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Escape Haven Bermuda NYC July 29-Aug 5, 2018

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Hello all.

I just returned yesterday and wanted to share with you my thoughts and opinions regarding my recent July 29 to August 5, 2018 NCL Escape trip to Bermuda out of NYC.

NYC CRUISE TERMINAL

My wife, teen daughter, and I had no trouble driving from upstate NY to the terminal on Sunday morning. Arrived at 10:15. Parking was a breeze, and $280 later we were in the Haven waiting area within 5 minutes of taking the elevator down from the parking. The Haven holding area, though, was pretty packed, but around 10:45 we were in the first group to be escorted up the gangway. That’s always the most exciting time of the vacation: lots of anticipation as you enter the ship!

BON VOYAGE!

Not too far out of New York harbor, with the NYC skyline getting smaller on the horizon, we had maybe the highlight of the trip: we (and a lot of others) spotted a whale breaching high out of the water, a few times, to the delight of everyone. That was a first for me and totally, totally cool, especially with NYC as the backdrop. Needless to say, I thought I’d see some more whales or visible marine life somewhere out in the ocean on our trip, sort of a magical adventure for a lifetime of stories, but no, that didn’t happen.

HAVEN STATEROOM

We were in room 12306, aft balcony, outside of the main Haven proper area (deck 17), but way better despite the distance especially if you are sharing a room with kids/others and/or if you desire a large balcony. The aft room, as you can see on the NCL website or YouTube videos, has a separate small bathroom and sleeping area for our daughter and a door (read: privacy) into a separate bedroom and master bath for the adults. That sells it there. Also, the balcony is gigantic. It has a table for four, two full-sized loungers, and a half-court basketball set-up. (OK, no basketball, but definitely enough floor space to maybe play Twister…remember that game?). We’ve been fortunate enough to stay in the Haven two other times before this, and I’d rank the aft room first, the Haven forward cabin second (Getaway), and the Haven penthouse suite last (Breakaway). The distance from our aft room to the Haven was 5 decks and the length of the ship, but that’s how you get exercise, especially with the “no elevator” code we try to live by…which mostly is a no-brainer, but not so fun when coming back to the ship from a day in Bermuda (deck 4 entry) and meeting your spouse in the Haven area (floor 17). Feel the burn!! Legs of steel, buns of steel…

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS

As you smart readers know, the Haven is pricey, so when you pay for the space and service, you expect attention to detail. I’ll assume this was a one-off series of errors, but when we got to our aft room, it was rather incomplete. These are trivial now, but it was kind of annoying. For example: the usual sparkling wine on ice was missing; we had a flower pot with no flowers; missing bars of soap in the bathrooms; no spare TP in the master bathroom on the TP holder; and the balcony was not set up, with cushions turned on their edges, chairs askew, and debris on the floor. When the butler arrived later that day, I explained, and he took care of all but the balcony, which I did myself (no big deal), but I had asked for lounger covers as the cushions were pretty stained.

The lounger covers never came, but three days later, on our first day in Bermuda, what did come were maintenance guys doing routine painting repairs on our balcony. We were warned and had no problem with it given the fact that the ship can’t maintain itself; however, hours after they left, the chairs were once again left all over the place and the balcony floor was even dirtier, with paint scrapings, etc.

This was on the heels of two consecutive nights when we returned to the room around 11pm and had to call to ask that our daughter’s bed be made/converted from the couch. That’s pretty standard in any stateroom: they set up the side or extra bed when they turn-down the room and leave the towel animals. It’s sort of the unwritten contract: towel animals mean they were there and have a good sleep. Well, we know they were there, because the towel elephant was proof! (And so was the turndown of our master bedroom).

Uggh, so what did I do after all of this? Wrote a letter of course. I went to the guest services desk and tried to explain to a staffer that I needed our balcony to be cleaned and taken care of and for more attention to bed set-ups. Not trusting only the verbal, I wrote one of those “dear hotel director” letter things and popped it into the wood box, listing and explaining the missteps and the general disappointment.

Writing that letter led to the cavalry and generals showing up. The balcony was swept clean (thank you!), we got chair covers (finally), the extra bed was turned down every night thereafter, and we had three separate NCL managers track us down on three separate occasions to give us their card and apologize. (Funny how they find you by where you last swiped your card and approach your dinner table from seemingly out of nowhere). Given the attention, I wrote another short note the next day, popped it into the box, thanking them for their follow-up. It all seems dumb now, but in the moment it was extra annoying.

