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Trip Report - NCL Encore December 8th Miami to E. Caribbean

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On 12/31/2019 at 10:08 AM, moosecrouse said:

On Breakaway and Getaway the Margaritaville/American Diner area was originally the Uptown grill. It was a free stand serving burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries etc. It was very popular because of the proximity to Spice. However someone decided to monetize the space and now it's pretty much an empty space underutilized space

Yes, I remember reading some older reviews of the Breakaway/Getaway and seeing the space being used as you described. It's especially a shame on this ship, that has so little top deck space that is free to use. We'll get to the laser tag soon but this was another area that, for all the prime real estate on, I never saw anyone actually USING it. I'm sure people were playing laser tag, but for the amount of time it sat empty it made the decision to put it there instead of Spice especially painful.

14 hours ago, Oceansaway17 said:

Thank you very much for your wonderful review (did not miss photos of drinks and food etc etc)

Other folks have loaded up their reviews with too many photos of drinks etc that I would lose interest except for The  DougOut guy as he did have wonderful photos.  


You on the other hand provided what I would call real Cruise CRITIC information trail and it was done in a way that made it fun to read.

I for one would never stress out about getting vibe passes but your story and the way it unfolded kept my interest. My what drama and so uncalled for.  They should hold a lottery on line and post the winners before the ship sails. This having to dash on fast reminds me of Boxing Day in England and the sales at various store I hear are great but aggressive.


I am someone who uses various cruise lines but I find the specialty restaurants on NCL some of the best like Cagneys and Teppanyaki.  I have been tempted many times to try Food Republic and I think I will soon.


So again let me say your review is one of the BEST for Encore so far and thanks very much. I learned a lot.


I have sailed on Escape and Bliss  and used the thermal Spa - and loved them both but Escape was the best as it is in the front of the ship.  Escape keeps getting more positive reviews over and over and is becoming a beloved ship by all.


I am trying to decide between the Joy(No studios or thermal Spa I believe) or Encore.  The more I see the art work on the hull of the Encore, the better I like it.  thanks again for great review (without photos)


I think you would make a good writer too.

Thanks so much for your kind words! I forgot to shout out @TheDougOut because his inaugural report provided so much valuable intel on the ship when we were all hungry for information!


It was actually the whole Vibe saga that convinced me I should write all of this out in the first place. Once we made sure L & P were in the correct place and getting their passes, I told T "everyone on Cruise Critic is going to the Social because that's where the first few lives said they were being sold". Not sure if they are continuing to sell them at Q, but I wanted people to be aware that the location may change and that if they really want passes, getting to port early is paramount especially if you don't get priority boarding. Personally, the "dash for Vibe" has never really been my idea of how I want to start my vacation, but this wasn't for me and is hopefully a one-time thing. 


Not sure which itinerary you're going on for Joy/Encore, but from what I know about both I'd probably pick Encore if I had the choice. While the top deck situation is annoying, at least she follows the blueprint of the other Breakaway/Breakaway Plus ships so you have some reasonable idea of what to expect. With the Joy - even despite the retrofitting when they pulled her from China, she's just so DIFFERENT and probably in ways I wouldn't expect. That said, maybe that's exactly the reason to book the Joy - to experience something a little different. I know I draw heavy comparisons in this review to the Escape - it's hard not to, since we sailed her last year and the ships are so similar. Also I feel like the Escape has a lot of fans, so using her as a reference helps put the differences in context for a lot of people. I'm sailing the Getaway next January and so will probably be making heavy comparisons to her younger sister yet again.


Thank you again for your wonderful compliments! Photos are not my forte - don't get me wrong, I took some but they're not great quality and can't compete with some of the others that already exist of the Encore on this site. What I hoped to offer for this ship is what countless people did on Cruise Critic for me for the Escape - capture all of the little tips and tricks that can only come from someone who has been on her. This ship is so new that the information about her is so scarce compared to the Escape, so I wanted to bring back what I learned so that other people can plan their trips on her accordingly - or book a different ship, as the case may be. I'm glad that it's been useful (and enjoyable!) for you to read, and hope it serves the same purpose for others as well.

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Deck 18 Features:


Encore Speedway: Before leaving on our cruise, this is the top thing everyone asked us about when they learned which ship we were on. "Isn't that the one with the go-karts on top?" (Never mind that the Bliss also has go-karts...). Originally I thought we weren't going to end up doing the go-karts. From the added expense ($15 per person) to the fact that early reports had the go-karts selling out immediately, and the fact that we had to deal with Vibe passes and restaurant reservations when we boarded, I thought there was no way. So we didn't sign up and everyone assumed that it wasn't something that was going to happen for us.


