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bkrickles1

1/19/2020 Encore Sailing

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Just got back last night from our 7 day Encore cruise.

Just to get it out of the way, I'll say it was great!

It was me, my wife and 19yo daughter sailing with my aunt and uncle in 2 balcony cabins on deck 14 aft.

No Haven, no vibe, no priority access. Just regular passengers who were prepared because of these forums and successfully navigated this beautiful ship. Big shoutout to Birdtravels whose crazily detailed review was awesome for planning. Thanks again!!

I booked this sailing in December, 2018 and had all 6 perks. Dining, drink, 3rd pass. free, $50 shore excursion credit per port, 250 minute wifi and free air. I thought it was a great deal and we took advantage of all of them. We didn't like the time of our return flight yesterday (5pm), but we saved so much I'd say it was worth it.

We arrived in Miami the night before our sailing and stayed at a hotel 5 minutes from the pier. We got up early, took an Uber to the ship ($6) and arrived before 9:30. 

We checked bags at the curb and was waiting on line at security for about 20 minutes before they opened it up and we zipped through and got our boarding group card (we were group 2).

By around 11 they started the boarding process which was fast and easy. Again, we had no priority but boarded immediately after the priority people.

We went straight to finish our reservations. I had already booked Choir of Man, Kinky Boots and our 3 SDP  meals so we only needed to book comedy.

We went to the Social and it was painless. The line went fast and they had lots of staff there who were very helpful. They had papers there that had the schedule so you could figure out how to coordinate your days and evenings so you could avoid conflicts.

I'll add here that we had determined before our sailing that we had zero interest in the Go Karts, Laser Tag or Galaxy Pavillion. This definitely would change some things if they are important to you and from what others said, it can add some stress. I'll also add that I believe this sailing was light on children. I was told there were 4500 passengers on board but never asked for a kids count. I'm determining this because we spent all of our sea days on deck 17, overlooking the pool area in the exact same loungers, and I'd glance over at the water slides and the lines were never that long. In fact I thought they were short and easy to get on.

After making comedy reservations, we headed to the Observation Lounge for drinks and snacks. We were sitting in chaise lounge chairs by the front windows having a cocktail before noon. This is where we had made plans to meet our aunt and uncle when they boarded, which was approx. an hour later. After they boarded, we had another drink or 2 and headed to the mdr for a nice sit down lunch. I believe avoiding the buffet before sailaway is the way to go.

The OL might be one of the nicest spaces I've seen on a ship. Just beautiful, friendly service and virtually never a crowd. It's enormous! My aunt and uncle spent much of their time there and we'd make the occasional visit for a drink and a snack. Great bartenders and great walk around service. I'd highly recommend the space, especially for when you first board. 

Good tip if wifi is important and I can't take credit for it as I learned about it here. We stayed off it on sailaway day and at 12:01AM my daughter logged in and updated to unlimited. We received $125 credit and saved the $30 for the first day and our net cost was $54. Again, a good value and the wifi was pretty good overall. At least that's what my daughter said as she was the one using it 95% of the time. We even facetimed a few times with people from home and it worked reasonably well at times.

Food was very good overall. Our specialty dining was at Q, Los Lobos and Teppenyaki. Los Lobos was our favorite. Everything was good and we tried everything on the menu. And the desserts were even better. Teppenyaki was also great. Fun, with fresh and tasty food. Q was very good. Great apps, good entrees and good desserts.

MDR's were good too. Had our best meal at Manhattan room but we ate in Taste and Savor too and enjoyed them as well. Of course everything wasn't great but you pick and choose until you find something you like and it's quite enjoyable. Service was great in all dining venues, although we had one waiter in Taste one night for dinner that wasn't on his game but I actually believe it was a language barrier thing. We're pretty laid back (not my uncle) and roll with it pretty well.

Buffet was pretty much like every buffet on every ship we've sailed on. Again, you try different things until you find something you like. Seating wasn't an issue and we'd frequently get stuff from there and bring it to the pool deck (deck 17 actually) to snack on.

Ate at the Local once and it was fine too.

