5 Factors to Weigh in the Battle of the New Caribbean Behemoths

Norwegian Escape Norwegian Escape wins for best hull mural--Image courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Two heavyweight contenders are going head-to-head for the title of the biggest, latest, more-of- everything cruise ship in the Caribbean.

They come from familiar families, but these newcomers boast they pack more punch than any that have come before.

One contender, Anthem of the Seas, is part of Royal Caribbean’s fleet of mega-ships. It’s already spent the summer sailing in Europe and will home port in Cape Liberty, N.J.

Norwegian Cruise Line is entering the other up-and-comer, Norwegian Escape. It’s a beefed-up sister of  Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, that also sail from Florida.

Let’s see what they’ve got:

1) Tale of the Tape

Anthem of the Seas at 1,139 feet long and 16 decks tall, accommodates 4,180 guests. It’s a sister ship to Quantum of the Seas, which has been reassigned to Asia. Anthem did a summer season in Europe and will sail from Bayonne on  10- to 12 –day eastern, western and southern Caribbean cruises beginning in November, 2015.

Norwegian Escape, the largest ship yet from Norwegian Cruise Line, is 1,098 feet long with 18 decks that welcome up to 4,200 guests. It’s home-porting year-round in Miami starting in November, 2015 with planned seven-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries that include Tortola, British Virgin Islands. St. Thomas and Nassau.

Bumper cars on Athem of the Seas

Dodgem cars on Anthem of the Seas–Courtesy Royal Caribbean

2) What’s on for Fun?

Anthem of the Seas has more features than those introduced on the first Quantum-class ship. The H2O Zone kids’ water park has the first wave pool on a cruise ship  and four whirlpools. Anthem’s also the first cruise ship with an on-board live room escape game, Puzzle Break’s “Escape from the Future.”

The ship boasts an 82-foot zip line and 43-foot tall rock climbing wall and Seaplex, where guests can ride bumper cars, roller skate or play basketball.

Norwegian Escape’s Aqua Park boasts the biggest set of tube slides, water buckets and cannons at sea, as well as the largest ropes course. An on-deck Splash Academy includes a circus school. While Norwegian is ending its long-term deal that featured characters from Nickelodeon cartoons, it’s offering an expanded range of games and activities for young cruisers. There’s also Entourage, a teens hangout and Guppies Nursery with staffed activities for tots as young as six months.

For adults, there’s Vibe Beach Club is an adults-only deck with an oversized hot tub.
Spice H2O, is a waterfall grotto and by night a club for dancing under the stars.

Food Republic on Norwegian Escape

Food Republic on deck of Norwegian Escape–Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

3) Dining and Imbibing

On Norwegian Escape:

James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces created two specialty restaurant concepts for the ship: Bayamo, serving Latin dishes with a Cuban-influence and Pincho Tapas Bar, which will offer traditional Spanish tapas à la carte. Miami’s Pubbelly Restaurant Group has designed a new concept called Food Republic, an upscale emporium featuring small plates of global cuisine.

In addition, there are two new beverage concepts: The District Brew House, featuring craft beers from Wynwood Brewing Company, and The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar.

Norwegian Escape offers a new version of its restaurant package that lets guests select nights in alternative restaurants for a single price.

On Anthem of the Seas:

There are three new restaurants inspired by celebrity chefs. Britain’s Jamie Oliver, brings aboard rustic, homemade favorites at Jamie’s Italian. Michael’s Genuine Pub is a concept from James Beard Award-winner Michael Schwartz with a menu of simple plates and his signature craft beers. And the Solarium introduces Devinly Decadence, a menu of healthful yet satisfying home-style dishes from  author and chef Devin Alexander.

There’s no main dining room on Anthem, but 18 themed restaurants (14 of which are complimentary), so it’s virtually impossible to dine in them all on a one-week cruise. A Dynamic Dining program  lets guests either pick and choose restaurants and dining times each day and night or opt for the classic dining program with  traditional fixed times and locations through the cruise.

Scene from We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You on Anthem of the Seas – courtesy Royal Caribbean International

4) Entertainment Options

On Norwegian Escape:

After Midnight, is a hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington and jazz with dance numbers from Broadway.  Million Dollar Quartet is inspired by a famous recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined as a 360 degree dinner cabaret with the show  For The Record: Dear John Hughes. Escape Casino, includes a VIP room and the Skyline Bar near the Casino features floor to ceiling LED screens.

On Anthem of the Seas:

A three-deck Royal Theater is Broadway style and features a full production of the musical We Will Rock You as well as original stage production, The Gift and headliner acts. It also features first-run 3-D movies.

There are also updated versions of features that made their debut on Quantum of the Seas, including a three-story high panoramic lounge and an ice bar. By night, movable furniture and retractable dividers and chandeliers allow the space to be reconfigured to be used as a performance venue for a cabaret-style show or as a disco. Both nighttime uses a projection system with six robotically controlled 100-inch LCD television screens that create digital backdrops.

Solarium on Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas Solarium–Courtesy Royal Caribbean International

5) Letting Go

On Norwegian Escape:

Mandara Spa features Norwegian’s first snow room and the largest Thermal Suite at sea, with 17 heated loungers, hydro-therapy pool, whirlpools, steam room, dry sauna, sanarium and salt room. The Haven by Norwegian is an area exclusively for guests in spa suites with its own waterfall pool and lounge area.

On Anthem of the Seas:

The two level Vitality at Sea Spa & Fitness Center debuts Technogym equipment that provides new ways to do cardio and resistance training. The program offers specialized instructed fitness classes such as  TRX and Beach Bootcamp. There’s also a new Flywheel indoor cycling studio, as well as a, barber shop, Thermal Suite, and relaxation lounge. The spa  program offers enrichment seminars, Medi-Spa and holistic spa services, a separate spa for teens and a beauty salon.

The Call:

Both of the ships are worthy heavyweight contenders with innovative new features. There’s so much to see and do that guests may not be able to experience all the options aboard either of them in a single cruise.

About Wallace Immen

Wallace Immen is Executive Editor of The Cruisington Times, the Best in Cruising, Travel, Food and Fun. He's sailed on all of the world's seas to ports in over 100 countries and travelled on every continent. Contact: Website | Twitter | More Posts

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