Last year on this date my son and I were embarking on our first Trans-Atlantic voyage. It also happened to be the inaugural voyage of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Encore. It had a quick 2-day cruise out of Germany with some travel-industry professionals on board before our cruise, but ours was the first one opened to the public.
My son, Danny (19 at the time) and I were the two who went. We only decided about 60 days before to go. We paid $499 each for interior cabins, with the opportunity to bid on an upgrade. I bid $50 each for an upgrade to a balcony cabin and got it. This was likely because the ship was sailing at 1/3 of its capacity. Not everyone loves spending 10 nights on a ship in the north Atlantic in October.
We’d been watching the ship being built and the trials for months on a Facebook group. It was so exciting when people who were in Portsmouth, England on November 1 posted pictures of her berthed there, just waiting for us.
We took the train from London to Portsmouth. Someone from the group recognized me in the train station and I ended up making a new friend! We were very lucky our train wasn’t cancelled. It was very stormy that day and there were many cancellations across the board.
We ended up taking a taxi from the station in Portsmouth to the Ship. It isn’t a far walk, but my new friend didn’t want to walk and I really didn’t either in all the wind. He picked up the taxi fare for us. Checking in and boarding was fast. There was no line when we arrived.
Our cabin was just beautiful. One thing they designed right was the amount of storage. There was plenty of room to store everything and then some. We’re not people who are into formal-wear but there was room for that in the closet. The couch folded out to a bed, if needed, and another bed dropped from the ceiling above it. The bathroom was roomy as well, especially compared to other cruise ships I’d been on. We had a lovely view of Ikea too!
I went on a tour of the bars. There’s no shortage of those on this ship and all of them were great. The one on the top right is the Sugarcane Mojito Bar. There were a few specialty bars there and even a Brew House. The bartender in the two left pictures remembered me from a cruise I’d taken the February before!
After the first night, my son ate in the buffet every night except one when they had fettuccini alfredo on the menu in the dining room (that’s his favorite). Otherwise I was alone. When I ate in Teppanyaki, I was seated with other people and had fun. Most nights I tried to have a sit-down meal. This is a sample of some of the food I had:
I didn’t take pictures of all of my food, which makes me kind of sad now. The beef short ribs were phenomenal. The second row of food came from Los Lobos, the Mexican Restaurant on board. The pretzel bites and wings came from The Local, the 24 hour food place. Seating for this was on a balcony that overlooked the atrium. I had a lot of drinks and snacks there.
The night we sailed out it was stormy. It took two days before we were out of the storm. My son and I were fine, but there were many people who were seas-sick, even people who normally didn’t get sick. There were even some members of the crew that weren’t seen those first few days. It was really bad.
We had events planned as a group. One event was a bar-crawl where we dressed up in jungle-themed costumes and went around to different bars on the ship. They gave us schedules so the entire contingent wasn’t going to the same bar at the same time. It was a blast!
We finished the bar crawl at the Observation Lounge. This was my favorite place of the cruise. I loved going up here to read and look out. They would have out finger-foods at different times and a bar right there. With the rough weather, I had a great view of a rogue wave crashing into the windows of the lounge on the 15th deck! Someone managed to capture that happening and loaded the video to Youtube:
Can’t say it wasn’t a good test for the ship!
There were plenty of quiet nooks to find all around the ship. I don’t know if this would be different were the ship full, but for this crossing, it was nice.
We didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors. Even when the storm passed, it was pretty chilly. The last two days were nice. I spent time on the pool deck and some people even went in the pools and tried out the water slides!
My son did get to try the go-karts. Yes, there is a real go-kart track on this ship!
There is a weight restriction on these. He also tried the laser-tag (without me!) and said it was a lot of fun. I went to the Virtual Reality room with him and didn’t find it that thrilling, but he enjoyed it. They were working the bugs out of a lot of those experiences while we were on board
The highlight, though, was the sail-in to New York City. Living there for 39 years, it was a perspective I never had on my former hometown.
It was just at dusk, so the lights were starting to come on in New York City. At the same time, it was light enough to get a great view of the Statue of Liberty.
There was some confusion about going through customs. Before we sailed, people had tried to get information out of Norwegian about whether we could get off the ship the night we sailed in. No one could get a straight answer. As it turned out, we had to go through customs and immigration that night, then we were allowed back on the ship once it had been completely cleared. Thankfully, I was able to get a message to my spouse who was going to pick me up. I didn’t see the sense in hanging around, waiting to re-board just to go to sleep and have breakfast the next morning, so we left after going through customs and immigration. By the time people were allowed back on the ship, we were already halfway home.
We were supposed to go on the Encore again in April to Bermuda. My son was so looking forward to it, and we all know what happened. I sure hope we get to sail on her again some day. I would love to do another Trans-Atlantic cruise. They are so much fun and so relaxing!
That was So interesting. Quite an adventure. I would have found it terrifying from start to finish. Especially as you say it was quite rough at first. I have never actually been sea sick but I am very afraid. But getting to New York at twilight must have been magical.
I was prepared. I cruised the Mediterranean and the Caribbean but they were pretty placid. I knew that Atlantic wouldn’t be, but both of us were fine. My dramamine ended up not being needed. It was so relaxing to literally have nothing to do unless I wanted to do something for 10 days!