First look at Norwegian Encore, the world's newest mega cruise ship

Norwegian Encore at sea
Norwegian Cruise Line ships' are made distinctive by their colourful hulls

The colourful Norwegian Encore has landed. The 17th ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and the fourth and final ship in the Breakaway-Plus class (the largest in their fleet), Encore promises to continue the brand’s fun-loving style with a host of supersize activities and top-class entertainment.

Telegraph Travel joined the 3,998-passenger ship on a preview sailing from Bremerhaven to Southampton and here is our insider guide of what to expect from the ship. 

What's the vibe on-board? 

Relaxed, friendly and vibrant. Norwegian ships are known for their sense of fun, which is evidenced in everything from the swirling multicoloured artwork on the hull of the ship (from artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo) to the lively restaurants and virtual reality complex.

Norwegian’s tagline of ‘feel free at sea’ is in full force on board Encore, meaning they have done away with set mealtimes and rigid itineraries, allowing guests to dictate their own days. In other words, you can be as formal or as casual as you like, dining at starch white tablecloth restaurants or simply grabbing a burger whenever you feel like it.   

Can a cruise ship this big be green?

Encore is taking steps to reduce its impact and is the first large ship to use sustainable cardboard cartons instead of plastic bottles. All of Norwegian’s ships will be plastic bottle-free by January 1, 2020.

Onda by Scarpetta has a waterfront section

What’s cooking?

The headline restaurant is Onda by Scarpetta, a spin-off of the high-end Italian in New York. Fans of that establishment will be pleased to know that the legendary tomato and basil spaghetti will be a fixture on the menu, alongside elegant starters of burrata and yellowtail crudo.

Other speciality (pay extra) options include Q Smokehouse, which serves up Texas barbecue favourites such as brisket and pulled pork on large metal trays with warm cornbread and little pots of pickles and smokey beans, while a band belts out country hits on stage. The American favourites keep coming at the Diner up on deck 17, which turns out lobster rolls and turkey club sandwiches. Norwegian’s popular Teppanyaki restaurant also makes an appearance as does an upscale Mexican, Los Lobos.

At the five complimentary restaurants the quality of dishes isn’t dissimilar to the extra cost options, with a decent surf and turf on offer at the elegant Savour. The Local serves pub-style fare 24 hours a day, should a midnight craving for fish and chips take hold. Those after the cruise ship staple of a buffet should head to the Garden Café, which offers a dizzyingly large breakfast spread, from eggs Benedict and omelette stations to sticky cinnamon buns and Indian options. 

Get your caffeine fix at the on-board Starbucks or pick up sweet treats such as pretty pastel-coloured macarons at The Bake Shop.

Spa suite in the Haven

Trying out all the 12 bars on board could lead to some sore heads. All distinctive in style, a highlight is the District Brewhouse which has 22 beers on tap, a faux-grungy style and a rocky soundtrack. For something a little more sophisticated, the giant Observation Lounge spans two decks and offers striking views, as well as classic cocktails from an elegant round bar. It’s a quiet spot if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the lower decks. 

What is the accommodation like? 

The staterooms cover all bases, from affordable inside cabins to plush suites with 24-hour butler service.

A Mini-Suite is a good option for those after a little more space. The quality mattress, coffee machine, sofa and a floor-to-ceiling window leading on to a balcony make it a pleasant place to retreat to. The USB ports by the bed are a welcome addition, but do remember an adaptor for the other power outlets. Bathrooms are a good size, with a double-size sink and surprisingly powerful shower complete with mini jets, although the own-brand bolted-to-the-wall toiletries could be a little more inspired.  

Single travellers are very well-served, with smart Studio rooms (without single supplement) plus a dedicated lounge where you can mix with other solo passengers. 

For those looking to splurge, The Haven section of the ship has the finest accommodation. Unsurprisingly, these rooms are the ones with real design flair featuring geometric carpets, striped cushions, gilt edgings on tables and spacious seating areas. Guests staying in The Haven also have exclusive access to a swish restaurant and a courtyard with a pool and loungers that wouldn’t look out of place at a Soho House.

Norwegian Encore's go-kart race track is the longest at sea

I want to have some fun... what can I do?

With so many activities on offer, you could forget to head out on shore excursions. The go-kart race track is the longest at sea (1,100 feet) and thrillingly has four high-speed curves extending up to 13 feet over the side of the ship. Next door is the lost city of Atlantis-themed outdoor laser tag complex, which looks like a film set and is even more impressive when lit up at night.

Don’t miss the Galaxy Pavilion, an indoor virtual reality complex with all manner of simulators (among the best are a stomach-dropping hand-gliding and roller coaster.

At the Aqua Park, you’ll find multi-storey slides, which twist and loop above the pool, plenty of loungers and two hot tubs with views of the ocean. 

What about for families? 

Encore really shines in the family-friendly stakes. The complimentary kids’ club, Splash Academy, has all manner of activities for little ones, while teens are well-catered for with Entourage, which promises dance parties, video games and film screenings. The Kid’s Aqua Park is a maze of colourful slides, tipping buckets and water cannons. 

Catch a 90-minute version of Broadway Classic Kinky Boots

Entertain me... what's on the bill?

Encore’s top-billed show is a rousing 90-minute version of the Broadway hit, Kinky Boots, making its debut at sea. Other productions are Happy Hour Prohibition: The Musical, an interactive show, which includes 1920s-themed cocktails in the ticket price, and The Choir of Man, a rip-roaring jukebox musical set in a pub. The Cavern Club is a replica of the venue that launched the Beatles, complete with vaulted ceilings, plenty of exposed brick and, of course, nightly performances from a seriously accomplished tribute band. Fans of the Fab Four will certainly not be disappointed as different sets cover the various eras of the band with lesser known tracks performed alongside the singalong favourites. 

Time to relax... where can I go?

Head to the Mandara Spa for a massage, or simply to enjoy its vitality pool, salt room or snow room. Meanwhile, the large fitness centre offers state of the art machines with ocean views and there’s also a marked-out open-air jogging track on the top deck. 

Where can I catch this ship?

Norwegian Encore will be christened by Grammy Award-winning singer Kelly Clarkson in Miami on November 21. She will start sailing seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyages from November 24; from April 22, 2020, she will offer Bermuda, and Canada and New England itineraries from New York and from December 12, 2020, voyages to the Western Caribbean from Miami. In the spring 2021 she will sail to Alaska from Seattle.