Sunday, March 13, 2022

Norwegian Encore

I have not written anything about what we have been doing in Stuart since last October. I may catch up with that someday, but this post is about another vacation we took last month. Our friends John and Patrice told us they planned to take a seven day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Encore and wanted to know if we were interested. Since the Encore is the ship we will be sailing on for our three week cruise through the Panama Canal to Seattle, we decided to consider it. We monitored the latest Covid numbers and ten days before the scheduled departure date, February 6th, we booked it.
The Encore is a huge ship designed to carry 4200 passengers. It was launched in 2019 and, of course, like the entire cruise industry, was shutdown by Covid in 2020. We felt safe as all passengers had to prove they were fully vaccinated, were tested before boarding and masks were required indoors unless you were eating or drinking. Another reason we felt safe was, there were only 1300 passengers and 1700 crew members on this cruise.  
Here we are with John and Patrice in the Observation Lounge, our favorite place. The ship was built with Alaskan cruising in mind so this lounge would seat hundreds of people where they could view the sites on that trip while staying warm.
This is typical of the "crowd" in the Observation Lounge.
Another reason we liked this cruise, we could drive to Port Miami in a couple hours. Ships leaving here, go to the end on the port by the city. then do a 180 degree turn to exit the port. This is a Carnival ship that sailed before us.
After turning around our ship sailed between Miami Beach and Fisher Island into the Atlantic Ocean. Our original itinerary began with one day at sea and day two we would stop in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. 
When we checked in we learned day one would be in Nassau, Bahamas and day two at sea. A sailing ship passing in Nassau. Some of the houses we could see were heavily damaged by the hurricane they had a couple years ago.
This is Atlantis in Nassau. We have been here before so we did not leave the ship on this stop.

Lighthouse at the entrance of the harbor.
There were plenty of things to do to keep you busy. Yes, you can go-kart race on the ship.
A day at sea with another ship on the horizon and a beautiful rainbow. While rainbows require rain, for the most part showers stayed off in the distance.
Interesting chandelier in the atrium that changed colors. Like every ship we have been on, the decor was fantastic. 
I think Andy Warhol was on board.
Docked in St Thomas US Virgin Islands. It amazes me that this huge ship turned around and backed into the dock among all these much smaller boats.
Unlike the Bahamas and Florida, the islands of the Eastern Caribbean are mountainous. Not very high, but having very steep hills and roads.
We opted to take a tram ride for a view of St. Thomas. The Encore is the ship on the left.
We enjoyed the view, took a walk along the harbor and did some shopping on our way back to the ship. Masks were required everywhere in USVI.
Upon returning to the ship we had to wait to board. It turned out, one of the crew members had passed away and the body was being removed from the ship while the crew paid their respects. 
Part of the welcoming committee.
The next morning we arrived at Tortola, British Virgin Islands. We later learned we were only 12 miles from St. Thomas. The ship just did a slow figure eight over night to get there. 
We did a land and sea excursion. The sea part was aboard the Bel Aire.
While more than a dozen islands make up the BVI, only four are inhabited by locals, six are privately owned and the rest are a national park.  This is Salt Island that gets its name from the old salt works there where they boiled sea water to get salt to preserve meat and fish.
This island was a resort for the super rich. There were several homes here, but most were destroyed by a hurricane. Bill Gates' home was the only one that survived.
We saw several huge yachts in the ports and anchored. Oh the tough life of the 1%.
Yellow tails feeding. But fishing is not allowed in the national park.
The next part of the excursion was in an open air bus that took us up, down and around some very steep roads. Great views at every turn.
We stopped at Stout's Lookout for local drinks or beer, plus the view. 
Here's the spot where you can sit down and enjoy a fantastic view while having a drink....
....but be careful when you get up, it's a long way down if you fall.
I had to try the local beer, Carib Premium Caribbean Lager. It is the go to beer, biere, cerveza, starkpol (yes four different languages) for the Eastern Caribbean. 
Very steep and a bit scary when you meet a truck on a switchback turn.
A good look at the road on the side if the hill.
Our boat in the harbor. We enjoyed our time in BVI and were glad we took the excursion to learn a bit of history about the pirates of old and new who have been here over the years.
The next day was another day at sea. Nanc with a bottle of Louis XIII cognac. You get to keep the crystal bottle if you buy the bottle for $4,200. As you can see, they do not sell a lot. The bartender told us a guy once bought a shot for everyone at the bar. I was nervous with Nanc holding it!!!
There was different entertainment in the lounges and the atrium everyday. One of the big shows was Kinky Boots. It was wonderful.
There were two water slides poolside. Yes, I did it! That is me waving at the top. You get in the tube and suddenly the floor opens and you zoom through the tube. Not everyone makes it to the pool at the end. We watched many people who had to get out of the tube via one of the escape hatches. It was fun and I will do it again.
This was the pool on a typical day. I can't imagine what it would be like with 4,200 passengers on board.
That said, this is the pool the day of our last stop, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Most people went ashore to go to the beach so we had the pool to ourselves.
Moon and clouds over the Atlantic.
Tender returning from Stirrup Cay as the sun sets.
Another great show was The Choir of Man. It was a lively show of song, dance and beer drinking. Not to give anything away, but if you go to see it, sit near the front. Here is a link to their web site.

We really enjoyed getting away and are looking forward to seeing the crew of the Norwegian Encore again next month.