REVIEW: The ship within a ship

LATTE test drives the newly christened Norwegian Encore

Words by Felicity Byrnes

Entering The Haven aboard Norwegian Encore, the glass doors close behind us with a reassuring whoosh. Suddenly, the rest of the 4,000 passengers are an ocean away as the concierge greets me by name and asks, “Ms Byrnes would you care to come this way?” Oh yes, yes I would.

The Haven, described as a ‘ship within a ship’, may be a Babushka Doll-like concept, but the mood is distinctly Fabergé Egg. That door symbolises something of an air lock to an interior island – accessed by a Platinum card held by the 50 rooms within (and 30 elsewhere on the ship), creating a gated community at sea. With so much high-adrenaline, multi-generational bounty aboard (augmented reality integration laser tag anyone? Perhaps a virtual reality roller-coaster?), it’s easy to overlook this aptly named pocket perched discreetly at the ship’s prow on Deck 17 and 18.

The Haven Pool
Attention to detail in The Haven Lounge
Attention to detail in The Haven Lounge

It would be possible to solely remain in The Haven and use it as a private playground; a two storey Business Class lounge that you can also sleep in – on fine linen. There’s a mixologist on hand at intimate The Haven Bar, the atrium of The Horizon with dramatic glass fronting (offering a similar view to the bridge directly below), and private restaurant with ever changing menu. But the star is an internal pool, more Soho House than cruise ship, with in-water loungers, retractable roof and swinging chairs.

But to be honest, I was sold at Ms Byrnes. On such a large ship, having a concierge making priority bookings from dining reservations to shows and ashore excursions, who knows your name, is a wild cruising privilege. Toss in the VIP area and waiting room upon embarkation and disembarkation, the 24/7 private butler assigned to each suite (who can also deliver in-room meals) and there may be those dragged kicking at port, hanging onto their Hans Grohe bathroom fittings.

For the nitty-gritty, the staterooms are in eight different categories, ranging from romantic, couple Spa Suites to opulent, six-person, 1,458-square-foot Owner’s Suites. There’s flashes of flair with gilt edged tables, L’Occitane toiletries, pillow-top mattresses, plush towels and bathrobes, Nespresso machines and evening snacks delivered to your cabin (keeping that butler busy).

So who stays here? As Ben Angell, Vice President & Managing Director NCL APAC says, “This is an oasis for anyone, such as grandparents who have children or grandkids staying elsewhere on the ship – they might come back here after a morning with the family. Couples wanting privacy or anyone seeking a small ship experience, but with all the bonuses of a larger ship.”

Those ‘bonuses’ will keep everyone busy, whether a 7 or 70-year-old. This is the ultimate intergenerational ship, the length of three football fields (333m), sporting 29 eateries, 9 jacuzzis, 3 pools and 5 water-slides. While the external hull is a high-vis primary colour explosion, inside it takes cues from soothing Scandi style with a coastal-chic palette of sands and aquamarine with pops of contemporary art.

Teenagers will gravitate to the Galaxy Pavilion, while red-hot racers can’t go past the two-tier Norwegian Encore Speedway, the largest at sea with a hairpin extending four metres over the ocean. The Ocean Loops, a clear tubular waterslide swings out from the ship 16 storeys high and even toddlers have their own splish-splash park.

But the Spa… ahhhh, the spa, is a bubble of calm even non-Haven guests can enter. It specialises in the unexpected from a Salt Bath chamber (good for allergies and respiration), to a Sanarium (sauna with 40% humidity) or -10 degree Snow Room (2 minutes maximum recommended). Elemis diffusers emit lavender scent in smoke signals while faces are lathered in the barber shop on black leather recliners or some watch the world waft by on internally heated stone chaise lounges.

If concerned about calories, from a tipple at The Sugarcane Mojito Bar (on the outdoor promenade) to Japanese Teppanyaki, up-market Mexican Los Lobos or hot-ticket La Onda by Scarpetta (the crunchy short ribs inside silky smoot ravioli is a flavour explosion), the Fitness Studio, still sporting that new-car smell, awaits for some sporting ying to that indulgence yang.

Top Five:

  1.  There are no set mealtimes or rigid itineraries (apart form specialty restaurant bookings). Be formal or casual whether dining white tablecloth style or grabbing a burger.
  2.  Kinky Boots and Man of Choirs are world-class shows, the former choreographed by UK Strictly Dancing judge Arlene Philips.
  3. This 3,998-passenger ship is the 17th in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, the fourth and final ship in the Breakaway-Plus class and cost nearly $1 billion.
  4. Plastic Water bottles have been replaced with Just Water, a carton made mostly of paper and a cap made of sugar cane (eliminating six million single-use plastic bottles annually).
  5. Adventure loving Australians will love the Alaskan itinerary from autumn 2021 featuring exciting nature based shore excursions. Next year she will also travel to Bermuda, Canada and New England and Western Caribbean.

So who should be the godmother of such an innovative, vibrant and fun-loving ship? No less than GRAMMY Award-winning artist Kelly Clarkson, who officially christened Norwegian Encore last weekend in Miami. With a rock-n’roll godmother, it will be fun times ahead – on the ultimate multi-gen ship.

Godmother Kelly Clarkson performing at Norwegian Encore's christening ceremony.

Writer was a host of Norwegian Cruise Line.

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