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Just got back from the NCL ENCORE.  I was on the 2/16/20 sailing.  First let me start by saying I have been on +50 cruises sailing on lines including NCL, RCL, Disney, Carnival, Princess, MSC, Costa, and Celebrity.  In terms of NCL I have done the Sun, Breakaway/Getaway twice and Escape 3 times.  I have enjoyed my trips on all of those ships.  I have never posted a review on cruise critic but after my current cruise felt compelled to do so since I have received a lot of valuable information on this forum.  Let’s start with the good.  Embarkation/Disembarkation were both great.  Quick and easy.  The service staff was good aside from waiter service on deck 17.  I purchased passes for the thermal spa which was also nice aside from the steam room and sauna breaking down on a few occasions. I enjoyed the food in the Locale probably better than O’sheehans on the other ships.   I do prefer the look/feel of O’sheehans though.  Heard the shows were good but did not do any of them.  Also, could not get the comedian at all as it was sold out the first day and I tried early that day.   


Ok, now for the bad.  Granted I did know about some of this prior through cruise critic but we booked when it was not even out yet and it would have been difficult to change last minute.  We also were hoping it was not as bad as some of the other negative reviews I read but it was actually much worse.


Typically we cruise to get away from the stress of everyday life and that is usually the case on most of our cruises.  Not so much with this one. 


The chair situation = total insanity---  If you want a chair in the sun you better wake up at 6:00 am.  First sea day is always the easiest (but you still need to get up very early) to get a chair.  As people  start catching on the chairs in the sun are even harder to come by.  This makes for a lot of stress and tension on the pool decks if you enjoy the sun.  In addition, they do have a 15 minute policy which is posted on the large TV screen by the pool deck.  So essentially, you need to not only wake up very early to get your chairs, you then become a slave to your chair if you wish to keep it.  I understand there are always selfish people who put their stuff on chairs and you do not see them the whole day, so something needs to be done but 15 minutes is aggressive and we saw many items being removed not only by the NCL staff but by people who thought they can do their own countdown.  The NCL staff even came an harassed us while most of our group was there and tried giving us a hard time about the 2 chairs that were not being used at the moment.  Let’s just say that did not work out well for them.  Seriously,  we could not all go to lunch together in fear of losing chairs.  Want to take a dip in the pool you need to go in shifts.  So much unnecessary stress from this and why is that?   Because there is limited deck space and not enough chairs.  Perhaps the Laser Tag, Race Car Track, and expanded Vibe areas has created limited sun bathing opportunities.  And was it really necessary to add laser tag to prime top deck real estate?  I feel like you could probably have put that anywhere else.  Good thing these are all premium experiences so instead of my free deck chair I can either pay for one in Vibe or pay additional to drive or shoot.   Vibe was sold out immediately and our flight was delayed so forget about that at an additional $209 per person.  Even to get Vibe I heard a fellow passenger was running and it was very stressful.  The best part was the last day when we were supposed to go to their private island.  The water was choppy and around 8:45 am they announced that we would be skipping the port due to weather and having a final day at sea instead.  I was in my room at the time of the announcement and did not even put my shoes on.  I just grabbed my beach bag and ran to the pool deck along with everyone else.  You have never seen such chaos.  It was like a volcano was erupting and people were running for safety in the form of lounge chairs.  Then it started to rain and most people just stayed on their chairs in fear of losing them.  Also, bear in mind on deck 17 which is right above the pool deck the chairs on the water side are not even full lounge chairs.  They are sitting chairs that recline.  Usually NCL has loungers on both sides.  Maybe some people like these but those were always the last ones taken and the people across from us said they wished they had a real lounge chair.  Most people want to be in the sun on a Caribbean cruise as they are usually escaping the cold weather at home.  I even contemplated taking my chair with me to the buffet one day.  Ok, maybe I am being a little dramatic but that is how I felt.  By the last sea day if you were not up by 5:45 am you would be lucky to find a lounger in the sun.  The deck chairs also had no space between them.  Everyone was right on top of each other.  You definitely became very close to your fellow passengers.  It was almost like it was all one large wide chair across the deck with everyone sitting on it.     