Chair hogs. Same as every ship we've sailed on. There's a 15 minute rule (that seems extremely short to me) that's posted on the big screen always but not enforced too much from what I saw. With that in mind, people were able to find chairs somewhere almost all of the time if they were patient. This didn't affect us as I went to the gym every sea day at 5:45am and was up on deck 17 before 7:30 getting 3 chairs for me and my girls (who were sleeping) and I never left. I'd go in the whirlpool and listen to music until my lazy girls made it up on deck. In fact, we had the exact same loungers every day we went up there. 

We like the sun and the pool atmosphere and we'd stay up on deck all day. The 3 of us would never leave at the same time so we did follow the rules.

The DJ was good and the Temperature Band was very good.

I met a couple of people who got Vibe passes who boarded just after us so for this sailing I don't believe you needed priority access to get it. Every sailing is probably different so you have to decide how important that would be for you. I know I could have gotten them but I didn't want to pay and, as I said, we like the busy pool atmosphere and we always had loungers.

Entertainment was so much fun and the quality was terrific. I think we hit every venue and we enjoyed them all.

Choir of Man should never be missed. We saw it on the Escape 18 months ago in the supper club and said it was the best show we'd ever seen on a cruise ship and the new production with the new set and additional players was awesome too. And my daughter (and wife) thought the guys were super cute!

Kinky Boots was great too. Started a little slow and then it gets going and is a top notch Broadway production.

Comedians were good. The Social is a really nice venue and we went and saw both comedians in their 18+ sets.

Phil & Keisha at the Sugarcane were good.

Saw Yesterday (the Beatles tribute band) at the Cavern Club and the main theater and had a blast. The Cavern Club was especially fun.

Jim Badger at the DB was good too. We went there one night for about 45 minutes and enjoyed it.

This ship, probably more than any other we've been on, had so much music everywhere and it was good. I love music so this was great for me and my people.

There was a terrific piano player who frequented the OL and the Atrium (there was music all the time in the Atrium). Guns and Rojas played everywhere and played all sorts of stuff from PInk Floyd to Sinatra. Strange but surprisingly good.

And the country band in Q, Top Shelf, were so much fun also. My wife and daughter love country and couldn't have been happier with the band.

Deck parties were fun. We didn't make it to Glow but stopped by for the 80's party and the Band mashup which featured most of the musicians playing together and that was really good.

I read just about all the reviews prior to sailing and got such good advice. The criticisms I read about just didn't apply to us. I think it was mostly because we were so prepared and we are pretty laid back when we vacation. Those that said they couldn't get drinks, I just don't comprehend that. Did the pool bar sometimes get busy? Of course it did, but I never waited that long. I'd glance over before wandering over and if it was 3 deep (extremely rare), I'd wait a couple of minutes. The other bars on board were like any bars you'd go to on land. Sometimes you waited a couple of minutes, other times they were practically empty and you were served immediately. I got great value out of my drink package (lmao) and went to almost every bar and liked it all. They knew me in the OL so I'd sometimes have a drink before I sat down. I was also able to get a couple of unopened beers at the bars and bring them back to my cabin so I could have one at my leisure on the balcony. I had my mini fridge emptied the first day just for that reason and to fit some water bottles.

Cabin steward was so nice. We left her a note on the first day with our requests (and a $10 bill) and she fulfilled everything right away. We saw her when we wanted but she wasn't intrusive. We had a problem with our safe 2 times. It just died and they replaced the battery once and then they replaced the safe entirely. Nobody's fault.

We booked two shore excursions. The first was in Tortola. It was "Escape to Jost Van Dyke" and it was great!! We had an 8:15am time slot so we met on the pier, boarded a catamaran and took a 45 minute ride around Tortola to the island of Jost Van Dyke and into the bay of White Bay Beach, home of the Soggy Dollar Bar. Catamaran pulled right up to the beach and we spent 3 hours lounging in front of an establishment that's right next the Soggy Dollar, called Hendo's. Great lounge chairs with umbrellas and even better painkillers. I believe I had 6 of them, but who's counting. It was definitely up there as one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. Ride back to the pier had rum punch included so it was a good day already and it was only 1pm when we got back.

