In the 1980's and early 1990's, the well established Norwegian Caribbean Line went through some difficult financial times. The company had relied on a fleet of classic cruiseships headed by the 1960-built flagship Norway, once the largest cruiseship afloat and the former glamorous French transatlantic behemoth France. But many more lines flocking the Caribbean with a far better financial situation started to push back the pioneering NCL in the early 1990's. To gain back some of their status, NCL introduced their new concept Freestyle Cruising onboard their 2000-built Norwegian Sun. In this, they threw away with the classic 'rules' of cruising, giving the passengers way more freedom in diningoptions, formalities and general do's and don't's, putting the holiday-vibe first. Norwegian Sun was with her 78.000-tons surpassing the Norway in size and after her introduction, NCL started to refine the Freestyle concept aboard two modern classes of 90.000 to 94.000-ton ships, the Star- and Jewel-classes. Older ships were sold and in 2003, the former flagship Norway was also ending her services after a deadly boiler explosion in Barcelona. In 2006, the old ship was finally sold for breaking up.
With the new, modernized fleet and the very successfull Freestyle concept, NCL grew again and secured their future, espacially after the company was sold by the Maleysian company Genting, who were the owners at the time, to Apollo Management in 2007. New to cruising, Apollo started again a strong investment in the NCL brand, ordering a duo of two 155.000-ton cruiseliners from Aker Yards at St.-Nazaire, France, of which finally only one was built, the eventual Norwegian Epic. Because of problems with the wharf due to a late designchange, the order for a sistership was cancelled. A renewed and re-designed order was then placed with Jos L. Meyer at Papenburg in 2011 for a duo of 144.000-ton ships that became the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway in 2013 and 2014. As we have seen many times before, these two ships were the forerunners of another class of redesigned and larger ships, which finally became the Breakaway+ class. This new class, headed by the Norwegian Escape, were wider and recieved one extra deck in comparissement with the original Breakaway class. Also in 2014, NCL bought the Prestige Cruise Holdings so they were able to enlarge themselves again with more cruisebrands, namely Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Both higher end brands brought NCL back as the thirth largest cruisegroup in the world, following the Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
Construction and general statistics
Above, Norwegian Escape is seen at the 22nd of may of 2021 passing Maassluis in The Netherlands after a month-long overhaul at the Damen Yards in Rotterdam. The ship was overhauled awaiting her renewed cruiseservices that were about to commence in the aftermath of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak that had grounded all cruiseservices for over a year.
At the 19th of september in 2014, the first buildingblock for yardnumber S693 was laid at the Jos L. Meyer wharf in Papenburg, northern Germany. She was going to be the first Breakaway+ class cruiseship for Norwegian Cruise Line and also the biggest ship that had ever been in service for the company. Her tonnage measurement was going to be 164.998 and the ship would become 325,90 meters long. Her width at the waterline would be 41,40 meters and at her widest point the ship would be 46,50 meters in width, making her 1,7 meters wider then the original Breakaway class. Being this wide, she was also the widest ship that is able to be built at the Papenburg yard. Her draft would be 8,62 meters and the ship recieved 20 decks for a total capacity of 5218 passengers and 1733 crew. Her five MAN B&W designed diesel-electric engines would be capable of giving the ship a normal servicespeed of 21,5 knots. Her official owner is Breakaway Three Ltd from Miami (of course part of NCL) although she was going to fly the flag of the Bahama's, registered at Nassau.
Due to the busy scedule at Meyer's wharf, ships are mostly docked out in sections to make the building of several ships possible at the same time and the new NCL ship's first section was temporarily floated out of the dock at the 5th of december of 2014, so in under three months time after building had started. A second section was launched at the 21st of february and the total ship could be finally undock at the 15th of august of 2015. The following 16th of september seatrials were starting and for that she had to make the very narrow but at this time classic Ems River conveyance towards the port of Emden at the Northsea coast. On the 22nd of october 2015, the ship could be officialy be handed over to NCL under her name of Norwegian Escape. She was at the time the fifth largest cruiseship in the world. After Norwegian Escape, the Breakaway+ class was extended with three more sisterships, then Norwegian Joy in 2017, Norwegian Bliss in 2018 and Norwegian Encore in 2019.
Not immidiately visible but a large change in comparissement to the earlier Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway is the fact that the Breakaway+ class of ships is 1,7 meters wider. This space was mainly used to make all balconies 45 centimeters deeper, providing more outside space for the passengers. Around 75% of all cabins are outside facing, most of them having their own balcony. For the cabins, 12 decks are reserved. The topdecks above the bridge house the most luxurious suites in the so-called The Haven, which is almost like a ship-in-ship. These suites have the possibility of 24-hour butler service, a concierge service a private sundeck with a pool under a retractable roof as well as a private restaurant with outside terrace. The The Haven concept can feel as if the ship is again divided into a class-system as there was in the transatlantic days, although of course way less obvious. But if you are looking for a luxurious experience on a larger ship with more possibilities but are hesitating to book a really luxurious, smaller ship, the NCL The Haven suites gives you both.
For entertainment, the ship offers a spectacular high-ropes course, a very fast Aquaracer waterslide and a few freefall waterslides, making the ships pool areas true waterparks. Also there is of course the Waterfront, which is a wide outside deck that features several restaurants and outside dining options.
The now traditional hullart for the ship was designed by Guy Harvey, who is a world-renowned marine wildlife artist. For Norwegian Escape, he created an underwater scene on the ships hull, including whales, rays, sailfish and several other marine wildlife.The shipname is like all other ships in the class, pushed back to one-thirth of the hull and Harvey's name is more up-front as a compliment for his design.
After the ship was delivered to NCL, she made several promotional preview sailings from Hamburg as well as southampton, before relocating to her first homeport of Miami, departing Southampton at the 29th of october 2015. In her first years, the ship sailed the Caribbean.
In the summer of 2019, the ship repositioned northwards to New York City, from where she started sailing several cruises to New England and Canada as well as Bermuda, before going back to Miami in the winter of 2019/ 2020. It was then planned for the ship to sail across the Atlantic to homeport in Copenhagen, Denmark for the 2020 summerseason sailing in northern Europe, before homeporting in Cape Canaveral in the winter of 2020. But that all went different due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak in the spring of 2020, bringing all cruiseservices worldwide to a grinding halt. The long pause in operations and adaptions to a 'new way' of cruising afterwards almost caused the whole of NCL to collapse and they were one of the first big cruiselines that announced how dire their situation was. Luckily, in the spring of 2021, it seemed that the world was at least slightly opening up again and NCL sent Norwegian Escape to a month-long overhaul at Rotterdam to make her ready for resumed cruise-service in may of that year.