We Just Returned from a Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise

We just returned from a Norwegian Encore Alaska cruise and share it all with you in our Norwegian Encore cruise ship scorecard review.

We Just Returned from a Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise

Norwegian Encore is NCL’s largest cruise ship at sea. At 169K gross tons, this mega-ship boasts several restaurants, signature attractions, and plenty of onboard activities and entertainment. But is it possible to see, do, and eat everything onboard the ship while still experiencing all Alaska has to offer? Well, we just returned from a 7-night roundtrip sailing from Seattle and share all the details with you in our Norwegian Encore cruise ship scorecard review.


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Norwegian Encore Cruise Ship Scorecard Review

Outdoor Decks 

For us, one of the most important aspects of any cruise ship is the availability, layout, and overall vibe of the outdoor decks. Luckily, the Norwegian Encore cruise ship boasts several outdoor spaces. So, whether it is glacier viewing in Alaska or soaking up the sun in the Caribbean, cruisers who sail on this ship can find some open-air space to fit their mood.  

The main pool deck is found on deck 16, midship. Norwegian Encore features two pools. The main pool is family-friendly and conveniently located near the small Aqua Park on the port side. This space is perfect for those with younger children.  

We Just Returned from a Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise

Adults have their own pool too, just a bit more forward on the same deck. In between and surrounding these pools, there are various seating options. Up one deck, there are additional loungers encircling this sundeck. Deck 17 is also home to 4 whirlpools. These were very popular in the early afternoons and during glacier viewing in Alaska.  

PRO TIP: Still pack a bathing suit for an Alaska cruise.  

Norwegian Encore’s two waterslides were open, along with the hot tubs, pools, and the thermal suite. With mostly mild days and virtually no rain, plenty of cruisers took advantage of these outdoor amenities during the week. While the pools and waterslides are heated to about 70’, I still wasn’t brave enough to dip my feet in the water!  

Even for an Alaska cruise, the exclusive Vibe Beach Club on decks 19 and 20 forward is a hidden gem. This reserved area has premium loungers, two hot tubs, a private bar, and light snacks during the day. Cruisers can opt for a week-long pass or splurge on one of the cabanas.

Along with offering fantastic views from the top of the ship, this space was ideal for glacier viewing. Everyone we talked to with passes agreed it was well worth it, even for this cold-water cruise.  Think less crowds, uninterrupted views, and hot tubs all to yourself. 

While we enjoyed the lido deck and Vibe, one of our favorite locales on the ship is the Waterfront. Encompassing most of deck 8, this 1/3-of-a-mile-long outdoor promenade features several bars and seating nooks. Further, cruisers can opt for al fresco dining at specialty restaurants such as Cagney’s Steakhouse or Onda by Scarpetta if the weather allows.

Or, you can simply just relax, read a book, or be on the lookout for whales and wildlife. Don’t worry about the temperatures in Alaska, as many of the seating areas are kept warm with heaters in the ceiling.  

Signature Attractions 

Norwegian Encore is known for its signature attractions

PRO TIP: Make sure to book these attractions on embarkation day. You can use touchscreens throughout the ship, or head to the Social to reserve with a crew member. Just be sure to check the height and weight requirements before reserving.  

Perhaps the most iconic attraction on the Norwegian Encore cruise ship is the Speedway. 

For an up-charge, this 1,100-foot-long, two-story racetrack pits cruisers against one another in an 8-lap race for bragging rights. Bystanders can get in on the fun too by providing drivers boosts throughout the race. The racetrack has select hours for solo drivers and families with double carts accommodating adults and little kids.  

During our Alaska cruise, the go-karts were open various times depending on the port of call. We got in an afternoon race on day 5, leaving Glacier Bay. With the fjord views behind us, Heidi and I donned our helmets in a race to the finish line. Let’s just say Heidi tried to blame her loss on the unskilled tween driver in front of her. 

Cruisers who plan to race often can purchase the Ultimate Speedway Package, giving them regular access to the track every day of the cruise.  

Additionally, aft on deck 18 is the laser tag course. This intricate laser tag arena is certainly a step above the inflatable laser tag experiences found on some other cruise lines, albeit an up-charge. 

One afternoon, we geared up for this family-friendly activity. We entered commando mode and headed out for our 10-minute game. This lost city of Atlantis themed course offers plenty of nooks and crannies to hide and target the competition. But, you can’t stay stationary too long as you will become a sitting duck for the other team.  