On Great Stirrup Cay we booked a large cabana. It was very nice to have a spot and it was nice for my aunt and uncle to have shade. It took a little while for the guy bringing drinks to get his stuff together by we did arrive early and once he got going, we were good to go. There was a hot dog cart right in front of us and a food truck right next to us that some pretty good sandwiches. The mahi mahi was very good. There's a lot of food in various spots and plenty of bars too. Anyway, another real good day and we did stay there until almost the bitter end. Our tender back was an adventure. It was super rough and we couldn't get close to the ship for awhile. And then once we did, they couldn't get the ramp set up and then it was slamming against the tender, making it a little precarious getting off and onto the ship. But we survived.

I'm gonna leave it at that.

We had a great time with virtually nothing to complain about but as I've mentioned here a couple of times, I pretty much knew everything ahead of time and wasn't surprised by anything.

The Encore is a mega ship and if you're clueless I could see it being extremely frustrating. I met several people who couldn't get into the comedy shows, who didn't know the OL existed. These folks were spending their nights on standby lines and still not getting into some things. This would drive me crazy.

We were discussing one night how it was 20+ years ago. You could board a cruise ship and just let it come to you. No reservations. No worrying if you'd get a seat somewhere. No forums to spend your whole life obsessing over. Lmfao!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, sorry if I was a little scattered. I believe I still have alcohol in my system and I'm a little foggy still.

If I missed anything or you have questions, feel free to throw them out there.

 

 

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Wow what a great review.  So nice to hear a positive one BK.  

I have done my homework as well and we are sailing Feb 2.  Did you book all your comedy reservations on the kiosk as you entered the ship or did you go to the social to book. 

Wanting to book laser and cars as well and not sure where or how the most efficient way would be.

 

Thankyou

 

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Great review. We did the first two cruises on the Encore out of Miami. Enjoyed everything on the ship that we did. Great staff and entertainment was the best we have seen. Thanks for sharing.

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7 minutes ago, awinte2 said:

Wow what a great review.  So nice to hear a positive one BK.  

I have done my homework as well and we are sailing Feb 2.  Did you book all your comedy reservations on the kiosk as you entered the ship or did you go to the social to book. 

Wanting to book laser and cars as well and not sure where or how the most efficient way would be.

 

Thankyou

 

I thought about the kiosks, but I was booking for 2 cabins and had read you can't do that from the kiosks unless you have a card from each of the cabins and my aunt and uncle were boarding later than us.

Also, we boarded as early as possible and the Social was easy to navigate and took me about 5 minutes.

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Thankyou Bk for the quick reply.  I did not think you could book the comedy shows for other cabins at all. There are a total of 3 cabins in our group.

Will definitely go to the social as soon as we get on board.

Thankyou you again for taking the time to post.

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2 minutes ago, awinte2 said:

Thankyou Bk for the quick reply.  I did not think you could book the comedy shows for other cabins at all. There are a total of 3 cabins in our group.

Will definitely go to the social as soon as we get on board.

Thankyou you again for taking the time to post.

I booked everything for mine and my aunt and uncles cabin.

I called in pre-cruise and booked the main theater shows and our specialty dining for both cabins.

The only thing we had to do onboard was the comedy and it was no problem as long as you know all the cabin numbers.

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47 minutes ago, awinte2 said:

Thankyou Bk for the quick reply.  I did not think you could book the comedy shows for other cabins at all. There are a total of 3 cabins in our group.

Will definitely go to the social as soon as we get on board.

Thankyou you again for taking the time to post.

I will also be on the Feb 2 cruise! We still need to book our specialty dining and the Beatles once we get on board. I was planning to go to Guest Services? Can you tell what "the social" is that you mentioned?

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The Social is the comedy club on deck 6.  

Not sure about specialty dining as we are eating in the Mdr. Can you not book you dining on line before you get on the ship.

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Yay! I'm so glad you had a great time! I didn't doubt it for a second lol 😄

 

I had to smile to myself at your comment about there having been few kids on board... I literally just read the exact opposite elsewhere from someone having a gripe! I know who I believe 😉

 

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1 hour ago, awinte2 said:

The Social is the comedy club on deck 6.  