TIME TO EAT

There was way too much to eat and drink on the ship, as usual, to the point of losing interest in it (I did), but funny how the moment you get home and have to think about what to cook for dinner, you really want to just walk to the nearest NCL restaurant and leave the cooking and cleaning to someone else!

Here’s my take on dining and drinking, all subjective of course….

Margaritaville – first day arrival at lunch, Haven customers free, hence eating there. It was OK. Volcano nachos are always a hit with the family. Never went back…and for that matter no one else seemed to go back there either. What a waste of space. How about adding a Mexican specialty restaurant instead?

Food Republic – first evening, ½ price for Haven guests, hence eating there (no we’re not cheap, but why pay full price??!!). The prices here are full ala carte, about what you’d pay at your local place for sushi or a spring roll….and it wasn’t much better either. Maybe it was the hype of reading all of the great reviews on these boards, but I was expecting unicorns and rainbows to jump out of my fish skewer. Dinner for the 3 of us, with a tip, came to around $65.

Pinchos Tapas Bar – this was ala carte as well, but if you have the dining package, $7/pp upcharge allows you to order as much as you like off the menu until they roll you out. Everything was very good. The potatoes were especially terrific as was the salmon and the crab salad. I highly recommend. Eating on the Waterfront, too, makes it extra nice.

La Cucina – best service of all the places and the food was good as always. Please, no bread. I’m not wasting room in my stomach for the bread… We ate at the Waterfront. Always great to do that.

Bayamo – another Waterfront dining experience that was very good. La Cucina was better; and this is from me, a seafood guy.

Haven Restaurant – we ate here a lot for both dinner and lunch. The menu does get repetitive and tiring, but the service and quality are high. To mix it up, if available, I’d order something I especially like off the lunch menu at dinner time and/or had a side from some random entrée added to my entrée order. The ahi tuna poke is great; and the seafood misto is probably my favorite.

THE HAVEN EXPERIENCE

Who doesn’t like to get special treatment? The Haven is terrific. First on the ship. First off. Want to see a show? Get escorted there in the special roped-off section. Want a handful of gummy bears at 2pm? Dive in. Want fruit-flavored chilled water? Here’s a cup.

My wife liked the sundeck the best given the no crowds, easy access to shower and proximate and never crowded a hot tub. Me? I never hung out there at all. I wanted to like the bar, but the newer design of the Escape makes the bar seem darker and more closed-in than the Breakaway and Getaway layout. To me, it was way less inviting, so it didn’t appeal to me.

Speaking of comparisons with the other ships, the Escape Haven restaurant was bigger with outdoor seating which was great. That was a good upgrade. I wonder, though, who the heck ever sat in the lounge area outside the restaurant on the second level? It seemed like the Haven equivalent to the empty Margaritaville. That spot would be great for card playing or gaming tables OR extend the restaurant into there and add a bar into the second level overlooking the water. (You’re welcome NCL. Make those changes on the next ship please).

ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOWS

Again, this is subjective, but here goes my one line reviews:

11pm adult comedy show – worth the wait and funny.

Brat Pack – if you like 80’s music and 80’s movie mash-ups, you like this show. I do. Nice job.

After Midnight – this cast was so, so talented. Cotton Club-era singing and a lot dancing. Bravo.

Pile it High – this wasn’t a show, per se, but it was fun to watch how much food people can load on their plates at the buffet, eating while in line (yuck), not realizing (maybe?) they can always go back again if they needed to.

BERMUDA WE’RE HERE

On day one, we took the free NCL ferry (to your immediate right after getting off the ship…it’s pink, you can’t miss it) to St George. The objective was to get to the Crystal and Fantasy Caves from St George via the bus, so prior to getting on the ferry, I stood in line for, like, 50 hours in the blazing sun to buy 6 tokens, 2 each for the 3 of us. Let me get to the punch-line: I don’t think I’d do this again and I don’t really recommend it, mostly for the time sink. The ferry, while very comfortable and air conditioned and clean, took about 45 minutes. Walking to the bus stop, waiting, and riding on the very crowded bus (we weren’t the only ones with this plan!) took about a half hour. Doing the Fantasy cave (as opposed to Crystal Cave with its 3 fewer steps) took around 40 minutes. The cave was rather small and hot and humid as hell. The clear water pools in the cave seemed to be taunting us: “why didn’t you go to the beach instead dummy”. All-in, we spent about 4 hours doing the round trip. We got back and welcomed the relaxation, A/C, and cool showers of the ship (plus the bars of course).

