. If you had small children and counted on the camp for some free time, forget it unless you want to make a line on deck 5 at least 30 mns prior to camp time openings. I spent so much time making lines so my son can have fun in camp and diminished my rest time during the cruise. So many parents upset that camp was full just 15 mns every time after opening. Learned that on Encore, the excess areas available on Bliss and other sister ships was changed to concierge so that meant once at capacity, you were out of luck. My son required special food needs which I had previously informed the helpdesk and was granted. On Bliss never had an issue with my son's needs. On Encore, it was a mission. Got denied a few times as per" the galley is closed" but the food for him was available thru room service. Yes I spoke to the assistant Maitre'd and still had to be very persistant to get my sons food. Even at the buffet, I was told, not we cannot get it for you( chicken tenders).

Overall, the food ( other than Onda) was not to par with other NCL ships we have sailed. We do agree that both show productions were outstanding and would see CHoir of Men again. We never were able to get comedy tickets as they sold out minutes after getting on the ship but the comedian performed a late night set on the main theater so we were ok with it.

We are venturing out this year with Celebrity Edge and Princess for Alaska as my son is always our priority. I have read others that said they had a great time on Encore but had no kids under 12 which the race track was useless( 2 car seating is slow and very limited) and Laser Tag broke both times we tried to go. It was a stressful cruise that should have never been.

Edited by neffqueen
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I would never discount anyone’s experience because it is your perspective. However, I got off the Encore this morning and I’m going back in July. I loved it. I’m an experienced cruiser, 5 cruises a year for the last 20+ years, different lines, various cabins, including the Yacht Club and Haven experiences.  I am not a sun lover so I never experienced what was going on on the pool deck, but I found the shows, Choir of Man is greatly improved with the live Band, Kinky Boots, and Prohibition to be very good. The comedians were good. I booked everything on the ship and didn’t have an issue.  My least favorite restaurant was Los Lobos.  I enjoyed the observation deck and the thermal spa- I had a week pass for the thermal suite.  The ship’s colors are much improved. I like the lighter colors. I ate breakfast in the Buffet. I liked that there were 6 omelet stations and multiple crepe stations to avoid long lines. I always headed towards the back and never had an issue with seating. Nice and peaceful.  The atrium area still needs improvement in my opinion. That was the place I felt too few chairs with too many people but there is a full service StArbucks that you can sit and still hear or look at the ocean. For anyone contemplating the Encore, I’m not sure I would write it off, but take all information with a grain of salt.  

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The Encore would be a perfectly lovely ship if they eliminated the laser tag and instead had SpiceH20, and if the Vibe has its original footprint and general passengers could use sundeck space at the front of the ship.

 

Oh wait that ship exists. It's called the Escape. 

 

I'll never set foot on the Encore. Disgusting ship built with disgusting values. 

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30 minutes ago, PortFees45 said:

The Encore would be a perfectly lovely ship if they eliminated the laser tag and instead had SpiceH20, and if the Vibe has its original footprint and general passengers could use sundeck space at the front of the ship.

 

Oh wait that ship exists. It's called the Escape. 

 

But there you don't have the Observation Lounges. 

Edited by Two Wheels Only
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3 hours ago, Two Wheels Only said:

 

But there you don't have the Observation Lounges. 

Once the teenagers on board Encore discovered the Observation lounge, it lost nearly all its value to me.

I still went at 05.30 for Muesli and was astounded to find certain passengers tanking up on it.  I would joke that the locusts had dropped by.

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I am happy to see that they are enforcing the chair limit. Every cruise I have been on, the issue has always been that peoples stuff, not actual people, were filling the chairs. So this is good news.

 

The buffet stations make the lines so much shorter than one single buffet. This is also great news to me.

 

Bar service is going to be slower now that virtually everyone has the "free" drink package. I have found the service to be a bit slower but not a huge deal.

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On 2/25/2020 at 9:43 AM, crusintime123 said:

Just got back from the NCL ENCORE.  I was on the 2/16/20 sailing.  First let me start by saying I have been on +50 cruises sailing on lines including NCL, RCL, Disney, Carnival, Princess, MSC, Costa, and Celebrity.  In terms of NCL I have done the Sun, Breakaway/Getaway twice and Escape 3 times.  I have enjoyed my trips on all of those ships.  I have never posted a review on cruise critic but after my current cruise felt compelled to do so since I have received a lot of valuable information on this forum.  Let’s start with the good.  Embarkation/Disembarkation were both great.  Quick and easy.  The service staff was good aside from waiter service on deck 17.  I purchased passes for the thermal spa which was also nice aside from the steam room and sauna breaking down on a few occasions. I enjoyed the food in the Locale probably better than O’sheehans on the other ships.   I do prefer the look/feel of O’sheehans though.  Heard the shows were good but did not do any of them.  Also, could not get the comedian at all as it was sold out the first day and I tried early that day.   

