Friday, 18 December 2015
NORWEGIAN ESCAPE 25th October 2015 Part 3
Sunday 25th October 2015
I woke and realised it was 'new ship day' today - what fun. Breakfast in the Hotel reception area was far less crowded than expected, probably because it was Sunday morning! I admired the blazing log fire on the huge television screen as I passed it.
Soon it was time to get a taxi to the new cruise ship terminal at Cruise Center Steinwerder (CC3) Buchheisterstrasse 16, 20457 Hamburg. We could see that a ferry pier was under construction in the barren area near the cruise terminal, so I imagine that will be very welcome for some people.
The sight of our ship was a welcome sight under a blue sky. We had admired the hull art on Friday and now we were about to board and sail on her. The ship has a gross tonnage of 165,157 and is the first ship in NCL's Breakaway-Plus Class, built by Meyer Werft. She has 5 exhaust emission treatment units, which are known as scrubbers. She will carry 4,268 passengers (double occupancy) and a crew of 1,370. We were told the highlights are: 28 dining options, 21 bars and lounges, 24-hour room service, Tradewinds Tax-& Duty-Free shops, Spa and Salon, Fitness Center, Aqua Park, Three-Storey Sports Complex, Internet Cafe, Entourage Teen Club, Splash Academy Youth Center, Guppies Nursery. Cabins will include 55 suites in the private section The Haven, and there is the Studio area with 82 cabins designed for passengers travelling solo. I had booked in one of these, but when recently notified of my cabin number I discovered I had been 'upgraded' to an inside twin; ah well, that's fine, and I shall look forward to a Studio cabin for my one night out of Southampton.
Once in the terminal we were told that there were no luggage labels available and we would all have to take our own luggage with us to our cabins, contrary to what we had been told by NCL. No wonder people were sitting around, watching large amounts of personal luggage. I presume lots of passengers were on a back-to-back two or three cruises, and sailing to Southampton and then to Miami. I was so glad I had my usual small pull-along case.
Another friend came to join us, newly off the plane from Heathrow, and we were soon able to check in and get our cabin cards. I had booked a Studio cabin my upgrademput me in a twin inside up on deck 14. I'm sure they are perfectly fine for many people, but I was really looking forward to one with so much more light. Studio cabins are ideal for inside single use, especially as they are always located with a dedicated Studio Lounge nearby. We boarded the ship and left our bags in our cabins. That done, we could head for the top decks to start looking around.
Top deck 20 is the Sun deck forward, and deck 19 forward is exclusive for The Haven guests, with their own Restaurant on deck 18 and Lounge and Courtyard just below on deck 17. On this deck midships is the walking track, sun deck and waves pool bar. Aft of this is the sports court, zip line, sun deck, miniature golf, ropes, and below that is where we went for lunch, at Margaritaville at Sea. It had waiter service from a good menu, but we could imagine this being an extra charge venue at some future stage. After this we continued our walk along the deck until we came to the Dolce Gelato and decided it was the right time for an ice-cream.
Down on deck 16 aft is the Garden Cafe, which NCL chooses to call 'complimentary dining'. No, we thought, it is not complimentary as we have all paid for this in our fare price. Forward of this is the Garden Cafe Bar, Aqua Park, Market Place, Waves pool bar, pools and sun deck.
Cabins are on lower decks with all the other public rooms and restaurants on decks 6, 7 and 8. I had read that there are 28 dining options on board. The tinies on board have Guppies Playroom and Nursery down on deck 5.
At home recently I had an e-mail from friends in Hamburg saying they would be sailing on this trip from Hamburg to Southampton, so we arranged to meet up on board. They then said they would be sailing on the Friday party night for agents from Hamburg so we thought we had missed them; we had unknowingly waved them off from the port! In fact they were still on board and left a message with a cabin number so we were able to arrange to meet up for departure at 7 p.m.
Lifeboat drill was at 4.30 p.m., with no need to take actual life jackets, and then there was time to unpack and keep the next arrangement. We met and went to the empty 5 o'clock Somewhere Bar hoping for a fruit juice or tea, only to discover that it was alcohol only in there. The room was empty, and had no inviting appeal to us. We then headed for the Atrium Bar and I had a pot of tea there. We all like these very sociable areas on the ship, which are always full of passengers and often music too.
Time then to put on the warm clothing ready to get up on deck for 7 p.m. departure. It was dark of course, and not very warm, but the ship's ropes were removed and we gently sailed away from the quayside. There were no spectators other than a few cars on a nearby lane so we made a very unspectacular and underwhelming departure from a very obscure part of this wonderful port of Hamburg. There were one or two lights from people waving from the side of the River Elbe as we sailed towards the sea, but that was all. The ship is to be based in the Eastern Caribbean in future so will almost certainly not be seen here again, but we are now sailing on the Inaugural Cruise of the good ship NORWEGIAN ESCAPE and that is exciting.
We have a dinner booking at the deck 8 Bayamo Restaurant at 7.30 so we hurried to prepare for that. This is a Specialty Dining Room with cover charge, located on the Waterfront area on Deck 8. The service was good and my diary notes that the food was simply OK. My two friends, who know far more about good food on ships than I do, also said it was not memorable.
We had booked - without charge - for the evening's entertainment. Called 'After Midnight', it rather disconcertingly started at 10 p.m. In fact, the show was based on slow music and songs from the 1930s in Harlem, America, and was skilfully done but was perhaps not to everyone's taste. Lots of people in the vast audience were asleep, I noticed. Well, that takes less effort than walking out...
Back in my comfortable cabin I found a notice telling me that the clocks were going back tonight, so that was an unexpected piece of good news. Outside it was raining hard but inside the ship it was snug and warm and tomorrow we all have a day at sea. In my brand-new ship's cabin I had a brand-new bed, mattress and linen etc. so all was extremely well with my world.
To be continued...