For those unwilling to brave the elements, the Galaxy Pavilion on deck 17 aft is home to some of the most high-tech experiences at sea. We found some time on the morning of Day 7 to test out all of the games. Cruisers can buy tickets for individual attractions along with hour, day, or week-long passes. For us, the hour-long pass was just enough. 

I tested my soccer skills, but be warned that goalie, she is really good. Perhaps my favorite game to play, and Heidi’s favorite to watch me play, is Descendant. This virtual reality shooting game will keep you on your toes. The 7D cinema is a lot of fun too from hunting zombies, werewolves, or crazy clowns. Other simulators include a Jurassic escape, a tightrope walk, and car racing.  

Norwegian Encore Cruise Ship Scorecard Review

For an additional charge, the Captain’s Quest is a virtual reality escape room that offers up to 10 cruisers the chance to escape from a sunken ship. Again, this is very popular, so make sure to reserve it early in the cruise so you don’t miss out like we did! 

Onboard Activities 

When it comes to other onboard activities, Norwegian Encore offered a daily list of events that you would expect on a mega-ship. The cruise director, Tiara, and her staff hosted regular sessions of trivia, games, and more throughout the day.  

Even with a rather busy itinerary, we found time to attend a few activities–we pressed our luck at Deal or No Deal and tested our knowledge with Alaska trivia.  

Of course, there were other themed sessions and events throughout the week too focused on wellness, shopping, and cooking demonstrations.

In the Observation Lounge, cruisers could also enjoy audio lectures on topics like the History of Alaska. Needless to say, we always found something to occupy our time between ports of call. Although, we would have liked a little more Alaska programming, perhaps an onboard naturalist or local guest speakers. 

While the Freestyle Daily is packed with activities, you could opt to do nothing at all—after all, it is your vacation. If you just want to enjoy the views, the Observation Lounge and the Waterfront are great places to do so.  

You might also want to consider purchasing a pass to the Mandara Spa’s thermal suite. Week-long passes are available, as well as day passes on port days pending availability. The thermal suite is limited to just 200 passes for the week, so it will never feel too crowded. 

This thermal suite on Norwegian Encore is one of the biggest in the industry, featuring a hydro-pool, heated stone loungers, and several other experiences like a sauna and a salt room. It also has amazing aft views from the 270 degree wall of windows blanketing the back of this Deck 17 space. Despite all the other onboard and ashore activities, we made sure to reserve some time for a little relaxation here. 

PRO TIP: If you have onboard credit, remember that you can use it at the Spa to pay for these services. We also recommend taking a spa tour on the first day to learn more about the services offered and any promotions.    

On a side note– while cruisers can use the NCL app to find all the onboard activities available, we are happy that NCL still makes a print copy of its Freestyle Daily as many other cruise lines are doing away with these paper versions.  


Complimentary Dining 

When it comes to casual dining options, the Norwegian Encore cruise ship offers a few choices. Our favorite is the Local Bar and Grill.  

Located on Deck 7, this 24-hour pub serves a changing menu depending on the time of day. This large venue features a bar, along with a mix of high tops and restaurant-style seats. Even though it is popular, we only had to wait a few minutes for a table.   

The pub-style menu features my favorite go-to snacks, like chicken wings and pretzel bites. However, the menu also features burgers, sandwiches, and nightly dinner specials, as well as a full breakfast menu.  

The central location also makes it a prime viewing spot for some of the onboard activities and events occurring in the Atrium. 

On Deck 16, there is also the Garden Café, Norwegian Encore’s buffet. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the buffet includes your standard selections. There were staples like pancakes, waffles, continental items, and several omelet stations at breakfast. For lunch, there were sandwiches, various international options, and a custom salad bar. At night, the Garden Café featured themed dinners like “Steak and Shrimp,” the “Grill Extravaganza,” and an Asian-themed night to name a few.  

Cruisers could also score snacks in the morning and the afternoon in the Observation Lounge. These grab-and-go options included items like croissants, danishes, small sandwiches, tapas, and more. There were also 24-hour beverage stations with water, coffee, tea, and select flavored water and juices.  

Besides these casual options, Norwegian Encore features three main dining rooms, Savor and Taste on Deck 6 and the Manhattan Room on Deck 7. These restaurants feature rotating dinner menus that change nightly. 