Not sure about specialty dining as we are eating in the Mdr. Can you not book you dining on line before you get on the ship.

Thanks!

Couldn't get any dinner reservations for 2 on-line. Most of the slots available were for 1, 4 or 6 people and only at 9:30. NCL told me they only put approx. 30% of the times on-line and that I need to make them when I board

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I was on this sailing and there were lots of kids of all ages, more then I have ever seen on a cruise. This was our 14th cruise, 4th on NCL. We got Vibe passes and were very happy to escape the madness on the pool deck. I will post my own review and agree with much of what you say but also disagree with some. Overall for us a good cruise but we will not sail on Encore again.

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26 minutes ago, SoJerseyGirl said:

Thanks!

Couldn't get any dinner reservations for 2 on-line. Most of the slots available were for 1, 4 or 6 people and only at 9:30. NCL told me they only put approx. 30% of the times on-line and that I need to make them when I board

So Jersey Girl if it is just 1 cabin you can book everything at the kiosks. Not sure where you book the restaurants. Perhaps Bk can help you with that.

Hope we all have a great time Feb 2 sailing of Encore.  

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23 minutes ago, awinte2 said:

So Jersey Girl if it is just 1 cabin you can book everything at the kiosks. Not sure where you book the restaurants. Perhaps Bk can help you with that.

Hope we all have a great time Feb 2 sailing of Encore.  

Restaurant reservations were made in Teppenyaki which is across from Social. 

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We were on this sailing too...and on Escape to Jost Van Dyke with you...and in front of Hendo's lol. So now I'm just trying to figure out who you guys were, since we were on the roll call together too!!! 

 

I agree with most of what you wrote...I had many hesitations about Encore and truthfully, it started out poorly, as we got to our room to find a cancelation notice for Escape to Jost Van Dyke instead of our tickets. But I went immediately to the shore excursion desk and got them to waitlist us. The day before Tortola, the assistant manager called us and we had our JVD tickets in hand. Sometimes it pays to just say that you're not happy with something, and more often than not, they'll try and accommodate. 

 

After that though, my hesitations and trepidation were completely for naught. Loved the ship...staff was mostly great; entertainment was great; plenty to do or not do; real easy to book dining and entertainment reservations the first day, etc. We had Vibe passes and had a blast up there, but as you said, the pool deck didn't seem as crowded as people made it out to be. 

 

The only thing I'll disagree with you on is the amount of kids. We were overwhelmed by the amount of screaming kids about 60% of the time we weren't in Vibe. There were a few large groups on our sailing as I'm sure you noticed and they all seemed to be a part of the groups. So when they annoyed us, we did what any adults do and went to the bar, lol! No harm, no foul. 

 

Glad we all enjoyed it and now I'll be trying to figure out who you guys were at JVD! 

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3 hours ago, awinte2 said:

So Jersey Girl if it is just 1 cabin you can book everything at the kiosks. Not sure where you book the restaurants. Perhaps Bk can help you with that.

Hope we all have a great time Feb 2 sailing of Encore.  

Will do! Thanks for the tip

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1 hour ago, novanoto said:

We were on this sailing too...and on Escape to Jost Van Dyke with you...and in front of Hendo's lol. So now I'm just trying to figure out who you guys were, since we were on the roll call together too!!! 

 

I agree with most of what you wrote...I had many hesitations about Encore and truthfully, it started out poorly, as we got to our room to find a cancelation notice for Escape to Jost Van Dyke instead of our tickets. But I went immediately to the shore excursion desk and got them to waitlist us. The day before Tortola, the assistant manager called us and we had our JVD tickets in hand. Sometimes it pays to just say that you're not happy with something, and more often than not, they'll try and accommodate. 

 

After that though, my hesitations and trepidation were completely for naught. Loved the ship...staff was mostly great; entertainment was great; plenty to do or not do; real easy to book dining and entertainment reservations the first day, etc. We had Vibe passes and had a blast up there, but as you said, the pool deck didn't seem as crowded as people made it out to be. 

