Story and photos by GREG COATES
In true Miami style, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) officially christened its newest ship, the 3,998-passenger Encore, Nov. 21 along with special guests and godmother, Grammy Award-winning artist and TV host, Kelly Clarkson.
NCL welcomed more than 3,500 guests, including travel partners, investors, government officials, media, family and friends of Norwegian Cruise Line for the christening event, which included performances from the cast of Kinky Boots – Encore’s premiere theatre show – and Clarkson.
NCL president Andy Stuart, who is leaving the line this month after 31 years with the company, received a hero’s welcome and delivered the ceremonial Champagne on stage via one of the ship’s electric go-karts.
Stuart, who described the event as bittersweet for him, said Encore is a milestone for NCL and the result of the hard work of the “best team in the industry.” He thanked agent partners for their support, saying, “we simply would not be here without you.”
Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said, “Norwegian Cruise Line has been sailing from Miami for over 50 years. We were the first to offer weekly cruises to the Caribbean from Miami, which shaped the city’s reputation as the ‘Cruise Capital of the World.’ Five years ago, we launched our history-making Breakaway Plus class and today, we are proud to christen Norwegian Encore, the final ship of this class and a true representation of the evolution of the brand, right here in our hometown of Miami.”
For agents wondering if the leadership change at Norwegian will spell changes for their relationship with the line, in a word, “no.”
Incoming president and CEO Harry Sommer, commented, “We are 100% committed to the trade. We believe the trade community adds a huge element to driving consumer demand, that’s how we fill our ships.”
Regarding NCL’s Partners First program, Sommer said the line is committed to becoming the easiest major cruise line to do business with.
Norwegian Encore – the last of the line’s Breakaway Plus Class – features the world’s longest race track at sea, Encore Speedway, at 1,100 feet with four high-speed curves extending up to 13 feet over the side of the ship, the largest outdoor laser tag arena at nearly 10,000 square feet, and new immersive escape room and interactive theatre experiences in the 10,000-square-foot Galaxy Pavilion.
Encore features one of NCL’s iconic colourful hulls, with artwork by award-winning Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo. A representation of his modern and abstract style, the ship’s hull features a labyrinth of colour inspired by Arranz-Bravo’s life by the sea in Barcelona.
In addition to featuring many of the highly rated restaurants and lounges that have made the Breakaway Plus class one of the most innovative and successful in the company’s history, Norwegian Encore offers a new elevated Italian dining experience, Onda by Scarpetta. Other specialty restaurants include American Diner, Food Republic, Q (Texas smokehouse), Los Lobos and Ocean Blue. Encore also offers guests a Starbucks.
The Tony Award-winning musical, “Kinky Boots” headlines the world-class entertainment on board, as well as returning guest favourites “The Choir of Man,” “Happy Hour Prohibition: The Musical” and the rocking Beatles cover band of The Cavern Club. All highly recommended.
As part of a recent partnership with JUST Goods, Inc., Norwegian Encore is the first ship in the company to be plastic bottle free. (By Jan. 1, 2020, NCL will be the first major cruise line to eliminate plastic bottles across its entire fleet, a significant effort towards providing guests with more sustainable options at sea.)
Accommodation options range from Studio to Mini-Suite staterooms, as well as the popular Haven, the ship within a ship concept (featuring 24-hour butler service, a private lounge, restaurant and pool/sundeck area).
Other amenities onboard the Encore include the Observation Lounge (open to all guests and offering 2,723-sq.-ft. of 180-degree panoramic views at the front of the ship – the place to be when in Alaska), the Mandara Spa (offering more than 50 rejuvenating treatments), the adults-only Vibe Beach Club, Ocean Loops, (a double loop waterslide that hangs 11 feet off the side of the ship and 159 feet above the ocean), the Cellars wine bar, casino and state-of-the-art fitness centre.
Norwegian Encore currently offers seven-day voyages to the Eastern Caribbean from Miami. On the horizon are Bermuda and Canada and New England itineraries from New York City beginning April 22, 2020; and voyages to the Western Caribbean from Miami beginning Dec. 12, 2020. In the spring of 2021, it will make its West Coast debut and sail to Alaska from Seattle.
For guests looking for an extravagant day at the beach, and a chance to spoil themselves, there’s the newly opened Silver Cove, an exclusive oceanfront resort-style destination on Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s 270-acre private island in the Bahamas.
Silver Cove features 38 beachfront villas, a Mandara Spa (open to all passengers with pricing the same as onboard), as well as the new Moet & Chandon bar and the Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar (exclusive to villa guests).
The 38 air-conditioned villas range from studios to one- and two-bedroom villas equipped with a full bathroom, daybed, club chairs, TV with on-demand entertainment and outdoor patio and lounge seating. They also include access to a private beach and the Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar.
Six lagoon one-bedroom villas include an expanded living area with a wet bar and a private king-bedded master bedroom. Two lagoon two-bedroom family suite villas also feature a private dining area, entertainment area and a larger master bedroom with a spa tub and shower.
Pricing ranges from US$299 to US$1,100 per day.