Surprisingly, Savor and Taste were open most days for lunch on this Alaska itinerary as well. Rotating between 3 different menus, the Chicken Parmigiana Heidi had on Day 3 rivaled any cruise line’s similar offering for dinner. Likewise, I was more than impressed with the Cuban Rotisserie Chicken and the peanut butter cup cheesecake. These restaurants were also open for breakfast; though, we never got around to testing out a sit-down breakfast.  

Given our schedule and specialty dining package, we only ate dinner in the main dining room once as well. Still, our meal was great, and better than we remember the MDR food being on NCL. My bang-bang chicken and shrimp had plenty of kick, and the chocolate lava cake made for the perfect ending to a long day of sightseeing. 

PRO TIP: If you are new to cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL is known for its Freestyle Approach to dining. Giving cruisers ultimate flexibility, they can dine where they want, when they want, and with whom they want–with no set dinner times or table assignments. Now, if you are over planners like us, you can still make dinner reservations ahead of time for the main dining room.   

Specialty Dining 

Besides the complimentary dining options, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a variety of specialty restaurants across its fleet. These restaurants offer elevated menus and superb service. Again, we highly recommend making reservations pre-cruise for these venues as popular restaurants and dining times fill up quickly.  

Many cruisers will receive a 2-meal specialty dining package on a week-long cruise as part of the line’s Free at Sea promotion. Cruisers can then opt to purchase additional night packages if they choose. Cruisers who have loyalty status with NCL may also receive additional meal credits.  

On our Norwegian Encore cruise, we had a 7-night dining package, so we were able to sample most of the specialty restaurants. 

One of our favorites is Food Republic. This tapas restaurant is best experienced with friends. The bigger the table, the better, as cruisers are entitled to 4 selections each when redeeming a specialty dining credit.  

With menu items blending several culinary styles and flavors, you can’t go wrong with calamari, sushi, the Korean chicken, or fried rice. 

PRO TIP: Food Republic is open for lunch on select days for even more choice. Given its location on the Waterfront and uninhibited views, it is perfect for enjoying the scenery along with a fantastic meal on a sea day. 

Other NCL favorites are also found on the Norwegian Encore cruise ship.  

The classic steakhouse, Cagney’s, is located on the Deck 8 Waterfront as well. Offering both al fresco dining and wake views, it is a great place to dine for the line’s “Dress Up or Not” night or to celebrate a special occasion. The menu features classics like shrimp cocktail, several cuts of premium beef, and the appropriately named “OMG Caramel-Butterscotch Cheesecake.” 

Across the way, on the starboard side, is Los Lobos. This upscale Mexican restaurant offers a wide selection of classic starters and entrees, including the tableside-prepared fresh guacamole. There is also the cheesy, queso fundido, along with handhelds like quesadillas and burritos. Of course, you can’t help but order a margarita (or 2) while enjoying these selections.  

On Deck 17, there is the French-inspired Le Bistro. This specialty restaurant offers floor-to-ceiling views. The venue had me at fresh, warm baguettes, but it also features other decadent French food, like escargot and coq au vin.  

One of the newer entries to the NCL fleet is Onda by Scarpetta. This high-end Italian restaurant serves handmade pasta that is prepared daily. I opted for the “Scialatielli”, which is a delicate pasta served with seafood in white wine sauce. It was amazing. Heidi’s “Mezzelune” was equally delicious, which was ravioli served in a rich butter truffle sauce. While there, you should try the pizza too, but can’t go wrong with selections like the “Burrata” or “Fritto Misto” either.  

For cruisers looking for something more casual, Q Texas Smokehouse on Deck 6 offers authentic Texas-style BBQ. The venue features live music during dinner and classic menu items like chili, deviled eggs, rotisserie chicken, smoked turkey, and brisket, coupled with sides like mac & cheese and potato salad. Q is also home to one of our favorite cocktails, the “Smoked Peach Margarita” on tap. Not to mention, you need to save room for the “Mason Jar Banana Pudding”.  

Finally, there is Teppanyaki. This is one of the most popular dining venues on the ship. Coupling an entertaining show and a delicious meal, this specialty restaurant is also family-friendly. Like our other visits, Teppanyaki on Norwegian Encore did not disappoint regarding the food, service, and culinary mastery. It was the perfect final meal of our cruise, serving up expertly seared steak, seafood, and flavorful rice.   

While we didn’t dine here, there’s also Ocean Blue, the seafood-centric specialty restaurant on Norwegian Encore. 