 

The only thing I'll disagree with you on is the amount of kids. We were overwhelmed by the amount of screaming kids about 60% of the time we weren't in Vibe. There were a few large groups on our sailing as I'm sure you noticed and they all seemed to be a part of the groups. So when they annoyed us, we did what any adults do and went to the bar, lol! No harm, no foul. 

 

Glad we all enjoyed it and now I'll be trying to figure out who you guys were at JVD! 

I have a quick question concerning JVD.  Do you happen to know why your reservation was cancelled?  We are sailing in March and have this excursion booked, the 1030 slot.  But with the itinerary change with us leaving Tortola at 2 PM now, i don't see them having the 1030 trip.  I wad curious if you had this scheduled originally.  I tried to get an answer from NCL, but had no luck.  Do you know if they still had 2 trips to JVD?  Thanks in advance.

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1 minute ago, Mcarsey said:

I have a quick question concerning JVD.  Do you happen to know why your reservation was cancelled?  We are sailing in March and have this excursion booked, the 1030 slot.  But with the itinerary change with us leaving Tortola at 2 PM now, i don't see them having the 1030 trip.  I wad curious if you had this scheduled originally.  I tried to get an answer from NCL, but had no luck.  Do you know if they still had 2 trips to JVD?  Thanks in advance.

 

As of now, they only have the early slot, the 815 slot, as there isn't enough time for the 1030 slot. The crew of the Rebel Yell is trying to figure out if they can make any changes with NCL, but as of now, nothing has changed. You will inevitably have your 1030 slot canceled sooner or later, so if you want to go, I would change to the 815 slot. 

 

We had ours canceled because although we booked the 815 slot, they told us they essentially overbooked that slot and there was nothing they could do. I told them they better fix it and eventually they did, as they had cancelations and we were first on the waitlist. But they did say they canceled people based on the timing of when you booked the excursion, so to be safe, better to change yours sooner rather than later. 

 

For the record, also, it was worth its weight in gold! My wife and I's favorite excursion we've ever done, in about 15 cruises or so! 

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9 hours ago, bkrickles1 said:

Just got back last night from our 7 day Encore cruise.

Just to get it out of the way, I'll say it was great!

It was me, my wife and 19yo daughter sailing with my aunt and uncle in 2 balcony cabins on deck 14 aft.

No Haven, no vibe, no priority access. Just regular passengers who were prepared because of these forums and successfully navigated this beautiful ship. Big shoutout to Birdtravels whose crazily detailed review was awesome for planning. Thanks again!!

I booked this sailing in December, 2018 and had all 6 perks. Dining, drink, 3rd pass. free, $50 shore excursion credit per port, 250 minute wifi and free air. I thought it was a great deal and we took advantage of all of them. We didn't like the time of our return flight yesterday (5pm), but we saved so much I'd say it was worth it.

We arrived in Miami the night before our sailing and stayed at a hotel 5 minutes from the pier. We got up early, took an Uber to the ship ($6) and arrived before 9:30. 

We checked bags at the curb and was waiting on line at security for about 20 minutes before they opened it up and we zipped through and got our boarding group card (we were group 2).

By around 11 they started the boarding process which was fast and easy. Again, we had no priority but boarded immediately after the priority people.

We went straight to finish our reservations. I had already booked Choir of Man, Kinky Boots and our 3 SDP  meals so we only needed to book comedy.

We went to the Social and it was painless. The line went fast and they had lots of staff there who were very helpful. They had papers there that had the schedule so you could figure out how to coordinate your days and evenings so you could avoid conflicts.

I'll add here that we had determined before our sailing that we had zero interest in the Go Karts, Laser Tag or Galaxy Pavillion. This definitely would change some things if they are important to you and from what others said, it can add some stress. I'll also add that I believe this sailing was light on children. I was told there were 4500 passengers on board but never asked for a kids count. I'm determining this because we spent all of our sea days on deck 17, overlooking the pool area in the exact same loungers, and I'd glance over at the water slides and the lines were never that long. In fact I thought they were short and easy to get on.

After making comedy reservations, we headed to the Observation Lounge for drinks and snacks. We were sitting in chaise lounge chairs by the front windows having a cocktail before noon. This is where we had made plans to meet our aunt and uncle when they boarded, which was approx. an hour later. After they boarded, we had another drink or 2 and headed to the mdr for a nice sit down lunch. I believe avoiding the buffet before sailaway is the way to go.