On day two, we went on the Wild West kayak adventure, booked through the ship excursion as it was actually more economical than doing it on-line straight through the company due to the Latitudes discount and shore excursion credit offer. We had done this very same kayak thing before and will do it again every time. We took a small bus with others from the Dockyard to one of the westerly locations and basically paddled around for a few hours, saw sea turtles (so great, but not a whale), and had about a half hour or so to swim. Our bus driver and kayak guide (is that a thing?) was terrific, pointing out the sights, especially the soon-to-be packed cricket stadium, as it was Cup Match weekend, a huge, huge event and party for the Bermudians. I was kind of honored to get a small taste of their happiness and excitement for their most fun time of the year.

On day three, the weather was iffy, so we stayed around the Dockyard and saw the rum cake place get mobbed by eager passengers. Maybe since it was Cup Match weekend (which we were warned would close down and slow certain businesses), but there was maybe only 10 cakes left on the shelf and a crowd jamming themselves in. We got out of there before the fists started flying for those $16 edible souvenirs.

CASINO

Yes, this place is smoke-filled. I like my share of casinos, but this is worse for smoke than land-based ones and, at least in my memory, worse than the Breakaway and Getaway. It could be selective memory and/or who was on the ship. Maybe they all took advantage of the buy 3 cartons, get 1 free offer, which is an actual sale. (I wonder how you get through customs without paying tax, or lying, as you’re allowed only 1 carton to return to back to the U.S.).

Anyway, the casino has a decent selection of games. I spent my time in there and certainly my money, but note to savvy casino-goers, your best comp parlay is prior to boarding the ship, getting your room discount by booking through Casinos at Sea (CAS). Settling up at the last night to get comps is rather a joke. Don’t expect much at all.

Nonetheless, the casino staff is really great and, as in any decent multi-day visit to a casino, you meet a sub culture of people who share your interest and make some nice acquaintances.

RANDOM LAST THOUGHTS

Best kept secret? Maybe it was the bars on the Waterfront. I really, really liked the 5 O’clock Somewhere bar. It’s right on the water, great breeze, million dollar views, and friendly bar staff (Jay and Eko). I’m so glad that it is undiscovered as it made it way easier to get a seat.

My 14 year old loves the Entourage teen club. It’s important to ensure your teen gets there on night one so they can strike up friendships. From there, we saw her at designated meal, curfew, and Bermuda excursion times. Win-win for all involved.

I bought a watch on the ship. No buyer’s remorse, but I didn’t pay less (probably a tad bit more, even after tax) than back at home. Should’ve went on-line to double check, but I fell prey to killing time (ha!) in the watch area and zero-ing in on the one that caught my eye.

The muster drill was surprisingly fast and efficient. Passengers showed up, didn't talk, shut down their phones, and we were out of there. Very impressed. Thanks everyone!

Disembarkation, at least with the Haven, was rather easy. We lugged our stuff up from the 12th deck to deck 17 (this time using the elevator), got there around 7am, handed our tip envelopes to the butler and the concierge, and got through customs by 7:30 and on the Henry Hudson parkway going north by 7:45.

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Thanks for the review!

 

We have sailed often in suites and Haven rooms and things like late wine and flower are frequent on our cruises. We never give it a second thought since they eventually show up. Hope you didn't dwell on it and let it ruin your cruise.

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No, didn't dwell on it. The balcony mess and repeated lack of couch-to-bed conversion were the main issues. All good. Staff was responsive.

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Thanks for the review; I'll be on the ship in 6 days now, and it is good to hear from someone who just got off!

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We will be in the aft Haven suites this weekend. How was your butler? Some reports have been bad. Only thing extra besides the snacks is we will order breakfast in the room the 3 port days

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We were in the same room 2 weeks before you! The cover for the balcony chairs didnt appear until the 2nd day I believe, but after that they seemed to be there every day.