Bars and Lounges 

When it comes to bars and lounges on Norwegian Encore, the Observation Lounge, boasting two-story floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bow, is a game-changer for Alaska cruises. While it is a large space, the strategic design creates more intimate seating areas, making the venue feel warm and welcoming. That’s probably why it was always quite busy during our sailing. 

The full bar serves the standard menu, and it is one of the venues open the earliest for those morning mimosas or Bloody Marys. Throughout the day, the Observation Lounge is perfect for scenic cruising, reading a book, or checking your email. In the evenings, guests can enjoy live music, and perhaps some espresso martinis. 

Down on Deck 8, the Waterfront is lined with uniquely themed bars. Perhaps my favorite is the District Brewhouse. This casual, urban beer hall is home to one of the most extensive beer lists found on any cruise ship. Our cruise featured several Alaskan brews on tap, boasting over 20 beers on tap and up to 50 ales, lagers, and stouts in total. In the evenings, Ryan offered a variety of pub-style tunes alternating between guitar and piano, making for some lively nights in this venue.  

Heidi’s favorite bar on Norwegian Encore is the Sugarcane Mojito Bar. Located mid-ship on Deck 8, this venue features lively Latin music and plenty of dancing. While we don’t hit the dance floor, we do pull up a chair for our favorite drinks, the Raspberry-Guava and Jalapeno-Cucumber Mojitos. Both are great choices for a post-dinner drink.   

If you are dining at one of the specialty restaurants aft on Deck 8, you won’t want to pass up the A-List Bar. This hidden gem is an upscale lounge with dark wood tones, oversized chairs, and a large U-shaped bar.  

Equally impressive is the Maltings Whiskey Bar. It is located on the starboard side of Deck 8, adjacent to the Humidor Cigar Lounge. Maltings features several upscale spirits and specialty cocktails, including some on tap.

Right across the way from Maltings is the Cellars Wine Bar. This venue is home to over 130 wines, with over 70 wines by the glass to choose from.  

Of course, there are several other bars around the Norwegian Encore cruise ship as well, including the centrally located Atrium Bar, the Mixx Bar located near the main dining rooms, the Skyline Bar in the casino which is the perfect place to catch a game on the panoramic screens, and two outdoor pool bars serving up NCL favorites like the mango meltdown. 

When booking with the popular Free at Sea promotion, cruisers will receive the Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Beverage Package. This package includes all alcoholic drinks up to $15. Honestly, this allotment will cover most signature cocktails at the bars and various spirits, wines, beers, and other mixed drinks.  

PRO TIP: You can pay to upgrade your drink package to the Premium Plus beverage package. One of the biggest perks of this package is Starbucks. NCL is the only cruise line that includes drinks from this coffee chain in its drink packages. As coffee lovers, this is huge for us. Not to mention, Starbucks not only features seasonal favorites but also my nitro cold brew coffee! 

Nightlife and Entertainment 

When it comes to nightlife, Norwegian Encore offers a variety of entertainment options. As mentioned previously, there’s live music in the District Brewhouse, the Observation Lounge, the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, the Atrium, and Q Texas Smokehouse.  

However, music lovers need to head to the Cavern Club as well. This venue, inspired by the Liverpool landmark, is home to a Beatles cover band several nights and the ship’s resident rock band on the other evenings. This cozy place can get very busy, so make sure to get there early for optimal seating.   

Another popular entertainment venue is The Social found on Deck 6. Partnering with Levity Comedy, this venue features two comedians throughout the cruise. On most evenings, there are two shows with the later show being more adult-oriented. We made sure to attend one showing of each comedian. 

The nightlife doesn’t stop there though. Later in the evening, the Social turns into the cruise line’s nightclub. It is also home to parties like the Silent Disco and the popular Glow Party. These are cruise staples that you don’t want to miss.  

Of course, the cruise director staff  hosts events in the Atrium throughout the cruise as well, like the Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Game show or Battle of the Sexes. Movies and other special events also take place here.  

But, the real draw for entertainment on the Norwegian Encore cruise ship is the signature production show, Choir of Man. It is my personal favorite. From rock classics like Guns and Roses, to modern pop from Sia and Adelle, to a little Jimmy Buffett, the show is a nonstop, high-energy 75 minutes of fun. The Jungle, also known as the local pub, is the setting where these talented lads share their personal stories alongside song and dance. They even invite the audience to join in on a brew and toast to a memorable night.  

Choir of Man is NCL’s top-rated show and for a good reason. It features a fantastic cast and songs from various genres that appeal to a wide audience. This production show occurred on two nights of our cruise, and you don’t want to miss it. 