The OL might be one of the nicest spaces I've seen on a ship. Just beautiful, friendly service and virtually never a crowd. It's enormous! My aunt and uncle spent much of their time there and we'd make the occasional visit for a drink and a snack. Great bartenders and great walk around service. I'd highly recommend the space, especially for when you first board. 

Good tip if wifi is important and I can't take credit for it as I learned about it here. We stayed off it on sailaway day and at 12:01AM my daughter logged in and updated to unlimited. We received $125 credit and saved the $30 for the first day and our net cost was $54. Again, a good value and the wifi was pretty good overall. At least that's what my daughter said as she was the one using it 95% of the time. We even facetimed a few times with people from home and it worked reasonably well at times.

Food was very good overall. Our specialty dining was at Q, Los Lobos and Teppenyaki. Los Lobos was our favorite. Everything was good and we tried everything on the menu. And the desserts were even better. Teppenyaki was also great. Fun, with fresh and tasty food. Q was very good. Great apps, good entrees and good desserts.

MDR's were good too. Had our best meal at Manhattan room but we ate in Taste and Savor too and enjoyed them as well. Of course everything wasn't great but you pick and choose until you find something you like and it's quite enjoyable. Service was great in all dining venues, although we had one waiter in Taste one night for dinner that wasn't on his game but I actually believe it was a language barrier thing. We're pretty laid back (not my uncle) and roll with it pretty well.

Buffet was pretty much like every buffet on every ship we've sailed on. Again, you try different things until you find something you like. Seating wasn't an issue and we'd frequently get stuff from there and bring it to the pool deck (deck 17 actually) to snack on.

Ate at the Local once and it was fine too.

Chair hogs. Same as every ship we've sailed on. There's a 15 minute rule (that seems extremely short to me) that's posted on the big screen always but not enforced too much from what I saw. With that in mind, people were able to find chairs somewhere almost all of the time if they were patient. This didn't affect us as I went to the gym every sea day at 5:45am and was up on deck 17 before 7:30 getting 3 chairs for me and my girls (who were sleeping) and I never left. I'd go in the whirlpool and listen to music until my lazy girls made it up on deck. In fact, we had the exact same loungers every day we went up there. 

We like the sun and the pool atmosphere and we'd stay up on deck all day. The 3 of us would never leave at the same time so we did follow the rules.

The DJ was good and the Temperature Band was very good.

I met a couple of people who got Vibe passes who boarded just after us so for this sailing I don't believe you needed priority access to get it. Every sailing is probably different so you have to decide how important that would be for you. I know I could have gotten them but I didn't want to pay and, as I said, we like the busy pool atmosphere and we always had loungers.

Entertainment was so much fun and the quality was terrific. I think we hit every venue and we enjoyed them all.

Choir of Man should never be missed. We saw it on the Escape 18 months ago in the supper club and said it was the best show we'd ever seen on a cruise ship and the new production with the new set and additional players was awesome too. And my daughter (and wife) thought the guys were super cute!

Kinky Boots was great too. Started a little slow and then it gets going and is a top notch Broadway production.

Comedians were good. The Social is a really nice venue and we went and saw both comedians in their 18+ sets.

Phil & Keisha at the Sugarcane were good.

Saw Yesterday (the Beatles tribute band) at the Cavern Club and the main theater and had a blast. The Cavern Club was especially fun.

Jim Badger at the DB was good too. We went there one night for about 45 minutes and enjoyed it.

This ship, probably more than any other we've been on, had so much music everywhere and it was good. I love music so this was great for me and my people.

There was a terrific piano player who frequented the OL and the Atrium (there was music all the time in the Atrium). Guns and Rojas played everywhere and played all sorts of stuff from PInk Floyd to Sinatra. Strange but surprisingly good.

And the country band in Q, Top Shelf, were so much fun also. My wife and daughter love country and couldn't have been happier with the band.

Deck parties were fun. We didn't make it to Glow but stopped by for the 80's party and the Band mashup which featured most of the musicians playing together and that was really good.