I think it was after we got back on the ship in Tortola (aka Day 4 of 7) that I decided to look and see if there were any slots open for the 4 of us to go to the speedway. My hopes weren't high - I can't tell you how many times I read "go-karts were fully booked by sailaway on Day 1!), and with only 2 sea days left on the itinerary surely everyone was going to be trying to fit the go-karts in.


Miraculously, there was availability for 6 people at 2:00 on our last sea day (there are 8 total go-karts in operation at any one time, I believe) so we all signed up for that slot. If I recall correctly, there were some on the evening before as well but each couple had specialty dining reserved for that point. There were also several slots available for smaller parties. So while I would advise that if the go-karts are a mission critical attraction for your group, I would definitely book ahead of time, if you want to try to squeeze it in later you may be able to score some open slots!


Make sure that you wear closed-toe shoes for the go-karts, or you'll be turned away. It's also good practice to make sure you leave behind anything that may come loose while driving. I brought sunglasses and they allowed me to have those, but my helmet actually fit so tightly that I couldn't get the sunglasses on my face! When you get to the speedway, the first thing they will have you do is step on a scale (mentioned in my last post regarding the water slides) that basically just has green for "within the weight limits of this attraction" and red for "outside the weight limits of this attraction". I believe the upper weight limit is 265 lbs. I don't know if there is a lower weight limit/height requirement, but I do know that at certain times of day, the speedway operates with double karts so an adult can drive a child, which probably allows for smaller children to ride but not drive. I will note that I weigh less than 200 lbs, but my hips were a tight fit in the karts. Additionally, you ride very low to the ground - people with mobility issues with knees or something along those lines may have difficulty getting in and out of the karts. You will wear a helmet with shield, and they pass out what I'll refer to as "head socks" to put over your hair/face to keep the helmets clean. You return these at the end, and they must wash them because ours smelled fresh and clean when I put it on. Much preferable to putting your head in a sweaty helmet.


Prior to driving, you will have to watch a safety video and get briefed on the basics. There wasn't anything too egregious - the right pedal is for acceleration, the left pedal is for braking. Slower karts keep to the right, passing occurs on the left. Don't bump the other karts or the walls (on purpose!). There are different flags for whether it's okay to pass another kart, whether you need to use caution, whether you need to stop, and when you're on your final lap. It was basically common sense, but they'll go over it with you a couple of times.


One thing I wished they'd explained - they don't line all 8 karts up and start you at once. Instead, the 8 of you will file out of the pit station single-file and your speed is throttled back to a crawl during this point. Once everyone's out on the track, they'll let the karts go full-speed and your placing is tracked by your lap time, not your finish position. Once your kart completes 8 laps, your speed will again be throttled back for you to come back to the pit.


The kart itself handled well, and you can get some decent speed but nothing too crazy. It was fun, but I was pretty much by myself for most of the time so had no idea how fast/slow I was in comparison to the rest of the group. My best lap time was something like 51 seconds so not setting any records for speed there, but I mainly just wanted to see how fast I could take corners without braking so my turns were pretty wide and probably wasted time. You get a decent amount of time on course - I thought it was going to be over in 3 minutes but I'd say we were closer to 10. We all felt it was worth the money to do at least once.


I would allow up to 45 minutes for the go-karts from start to finish, though it'll probably take closer to 30. There's also a viewing platform one set of steps up from the entrance on Deck 19. This area has laser guns that spectators can pick up and shoot at the racing karts, and if they hit the kart the driver will get a speed boost that they can use anywhere on course to get an extra burst. It's a fun way of involving more people in the speedway at any given time, though when we visited a few of the guns appeared to be out of order.


Overall, the go-karts were fun and if you're able to, I would recommend making time for it at least once during your cruise. We did ours on a sea day, but to be honest with you you really can't see over the safety walls so I was more or less oblivious to where I was the entire time I was on course. That said, it was more fun than I was expecting it to be.


This post was longer than I wanted it to be, so I will save laser tag for my next post.

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who also happens to be from PA.  Anyhoo I think I will try the Encore.  I love the artwork on the hull and I will agree the loss of H2O is annoyed but what are ya gonna do.


As for sitting out on deck, I am one person who likes to move every 45 mins so I would never to a chair hog.  And as for the observation lounge, I feel the loungers are uncomfortable and I choose to sit in chairs.  Besides, The Encore has studios and Thermal SPA.  

Again thanks for your GREAT writings.  You should write stories and try to get published as you held my interest.  toodles

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Really enjoying reading this. I just finished off writing my own trip report from the Encore Thanksgiving sailing and found yours. It seems we had some similar experiences and thoughts, but you've highlighted some things I forgot already. I've actually booked to sail on Encore again in March so I'm enjoying reading about other's experiences. 🙂 

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