We Just Returned from a Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise

PRO TIP: Reservations are required for both Choir of Man in the main theater and the comedy shows in The Social. Cruisers can make reservations pre-cruise for Choir of Man on NCL.com or book as soon as they board the ship. However, the comedy shows can only be booked once onboard the ship and do fill up quickly. So, be sure to book on embarkation day. 


Norwegian Cruise Line offers a variety of cabin categories to fit all budgets—from the Studio cabins for solo travelers, to inside, oceanview, and balcony staterooms, all the way up to the most luxurious suite accommodations in the Haven.  

For our Norwegian Encore Alaska cruise, we stayed in a balcony cabin on Deck 12, room 12718.  

According to NCL’s website, this stateroom was approximately 214 square feet with a 38 square foot balcony. This forward-located stateroom is considered a BA category cabin. Being on deck 12, this cabin was conveniently located equidistant from the Waterfront on Deck 8 and the outdoor decks starting on Deck 16.  

Immediately upon entering the cabin, the bathroom was to the right with the closet tucked around the corner. The desk was on the left side with the sofa across from it. Continuing further into the room, there was the bed and the balcony. The balcony consisted of two chairs and a small table. 

The bathroom felt a bit roomier by cruise ship standards. It featured a somewhat larger shower with a glass door and plenty of counter space and shelves for storage. 

The closet included a clothes bar with hangers along with a series of shelves. The desk was spacious and housed the mini-fridge and some small under-counter cabinets for other accessories. The sofa was plenty big for two adults and even had a drawer under it for some added storage space. 

The king-sized bed was located on the aft wall facing forward adjacent to the balcony, which is our preferred cabin orientation. This bed provided plenty of comfort after our long days and nights exploring all that Alaska and Norwegian Encore have to offer. 

We liked the modern conveniences like USB outlets near the bed for charging phones and the “make up room” and “do not disturb” buttons in the room. Overall, this cabin had a premium feel with adequate space for a week-long cruise. 

While our Norwegian Encore cruise ship balcony was smaller than some other balconies in the industry, we highly recommend a balcony cabin especially in Alaska. 

PRO TIP: The fish on the carpets will guide you home at night! If you look down at the carpets on the stateroom decks of Norwegian Encore, you will notice fish. These fish always point in the forward direction giving you a little reminder which way you need to go to get back to your cabin. 

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Given Norwegian Encore was sailing with 3,800 guests, or about 90% capacity, we hardly felt the crowds. The only time the ship felt busy was in the buffet at peak times, and when returning to the ship after a short port of call.  

Bar service was never an issue, whether ordering at the bar or with servers making the rounds. At the busy Sugarcane Mojito Bar or the District Brewhouse, service was always friendly and prompt. 

Whether dining at a specialty restaurant or a complimentary dining venue, service was also friendly and they always inquired about food allergies. Further, at least one supervisor stopped by our table each night to ask how things were and if we needed anything. This small attention to detail is often lacking on larger ships. Our dinners did take upwards of 1.5 to 2 hours each night, but they never really felt drawn out. 

We Just Returned from a Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise

We had reservations for all the shows and never had problems getting seats about 15-20 minutes before show time. Likewise, we had reservations for the onboard attractions, and the process moved rather swiftly. As mentioned previously, we recommend securing reservations early, but you can go standby if need be.  

Like most cruise lines in 2023, NCL has moved to servicing staterooms just once per day. Still, our stateroom attendant made sure to introduce himself on Day 1 and asked about our preferences. He never hesitated when we had an additional request throughout the week either. Whenever we saw him, he always made sure to say hi and ask us about our day. 

Overall, the service on the Norwegian Encore cruise ship was better than we expected and more akin to a premium cruise line.   

PRO TIP: While cruise gratuities are an automatic per person, per day charge added to your onboard account, we always recommend bringing small bills to tip staff members who go above and beyond to provide you exceptional service during the cruise. This may include bartenders, your stateroom attendant, or your waitstaff in the dining venues. 


Did you find our Norwegian Encore cruise ship scorecard review helpful? Do you agree with our ratings of Norwegian Encore? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences sailing on this NCL cruise ship.

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don Bucolo
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  1. Thank you for your review. We booked a cruise on the Encore for December.

    I would have appreciated the dollar amounts related to “upcharge” items.

    We love the amount of “Specialty” restaurants on NCL.

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