I read just about all the reviews prior to sailing and got such good advice. The criticisms I read about just didn't apply to us. I think it was mostly because we were so prepared and we are pretty laid back when we vacation. Those that said they couldn't get drinks, I just don't comprehend that. Did the pool bar sometimes get busy? Of course it did, but I never waited that long. I'd glance over before wandering over and if it was 3 deep (extremely rare), I'd wait a couple of minutes. The other bars on board were like any bars you'd go to on land. Sometimes you waited a couple of minutes, other times they were practically empty and you were served immediately. I got great value out of my drink package (lmao) and went to almost every bar and liked it all. They knew me in the OL so I'd sometimes have a drink before I sat down. I was also able to get a couple of unopened beers at the bars and bring them back to my cabin so I could have one at my leisure on the balcony. I had my mini fridge emptied the first day just for that reason and to fit some water bottles.

Cabin steward was so nice. We left her a note on the first day with our requests (and a $10 bill) and she fulfilled everything right away. We saw her when we wanted but she wasn't intrusive. We had a problem with our safe 2 times. It just died and they replaced the battery once and then they replaced the safe entirely. Nobody's fault.

We booked two shore excursions. The first was in Tortola. It was "Escape to Jost Van Dyke" and it was great!! We had an 8:15am time slot so we met on the pier, boarded a catamaran and took a 45 minute ride around Tortola to the island of Jost Van Dyke and into the bay of White Bay Beach, home of the Soggy Dollar Bar. Catamaran pulled right up to the beach and we spent 3 hours lounging in front of an establishment that's right next the Soggy Dollar, called Hendo's. Great lounge chairs with umbrellas and even better painkillers. I believe I had 6 of them, but who's counting. It was definitely up there as one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. Ride back to the pier had rum punch included so it was a good day already and it was only 1pm when we got back.

On Great Stirrup Cay we booked a large cabana. It was very nice to have a spot and it was nice for my aunt and uncle to have shade. It took a little while for the guy bringing drinks to get his stuff together by we did arrive early and once he got going, we were good to go. There was a hot dog cart right in front of us and a food truck right next to us that some pretty good sandwiches. The mahi mahi was very good. There's a lot of food in various spots and plenty of bars too. Anyway, another real good day and we did stay there until almost the bitter end. Our tender back was an adventure. It was super rough and we couldn't get close to the ship for awhile. And then once we did, they couldn't get the ramp set up and then it was slamming against the tender, making it a little precarious getting off and onto the ship. But we survived.

I'm gonna leave it at that.

We had a great time with virtually nothing to complain about but as I've mentioned here a couple of times, I pretty much knew everything ahead of time and wasn't surprised by anything.

The Encore is a mega ship and if you're clueless I could see it being extremely frustrating. I met several people who couldn't get into the comedy shows, who didn't know the OL existed. These folks were spending their nights on standby lines and still not getting into some things. This would drive me crazy.

We were discussing one night how it was 20+ years ago. You could board a cruise ship and just let it come to you. No reservations. No worrying if you'd get a seat somewhere. No forums to spend your whole life obsessing over. Lmfao!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, sorry if I was a little scattered. I believe I still have alcohol in my system and I'm a little foggy still.

If I missed anything or you have questions, feel free to throw them out there.

 

 

Thank you so much for this informative review! I’m even more excited for our Feb 2 sailing. I have 2 questions...

1) on our edocs it says not to go to port until 12pm boarding. Should we really be there at 10am?? 
2)I’m confused about the internet. We have the free 250 minutes. I am curious how you got a credit and only paid $53 for unlimited... is that really all it cost? 😀
 

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Great review!

 

The Bird appreciates the shoutout. 
 

We enjoyed our time on gbd Encore and have already booked a Bermuda cruise once she moves to New York. 

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1 hour ago, natb said:

Thank you so much for this informative review! I’m even more excited for our Feb 2 sailing. I have 2 questions...

1) on our edocs it says not to go to port until 12pm boarding. Should we really be there at 10am?? 
2)I’m confused about the internet. We have the free 250 minutes. I am curious how you got a credit and only paid $53 for unlimited... is that really all it cost? 😀
 

Priority boarding starts before 11:00 am. General boarding by group number by 11:15. Show up between 10:00 and 10:15 if you like to board early. 

