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Are you looking for a real-life review, testimony, and photos of a Norwegian Encore Alaska cruise?
We recently had the amazing opportunity to take a 7-day Alaska cruise aboard the Norwegian Encore.
In this article, we share all of our thoughts (the good & the bad) on our Norwegian Encore Alaska cruise as well as give our honest opinion on the Encore ship and its Alaska itinerary.
We’ll also share the Norwegian cruise tips that we wish we knew ahead of time, as well as share our day-to-day experiences on shore excursions and aboard the ship.
With over 15 personal photos included, this is the ultimate Norwegian Encore Alaksa review you’ve been looking for!
Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise
We chose Norwegian Cruise Lines for our much anticipated Alaska Cruise due to its 7-day, 8-night itinerary that included a day in Glacier Bay National Park (a place that not all Alaska cruise itineraries include).
We chose to sail on the Norwegian Encore as we were referred by friends who had a great experience, and the fact that the sail dates aligned with our summer vacation week.
Further, we were largely impressed by the enormous amount of family-friendly activities found on the ship that we knew our kids (ages 11, 14, & 16) would love.
Our only other experience cruising together as a family was on a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy that we write about here.
Disney Cruise Line exceeded our expectations in terms of its elegant design, high-end services, and enchanting entertainment and set the bar high for our future cruises.
Keep reading to learn our thoughts on Norwegian Encore Alaska and if we loved it just as much.
Alaska cruises are expensive and involve a lot of scenery and sightseeing versus attractions, character, and thrills.
Though we saw children of all ages on our cruise, I recommend that kids be at least 10 years old for an Alaska cruise- or mature enough to fully appreciate the experience.
Norwegian Encore Alaska Itinerary
For comparison purposes, we took a 7-day cruise on Norwegian Encore that featured 5 ports of call.
Do note that the Norwegian Encore also hosts a 13-day “cruisetour” (land and cruise combo) that includes 6 land tours, and 5 ports of call if that is of interest to you.
Our Norwegian Encore Alaska Itinerary & Map
- Sunday: Embarkation from Seattle, Washington
- Monday: At sea
- Tuesday: Juneau, Alaska
- Wednesday: Skagway, Alaska
- Thursday: Glacier Bay (cruising)
- Friday: Ketchikan (Ward Cove), Alaska
- Saturday: Victoria, British Columbia
- Sunday: Disembarkation in Seattle, Washington
Other cruise lines, including Norwegian, offer itineraries with varying ports of call.
Different ports of call on a cruise to Alaska include Sitka, Icy Point Strait, Dawes Glacier, Valdez, Seward, Whittier, and more.
*Stick around until the very end of this article for a look at what we did, where we ate, and what excursions we took on each day of our Norwegian Encore Alaksa cruise.
Norwegian Encore Cruise Ship
The Norwegian Encore first launched in 2019 and is part of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Plus category of ships.
There are 20 passenger decks with 2,043 staterooms for up to 4,903 passengers (served by 1,731 crew).
As a side note, the ship was near capacity during our 7-day Alaska cruise at a whopping 4,850 passengers!
While much information can be found on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) website regarding the Norwegian Encore ship, we find the NCL website somewhat difficult to navigate.
For that reason, we are including a brief overview of our thoughts on the Norwegian Encore cruise ship in terms of the rooms, deck plans, restaurants, and entertainment.
Norwegian Encore Rooms
Norwegian Encore rooms, also referred to as ‘cabins’, are available in various sizes and price points.
Generally speaking, the larger, more luxurious the room, the higher the price.
Standard options include interior, oceanview, and balcony cabins, and upgraded options include The Haven spa suites, penthouse suites, and 2-bedroom family villas.
Hidden at the top of the ship, The Haven suites also feature 24-hour butler service and a private sundeck.
Most Norwegian Encore Rooms, excluding The Haven family villas that sleep 6, only accommodate 3 – 4 guests.
Because we were sailing with our family of 5, we opted for 2 adjoining Balcony staterooms. (There are a limited number of adjoining staterooms on the Norwegian Encore that make a perfect option for larger families and groups.)
They are connected by a doorway within the rooms, as shown in the photo below.
Norwegian Encore balcony room review:
- We stayed in rooms 10220 and 10222 (Deck 10, mid-ship).
- Modern, spacious, clean, and adequate storage.
- Super comfortable beds and luxurious bedding (We all loved the beds and slept wonderfully – in addition, we did not feel the ship’s motion.)
- A large bathroom that includes toiletries; powerful toilets.
- The balcony was larger than expected and includes 2 chairs and a table.
- Could opt in or out of daily room cleaning via a wall switch.
- Overall impression: Exceeded our expectations, would recommend to others.
Norwegian Encore Deck Plans
As you may know, the Norwegian Encore is a HUGE ship.
In order to not feel overwhelmed by the size of the Norwegian Encore, I highly recommend that you study the ship’s deck plans prior to departing on your Alaska cruise.
Familiarize yourself with where your stateroom is in relation to the complimentary dining, main atrium, Observation Lounge, and pool deck.