 

Ok, now for the bad.  Granted I did know about some of this prior through cruise critic but we booked when it was not even out yet and it would have been difficult to change last minute.  We also were hoping it was not as bad as some of the other negative reviews I read but it was actually much worse.

 

Typically we cruise to get away from the stress of everyday life and that is usually the case on most of our cruises.  Not so much with this one. 

 

The chair situation = total insanity---  If you want a chair in the sun you better wake up at 6:00 am.  First sea day is always the easiest (but you still need to get up very early) to get a chair.  As people  start catching on the chairs in the sun are even harder to come by.  This makes for a lot of stress and tension on the pool decks if you enjoy the sun.  In addition, they do have a 15 minute policy which is posted on the large TV screen by the pool deck.  So essentially, you need to not only wake up very early to get your chairs, you then become a slave to your chair if you wish to keep it.  I understand there are always selfish people who put their stuff on chairs and you do not see them the whole day, so something needs to be done but 15 minutes is aggressive and we saw many items being removed not only by the NCL staff but by people who thought they can do their own countdown.  The NCL staff even came an harassed us while most of our group was there and tried giving us a hard time about the 2 chairs that were not being used at the moment.  Let’s just say that did not work out well for them.  Seriously,  we could not all go to lunch together in fear of losing chairs.  Want to take a dip in the pool you need to go in shifts.  So much unnecessary stress from this and why is that?   Because there is limited deck space and not enough chairs.  Perhaps the Laser Tag, Race Car Track, and expanded Vibe areas has created limited sun bathing opportunities.  And was it really necessary to add laser tag to prime top deck real estate?  I feel like you could probably have put that anywhere else.  Good thing these are all premium experiences so instead of my free deck chair I can either pay for one in Vibe or pay additional to drive or shoot.   Vibe was sold out immediately and our flight was delayed so forget about that at an additional $209 per person.  Even to get Vibe I heard a fellow passenger was running and it was very stressful.  The best part was the last day when we were supposed to go to their private island.  The water was choppy and around 8:45 am they announced that we would be skipping the port due to weather and having a final day at sea instead.  I was in my room at the time of the announcement and did not even put my shoes on.  I just grabbed my beach bag and ran to the pool deck along with everyone else.  You have never seen such chaos.  It was like a volcano was erupting and people were running for safety in the form of lounge chairs.  Then it started to rain and most people just stayed on their chairs in fear of losing them.  Also, bear in mind on deck 17 which is right above the pool deck the chairs on the water side are not even full lounge chairs.  They are sitting chairs that recline.  Usually NCL has loungers on both sides.  Maybe some people like these but those were always the last ones taken and the people across from us said they wished they had a real lounge chair.  Most people want to be in the sun on a Caribbean cruise as they are usually escaping the cold weather at home.  I even contemplated taking my chair with me to the buffet one day.  Ok, maybe I am being a little dramatic but that is how I felt.  By the last sea day if you were not up by 5:45 am you would be lucky to find a lounger in the sun.  The deck chairs also had no space between them.  Everyone was right on top of each other.  You definitely became very close to your fellow passengers.  It was almost like it was all one large wide chair across the deck with everyone sitting on it.     

 

The Buffet = Poor Design---   Food was not great on this ship in the buffet aside from a few things and the set up was awful.  Typically there is a round set up where you just walk all the way around and pretty much both side have the same thing with maybe one variation here or there.  This ship had stations all over the place.  One small section for bread another in a different corner for something else.  Really no flow at all and I always felt like I was missing something.  The pizza was inedible.  It was like cardboard.  Definitely, the worst I have ever had at sea.  I really thought they were joking when they put it out.  I have always felt NCL was strong in their buffet but not on this ship.  Also, I never remember them shutting down the entire buffet between lunch and dinner time.  They always had a small section open but not this ship.  We tried to go around 3:30 pm and it was closed.  They said go to the Observation lounge which really had nothing there and the Local was a 30 minute wait.  So make sure if you are really hungry you go earlier.  And if you have lounge chairs you set enough time aside so your entire party can go in small groups so your stuff is not confiscated.  Maybe you can have a food runner from your group bring back dishes from the buffet to the lounge chairs.  I am sure for an additional upcharge NCL may just start doing this.

 

Dining room = Slow/Understaffed --- Food was hit or miss in there which I feel is typical of most cruises.  The service was very slow but our waiter was very good.  The problem is he was by himself.  No busboy or help so he had to do everything including drinks.  They are even understaffed in the specialty restaurants as we had the same issue at Cagney’s.  Everyone is working hard and running around but there simply is not enough wait staff around the ship.  This is not the staff’s fault. It is NCL being cheap and not having enough wait staff to accommodate their diners.  Again let’s just add premium upcharge services and reduce our staff. 

 

Bar Service = Slow – If you are fortunate enough to get lounge chairs on deck 17 good luck getting a drink.  The waiter service does not start until later and there simply are not enough of them up there.  Also, there is no bar on that deck which makes no sense.  So if you want a drink you need to go down to one of the bars on the pool deck.  Those bars are very busy during the day so make sure you have a good crew to guard your chairs while you are gone.   