 

The 250 minutes are worth $125 toward an unlimited plan. 
 

https://www.ncl.com/onboard-packages/internet-packages

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9 hours ago, natb said:

Thank you so much for this informative review! I’m even more excited for our Feb 2 sailing. I have 2 questions...

1) on our edocs it says not to go to port until 12pm boarding. Should we really be there at 10am?? 
2)I’m confused about the internet. We have the free 250 minutes. I am curious how you got a credit and only paid $53 for unlimited... is that really all it cost? 😀
 

You can absolutely show up at 9:30 or 10am if it's important for you get on board early to book stuff or just to start your vacation as soon as possible. We always do and it's never an issue. The time on your edocs is more of a suggestion so everyone doesn't show up at the same time.

Regarding the 250 minute perk. As Bird said it's value is $125 and it can be used towards an upgrade.

What we did was not use wifi on sailaway day. It's a short day as you can use regular service until at least 4pm or whenever sailaway is and you should be too busy having fun to be interested in your phone anyway (this was a hard sell to my 19yo). The tip lies in the fact that unlimited wifi costs (rounding up) $30 per day or $210 for 7 days. Waiting until 12:01AM of that first night allowed us to not pay for that first day, saving $30, and paying $180 minus the $125 credit for a total of approx. $55 for the entire week. Again, a good value. It's key to not use wifi at all that first day (until midnight) or you'll lose the $125 credit.

My daughter did it herself at pretty much exactly 12:01am, as I was sleeping already, and it worked perfectly.

She used it mostly but my wife and I did have her log out occasionally so we could log on and check on things back home.

The wifi worked reasonably well all week and I thought it was a clever tip that I learned about on these forums among many other things.

Also, if you're on Verizon as I am, your regular data plan will work as if you're home in both San Juan and St. Thomas.

Have a great cruise!

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15 hours ago, Mcarsey said:

I have a quick question concerning JVD.  Do you happen to know why your reservation was cancelled?  We are sailing in March and have this excursion booked, the 1030 slot.  But with the itinerary change with us leaving Tortola at 2 PM now, i don't see them having the 1030 trip.  I wad curious if you had this scheduled originally.  I tried to get an answer from NCL, but had no luck.  Do you know if they still had 2 trips to JVD?  Thanks in advance.

We were on this sailing and booked the 10:30 Escape to JVD soon after excursions opened up on line.  We were switched to the 8:15 time slot and had a wonderful beach half day.  We found out about the switch upon boarding, tickets were in the cabin.  If you booked early you might be okay, otherwise I also recommend you change to 8:15. 

This was our first time on NCL.  It was a great cruise but I agree there were way too many kids.    Luckily we are not pool people so avoided most of the ruckus. 

 

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23 hours ago, bkrickles1 said:

I read just about all the reviews prior to sailing and got such good advice. The criticisms I read about just didn't apply to us. I think it was mostly because we were so prepared and we are pretty laid back when we vacation. Those that said they couldn't get drinks, I just don't comprehend that. Did the pool bar sometimes get busy? Of course it did, but I never waited that long. I'd glance over before wandering over and if it was 3 deep (extremely rare), I'd wait a couple of minutes. The other bars on board were like any bars you'd go to on land. Sometimes you waited a couple of minutes, other times they were practically empty and you were served immediately. I got great value out of my drink package (lmao) and went to almost every bar and liked it all. They knew me in the OL so I'd sometimes have a drink before I sat down. I was also able to get a couple of unopened beers at the bars and bring them back to my cabin so I could have one at my leisure on the balcony. I had my mini fridge emptied the first day just for that reason and to fit some water bottles.

 

Excellent review!  As a native Long Islander, I can absolutely agree with your perspective on the bars, etc.  I think if you live in a hyperactive, crowded place like Long Island, you have to learn to be patient in busy environments, otherwise you would be burned out really quick.  I think many people who cruise on the big ships are not accustomed to being in such crowded environments, which causes their negative reviews.

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