The Buffet = Poor Design---   Food was not great on this ship in the buffet aside from a few things and the set up was awful.  Typically there is a round set up where you just walk all the way around and pretty much both side have the same thing with maybe one variation here or there.  This ship had stations all over the place.  One small section for bread another in a different corner for something else.  Really no flow at all and I always felt like I was missing something.  The pizza was inedible.  It was like cardboard.  Definitely, the worst I have ever had at sea.  I really thought they were joking when they put it out.  I have always felt NCL was strong in their buffet but not on this ship.  Also, I never remember them shutting down the entire buffet between lunch and dinner time.  They always had a small section open but not this ship.  We tried to go around 3:30 pm and it was closed.  They said go to the Observation lounge which really had nothing there and the Local was a 30 minute wait.  So make sure if you are really hungry you go earlier.  And if you have lounge chairs you set enough time aside so your entire party can go in small groups so your stuff is not confiscated.  Maybe you can have a food runner from your group bring back dishes from the buffet to the lounge chairs.  I am sure for an additional upcharge NCL may just start doing this.


Dining room = Slow/Understaffed --- Food was hit or miss in there which I feel is typical of most cruises.  The service was very slow but our waiter was very good.  The problem is he was by himself.  No busboy or help so he had to do everything including drinks.  They are even understaffed in the specialty restaurants as we had the same issue at Cagney’s.  Everyone is working hard and running around but there simply is not enough wait staff around the ship.  This is not the staff’s fault. It is NCL being cheap and not having enough wait staff to accommodate their diners.  Again let’s just add premium upcharge services and reduce our staff. 


Bar Service = Slow – If you are fortunate enough to get lounge chairs on deck 17 good luck getting a drink.  The waiter service does not start until later and there simply are not enough of them up there.  Also, there is no bar on that deck which makes no sense.  So if you want a drink you need to go down to one of the bars on the pool deck.  Those bars are very busy during the day so make sure you have a good crew to guard your chairs while you are gone.   


Pool/Hot Tubs = Lacking-- So there is 1 adult pool for +4000 people which I have never understood about the NCL ships.  The kiddie pool shut down a few times on the cruise so kids were then in the adult pool.  Also, unless you paid for Vibe I did not see any area that had adult only hot tubs.  So there were many little kids in all of the hot tubs.  Spice H20 alleviated that issue in terms of the hot tub but again they decided laser tag makes more financial sense since they do not charge for spice H20.


Smoking = Forget it---  I like to enjoy a nice cigar on a cruise.  Typically NCL has Spice H20 but for some reason felt laser tag went better on the back of the ship.  Can’t you just charge me for Spice H20 if you need to make more money?  Also, I confirmed no cigar smoking was allowed while playing laser tag so there went that.  Also no cigar smoking while driving.  So outdoor smoking on NCL Encore does not exist anywhere for a cigar smoker.  They have recently added a cigarette smoking area outside on deck 16 right near the kiddie area which makes absolutely no sense.  The back of the ship was perfect for all smoking as the smoke goes off the back and does not linger for other passengers.  Cigar smokers were confined to a small indoor cigar lounge with limited room.  There were a few nights you could not get a seat in there and why would I want to smoke inside when I am on a cruise.  I can do that at any cigar lounge at home.  Someone threw up in the lounge during the week which made for a wonderful aroma in there.  The outside cigar lounge automatic door took 3 days to fix.  The people in there were all very friendly but all agreed that there needed to be an outdoor smoking area for cigars. 


We did express many of these concerns to the NCL staff that came around.  Unfortunately, they can’t really do anything about the poor ship design.  Also, we spoke to many passengers who felt the same way we did so it was not just us.  Many said they would never sail that ship again and this was the worst of the NCL ships they had been on.


Will I sail NCL again, maybe.  Will I sail the ENCORE again, not even if it was free.   

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Thank you for your review.  I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your cruise, it seems like the Encore is not the ship for you.


I don't care about pools, hot tubs, smoking or bar service, so maybe the Encore is a good fit for me. 

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i get that its frustrating if sitting in the sun all day is your thing.  fortunately for me it isnt. i avoid the sun like the plague and am happiest when i find a chair away from the noise of the pool deck, in the shade, where i can listen to the ocean, read, nap, etc.


the pool bars are always the slowest because of volume.  for that reason, we never even attempt to get drinks there.  plenty of other bars on board that will instantly get you a drink with minimal lines.


as for cigars, most people do not want to smell and breathe smoke. i honestly like that areas for smoking are limited.

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I enjoy the sun and from the people on our cruise they do as well.  I really do not go on Caribbean cruises for Go-karts and Laser tag because I can do that anywhere else.  It is fine if it has it but in my opinion deck space is very important.   Many people we spoke to on the ship said the same thing.  Even some of the staff said they did not care for the ship and it was not their favorite.  I loved the Escape but this one for me is just not set up for what we like.  If you do not enjoy the sun this ship is fine.