 

To give another view on the butler question I figured I would throw this out there...The butler was very helpful and even helped to set up my room the day of our wedding at the request of my matron of honor and bridesmaid they went above and beyond that day. We have multiple room parties and the butler (same butler for my parents were in the same room on the other side) and he always delivered whatever we requested quickly. :)

 

I'm sorry you had some minor issues with fuh balcony, i think I was too busy to notice if we had the same issues, but glad you didn't let it ruin your trip. :) 90912381136365d47a15056fd782753d.jpg302b82c1f5859e98cf9b9edf81a076c8.jpg819d7a4b596e01c80d6e8677cc8bff36.jpg

 

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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Thank you very much for your review as I really enjoyed reading it.

 

We recently changed our mini suite with large balcony to a Haven aft balcony suite for the Escape next May. I am hoping our first impression of the balcony will be impressive as that was the major selling point to us as we use our balconies alot so I can thoroughly understand your complaint.

 

Also took notice of your comments regarding the caves. I have been back and forth about doing them. Now I think we will skip them. My family really enjoys excursions that are water based. I am going to research the kayak excursion now based on your review--so thank you again!

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We were in the same room 2 weeks before you! The cover for the balcony chairs didnt appear until the 2nd day I believe, but after that they seemed to be there every day.

 

To give another view on the butler question I figured I would throw this out there...The butler was very helpful and even helped to set up my room the day of our wedding at the request of my matron of honor and bridesmaid they went above and beyond that day. We have multiple room parties and the butler (same butler for my parents were in the same room on the other side) and he always delivered whatever we requested quickly. :)

 

I'm sorry you had some minor issues with fuh balcony, i think I was too busy to notice if we had the same issues, but glad you didn't let it ruin your trip. :) 90912381136365d47a15056fd782753d.jpg302b82c1f5859e98cf9b9edf81a076c8.jpg819d7a4b596e01c80d6e8677cc8bff36.jpg

 

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

 

Yep, that's the room. Miss it already. I'm assuming your butler was Dilip, who was ours. He and the staff did a wonderful job with your room decorating. That looks terrific. Regarding our "issues", he was responsive and was a gem through the cruise. I don't want to leave an impression that he was bad. I'm assuming that maybe on the aft and forward Haven locations, outside of the main Haven area, that perhaps signals may get crossed with staff responsibilities. Also assuming that most balconies on the ship don't require the attention that these gigantic aft balconies require, so maybe they slip given the long hours and hard work required of all of these incredible staff.

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Yep, that's the room. Miss it already. I'm assuming your butler was Dilip, who was ours. He and the staff did a wonderful job with your room decorating. That looks terrific. Regarding our "issues", he was responsive and was a gem through the cruise. I don't want to leave an impression that he was bad. I'm assuming that maybe on the aft and forward Haven locations, outside of the main Haven area, that perhaps signals may get crossed with staff responsibilities. Also assuming that most balconies on the ship don't require the attention that these gigantic aft balconies require, so maybe they slip given the long hours and hard work required of all of these incredible staff.

 

Oh yes I agree 100% the butler (Dilip) was great. Any time there was something wrong he was quick to answer and seemed to show up within minutes if we asked him to come down. We miss the room already for sure. The massive balcony probably does require more maintenance then others. This was our first NCL cruise and I really enjoyed it. (we are elite on princess and Diamond on RCCL). I was a bit nervous bringing 40 people on a cruise line we had never gone on before, but 3 weeks later we are already booked on Bliss later this year because we enjoyed the room (and our Butler) so much. The only issue we had was with the concierge who messed up a few reservations for us (we had comedy booked and it was on our TV as booked, but we when we showed up they did not have us on the list). I would highly recommend these rooms to others. :D

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It seems that your room steward was sub par. Glad that things worked out in the end. I've stayed in the exact same stateroom but both the steward and butler were excellent. They rotate so it's impossible to know who will be working where.

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trideljenn - did you get married on ship or did you get married ashore in Bermuda?

 

We got married off the ship in Bermuda at the Reefs Resort. It was on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The reception was also at the Resort at their open are restaurant that looks like its carved into the cliff called Coconuts. With us being there for 3 days we were able to have friends and family who were on the east coast (and other places) fly in for the wedding and still have time to spend with us on land. It also gave us time to not be rushed or the potentially for missing a port during hurricane season. It was the best of both worlds in a way. We did a great charter cruise on a boat for 3 hours the night before the wedding and everyone said it was a highlight of the trip (besides the wedding).

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