Then get comfortable with where the bars, restaurants, theater, spa, and casino are in terms of being in the front (fwd), or back (aft) of the ship.
Cruisedeckplans.com allows you to make and print a custom map (pdf) of up to 5 decks on the Norwegian Encore. (Personally, we printed off 2 separate sheets, one with Decks 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 on it, and the other with Decks 6, 7, 8, and 10, where our stateroom was.)
We found this incredibly helpful and used our custom deck plans as a ‘map’ that we carried with us at all times on the ship to help us get around. (Use these sheet protectors to keep your deck plans intact.)
When you first embark on the ship, you enter Deck 7 of the Norwegian Encore. (Immediately proceed to Deck 6 to make dining and showtime reservations – more on that coming up in ‘Tips’)
The decks we visited the most were Deck 6 (main atrium, guest services, and Starbucks), Deck 7 for the Encore Theater and The Local Bar & Grill (our favorite complimentary dining venue), and Deck 16 (main pool deck and the Garden Cafe buffet).
Norwegian Encore Restaurants
The Norwegian Encore has plenty of complimentary dining options including the Garden Cafe main buffet, a 24-hour eatery of classic pub fare at the Local Bar & Grill, and sit-down meals at Taste, Savor, and the Manhattan Room.
Taste, Savor, and the Manhatten Room all feature the same daily, rotating menu. (These are all “Freestyle dining”, meaning no reservations are needed.)
Specialty dining (that is priced per person and often times included in cruise promotions) includes seafood at Ocean Blue, Italian at Onda by Scarpetta, Asian at Food Republic, Japanese at Teppanyaki, Mexican at Los Lobos, French at Le Bistro, BBQ at Q Texas Smokehouse, and Cagney’s Steakhouse, as well as Dolce Gelato and Coco’s for sweets. (Reservations required.)
There are also numerous bars and lounges, including The District Brewhouse, Cellars Wine Bar, Sugarcane Mojito Bar, and Maltings Whiskey Bar, among others!
The Observation Lounge on Deck 15 has several drink and snack stations making it a wonderful place to relax during the day.
It is also a good alternative for those looking for a light breakfast or lunch. Food items include danishes, mini quiche, fruit, bread, cheese, fruit, and desserts.
You have to get to the Lounge very early in the morning to find a good seat, however. It is a very popular lounge, and people tend to ‘save seats’ as well as ‘camp out’ there for an entire day. Head to the back and you’ll almost always find a table near the bar.
Specialty Dining Reservations
Depending on which type of stateroom you’re staying in, you can make specialty dining and entertainment reservations 90 – 130 days in advance.
Be sure to check this page as to when you can make reservations, and book your selections ASAP. Only a certain percentage of reservations open ahead of time, and popular restaurants and dining times book up fast,
If you fail to get the restaurant or reservation time of your choice, head to Deck 6 (in Teppanyaki) immediately upon boarding the ship as this is when the remaining reservations are released.
Thoughts on the Norwegian Encore restaurants:
- The Garden Cafe buffet is very busy during breakfast. We prefer a more relaxed atmosphere and ate breakfast at The Manhatten Room on most days.
- The Local Bar & Grill has a fun atmosphere that overlooks the main atrium. We had consistently good food, service, and drinks there. Our favorites were the chicken wings, loaded nachos, and burgers.
- The Manhatten Room is very busy during evening dinner hours. We mostly ate dinner at Taste or Savor for dinner- although all 3 have the same menu, so it’s just a matter of where you can get a table.
- Our cruise promotion included 2 specialty dining meals per person. We ate at Cagney’s Steakhouse and Q Texas Smokehouse.
- We LOVED and highly recommend Cagney’s Steakhouse (had filet mignon – Yum!), however, would not go to Q Texas Smokehouse again. The food at Q was good, but the service was mediocre and the ambiance was casual and dark – needed our phone flashlight to read the menu.
- Overall impression: Exceeded our expectations; the food on the ship was tasty and delicious.
Norwegian Encore Dining Tips
- When going to the Garden Cafe, have 1 person from your party search for and reserve a table while the others get their food. It is always busy and can be hard to find a table there. Your best option is to find a table in the back of the cafe.
- Complimentary soft-service ice cream machines are in the Garden Cafe. They are very popular! There is also hand-scooped ice cream in the Garden Cafe at a station.
- If we had to choose again, we would go to Ocean Blue instead of Q Texas Smokehouse.
- If the 2 specialty dining restaurants were not included in our cruise promotion, I personally would only pay out-of-pocket to visit 1 specialty dining restaurant (Cagney’s). We found that there was plenty of variety in the main, complimentary dining.
- If you don’t mind eating early, get to the main dining rooms for dinner 5 minutes before their evening opening time. This will ensure immediate seating and quick service.
- The District Brewhouse beers, Sugarcane’s mojitos, and Maltings specialty cocktails and whiskies are awesome. Ask the bartenders for a ‘snack mix’ as all of the bars have small containers of nuts/corn nuts if you ask for them.