 

Pool/Hot Tubs = Lacking-- So there is 1 adult pool for +4000 people which I have never understood about the NCL ships.  The kiddie pool shut down a few times on the cruise so kids were then in the adult pool.  Also, unless you paid for Vibe I did not see any area that had adult only hot tubs.  So there were many little kids in all of the hot tubs.  Spice H20 alleviated that issue in terms of the hot tub but again they decided laser tag makes more financial sense since they do not charge for spice H20.

 

Smoking = Forget it---  I like to enjoy a nice cigar on a cruise.  Typically NCL has Spice H20 but for some reason felt laser tag went better on the back of the ship.  Can’t you just charge me for Spice H20 if you need to make more money?  Also, I confirmed no cigar smoking was allowed while playing laser tag so there went that.  Also no cigar smoking while driving.  So outdoor smoking on NCL Encore does not exist anywhere for a cigar smoker.  They have recently added a cigarette smoking area outside on deck 16 right near the kiddie area which makes absolutely no sense.  The back of the ship was perfect for all smoking as the smoke goes off the back and does not linger for other passengers.  Cigar smokers were confined to a small indoor cigar lounge with limited room.  There were a few nights you could not get a seat in there and why would I want to smoke inside when I am on a cruise.  I can do that at any cigar lounge at home.  Someone threw up in the lounge during the week which made for a wonderful aroma in there.  The outside cigar lounge automatic door took 3 days to fix.  The people in there were all very friendly but all agreed that there needed to be an outdoor smoking area for cigars. 

 

We did express many of these concerns to the NCL staff that came around.  Unfortunately, they can’t really do anything about the poor ship design.  Also, we spoke to many passengers who felt the same way we did so it was not just us.  Many said they would never sail that ship again and this was the worst of the NCL ships they had been on.

 

Will I sail NCL again, maybe.  Will I sail the ENCORE again, not even if it was free.   

wow.  that was some review.   Thank you

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/27/2020 at 6:33 AM, NLH Arizona said:

I miss some of the niceties, but I certainly don't miss the prices they were charging back in the day.

Those were great times. The "newbies" don't have any idea in what they missed.

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'How dare they not allow me to save my chairs while our group goes to lunch. How dare they not allow me to smoke cigars while playing laser tag. How dare I have to look around for different food stations in the buffet. How dare they set up the buffet for dinner when I want food at 3:30. How dare they not make space for 4,000 people to lay in the sun by a pool or the front observation windows. How dare they not dock during unsafe conditions when I want to go ashore. How dare it rain when I want to lay in the sun and smoke cigars and eat all day. How dare they not listen to my complaints about poor ship design." 

 

You should definitely write a strongly-worded letter to the CEO demanding change and a ship redesign, and call NCL right now and give them a piece of your mind. The most important thing is to demand that cigar smoking be allowed in all areas where children congregate, such as  laser tag and the go carts and Galaxy Pavilion, instead of only having one small dedicated lounge for cigar smokers (at least you always have your balcony to smoke your cigars on). 

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On 3/16/2020 at 12:00 PM, rj42 said:

'How dare they not allow me to save my chairs while our group goes to lunch. How dare they not allow me to smoke cigars while playing laser tag. How dare I have to look around for different food stations in the buffet. How dare they set up the buffet for dinner when I want food at 3:30. How dare they not make space for 4,000 people to lay in the sun by a pool or the front observation windows. How dare they not dock during unsafe conditions when I want to go ashore. How dare it rain when I want to lay in the sun and smoke cigars and eat all day. How dare they not listen to my complaints about poor ship design." 

 

You should definitely write a strongly-worded letter to the CEO demanding change and a ship redesign, and call NCL right now and give them a piece of your mind. The most important thing is to demand that cigar smoking be allowed in all areas where children congregate, such as  laser tag and the go carts and Galaxy Pavilion, instead of only having one small dedicated lounge for cigar smokers (at least you always have your balcony to smoke your cigars on). 

Or why not just eliminate the pool deck completely and put a full (extra charge) theme park up there.  Makes sense.  Who would want to be in the sun on a Caribbean cruise?  

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Im also puzzled by this as well, the gokart and all those things could totally be inside the ship, they could probably even make better circuits...

I guess they are there to be visible to sell the megaships. But indeed, more pools and space would be better.

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1 hour ago, Comi.uy said:

Im also puzzled by this as well, the gokart and all those things could totally be inside the ship, they could probably even make better circuits...

I guess they are there to be visible to sell the megaships. But indeed, more pools and space would be better.

I will always prefer the smaller less bodacious ships like the Jewel class ships. 

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I go to the pools around 4pm . half the people leave to get ready for early dinner.  Seems like her review was personal for her likes and dislikes. Not so much problems with the ship itself. 

Edited by seaman11
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