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6 minutes ago, AlyssaJames said:

Found the chair hogs.

Yes.  Call me Mr Hog but if I really were i would not really care if anyone took my stuff since i would never show up anyway.  I do not leave my chair for long periods of time but do enjoy having lunch and a dip in the pool on occasion.   That is something anyone should be able to do.

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I haven't sailed on the Encore yet, so I can't speak to a lot of your experiences, but I believe the buffet is laid out like the one on the Bliss and I could not agree more about the layout being terrible. With all the small stations, you feel like you have to go around and check every single one to make sure you don't miss anything and there is NO FLOW to it AT ALL. It was my number one complaint the first time I sailed on the Bliss. It's bad enough that the buffets are always overcrowded, but add in the disorganized layout and it is pure chaos.

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Good Morning


I am sorry you had such a disappointing experience on the Encore. That sucks. 


I am not as an experienced cruiser as you, i have only done 3 Disney, 1 RC, 1 previous NCL, and a blow out Oceania cruise in the med a few years ago for our 25 anniversary. That said, I was on the Feb 15 Sailing, and absolutely loved, loved, loved the encore.


But, we did purchase the Vibe. And I am sure that made a huge difference in the quality of our sea days. Also, it was not sold out at 11, and I think one of the vibe bartenders send it was not sold out at all.


It certainly seemed 1/4 full at the very max, on a sea day,  in the afternoon. I am going to write a review about this trip and ship, because we loved it so much, I believe I am going to book it on the panama cruise next February.


I will say, that the issues with the ship you point our are very real, but its possible to avoid some of them anyways.


Everyone had a right to their feelings, and I am sure you are very disappointed. But I don’t think everyone should write off this ship.

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That is why the back was great in Spice H20.  It did not have smoke linger through the ship and it was an adult only area.  Now they have a cigarette smoking area on 16 so everyone near the pool deck and kid areas walk by there during the day.  Not sure what they were thinking.  

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38 minutes ago, crusintime123 said:

  I have never posted a review on cruise critic but after my current cruise felt compelled to do so since I have received a lot of valuable information on this forum. 



Here's where you lost me...


Why only review a bad experience?

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I am sure Vibe would have definitely helped with the chair situation.  Unfortunately we were not able to get it.  Also, why do we have to pay additional for this.  It is like they try to force you to get it for an upcharge.   They reduce the free chairs and deck space for this.  Just not right in my opinion.

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7 minutes ago, marktwothousand said:

Wow...I am heading this weekend and this review has really got me thinking and worried about my trip. I am not a sun person but one of the people I am travelling with is. I am sad for her already if what you say is true.

I hope your experience is better.  We had a great group and still had a good time just trying to pass on our experience.  The lounge chair situation was rough.  I would definitely recommend having your group get up early.

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Just now, crusintime123 said:

The ship has the same capacity and is typically full so I am not sure what your point is.  The deck still has the same space.

My point is....lots of kids....lots of commotion.  Also...lots of cabins at max capacity.


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Finally, they are doing something about the chair hogs.  I don't mind the fifteen minutes, would like it better if it were thirty minutes, you can be away from your lounger, because it is enough time to go to the restroom or go to the buffet and grab a bite to bring back. Hope they initiate this on the other ships.

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11 minutes ago, crusintime123 said:

I am sure Vibe would have definitely helped with the chair situation.  Unfortunately we were not able to get it.  Also, why do we have to pay additional for this.  It is like they try to force you to get it for an upcharge.   They reduce the free chairs and deck space for this.  Just not right in my opinion.

If they didn’t charge for it, it would also be packed. I wouldn’t cruise this week from this area, schools are closed and families choose to cruise because flights are so expensive during presidents week.

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When the limit is 60 minutes, people complain.

When the limit is 30 minutes, people complain.

When the limit is 15 minutes, people complain.


When NCL staff moves items after the allotted time, people complain.

When NCL staff doesn't move items after the allotted time, people complain.


When NCL offers VIBE, people complain that they couldn't get a pass.

When NCL offers a larger VIBE with triple the number of passes, people complain that VIBE takes up too much space.


When VIBE doesn't cost much, people complain that the demand is too high.

When VIBE cost more, people complain that the price is too high.


A question for everyone..."If you could, what changes would you make...knowing that some people will still complain?"


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