- At random times during the cruise, there is an additional tax on alcohol (something due to international waters/regulations) that you may or may not be warned about.
- I felt that the restaurant attire was much more casual than I anticipated.
Norwegian Encore Entertainment
The Encore offers dozens of onboard activities, including a go-kart track (singles and doubles), laser tag, VR arcade, outdoor pools, hot tubs, and water slides, as well as a fitness center, jogging track, casino, and spa.
(NOTE: Go-karts, laser tag, the Galaxy Pavilion VR arcade, casino, and spa all cost an additional fee. Go-karts, laser tag, and the spa require reservations.)
There are also stand-up comedians, karaoke, and magic shows, as well as live music, trivia, and fun presentations in The Atrium.
The musical performance Choir of Man was the headliner show while we were on our cruise. It plays 4 different times during the 7-day itinerary and requires reservations.
All of the information regarding the next day’s activities and showtimes can be found in the daily newsletter called Freestyle Daily.
A paper copy of Freestyle Daily is placed outside of your stateroom each afternoon, and can also be found on the NCL app, or at Guest Services.
Thoughts on Norwegian Encore Entertainment
- Reservations are required for Choir of Man and can be booked ahead of time online per this chart, and then again when on the ship.
- Choir of Man was absolutely amazing, however, we wished there had been an additional main-stage production. We ended up going to Choir or Man twice both because we loved it, and because there were no other options for nighttime shows.
- Go-karting ($15 per person) at Encore Speedway, and laser tag ($9.95 per person) also require reservations, which we feel is a bummer and makes it hard to be spontaneous. Reservations filled up fast on sea days, and we ended up only being go at random ‘off times’ and were not able to go as often as we had planned.
- Encore Speedway closes unexpectedly due to weather. If you have a reservation during a weather delay, you are reimbursed but have to rebook on your own. In our case, there were no reservations left, which meant we were not able to rebook.
- There are always fun activities going on in The Atrium. Grab a seat in between performances as the seating area is limited. The Atrium Bar has quick, friendly service.
- We don’t have any tips on the casino or spa as we did not go there.
- Overall impression: Met our expectations, however, wished there were more shows as well as onboard movies shown on the big screen.
In order to avoid having to micro-manage the onboard activity fees during our sailing, we purchased each of our 3 children a set amount of onboard credit.
The onboard credit was applied to their keycards for them to use at their leisure.
This allowed them to plan ahead of time which activities they wanted to spend their onboard credit on and prevented overspending.
Norwegian Cruise Tips
Be sure to download and familiarize yourself with the Norwegian Cruise Line app. You can manage your entire trip from the app, and it does not require WiFii when being used on the ship.
NCL is not very forthcoming on when and how to make dining and show reservations, so mark your calendars accordingly. Once onboard, make reservations at the Guest Services on deck 6, or at the electronic touchscreen kiosks located at each elevator bay.
Also, on the Norwegian Encore, note that the fish on the hallway carpet always swim forward pointing to the front of the ship.
Knowing this will help you maneuver around the ship better.
Last, watch for NCL cruise promotions! We were able to get a “Free at Sea” promotion that includes unlimited open bar, 2 free specialty dining restaurants per person, free WiFii, and $100 off per shore excursion per stateroom. (For the first 2 people on the reservation.)
Tips for Online Check-in and Embarkation
- You choose your port arrival time at the time of online check-in which begins 21 days before your cruise.
- The sooner you do online check-in, the earlier you’ll be able to secure a port arrival time. (I did online check-in at 8 AM, 21 days prior to our cruise, and was able to secure the earliest port arrival time of 9:30 AM.)
- Your NCL luggage tags are mailed to you ahead of time. Place them on your suitcases (after your flight) before boarding the ship.
- Luggage delivery to staterooms is around 3 PM on the day of embarkation. Have a day bag packed of items you’ll need on the ship before your luggage arrives (i.e. passport, medications, swimsuit, sunglasses, etc.)
- Your muster station number will be on your keycard. The initial muster drill is quick and can be done in small groups, at your leisure.
Our 7-day Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise
The day before our cruise our flight from Minneapolis, MN arrived at 8 AM in Seattle, Washington.
Our early flight allowed us to have an entire day to explore Seattle, which we highly recommend leaving or finding time to do.
Upon arrival, we were able to store our luggage at our hotel, Seattle Marriott Downtown, and walk around the city from there.
We’ve written an entire article on how to spend 1-day in Seattle that will show you what you can realistically do and see in Seattle before your cruise.
Though a bit pricey, I highly recommend staying at Seattle Marriott Downtown before your Norwegian cruise!
Terminal 66 is literally right across the street (you can see the Encore directly outside the hotel windows!) and you simply walk there the morning of your cruise.
The hotel will also store your luggage for you before and after your cruise based on your flight times and if you’ll be walking around Seattle.
Day 1: Seattle, Washington
There is more than 1 cruise terminal in Seattle, so it is important to know that the Norwegian Encore ports at Bell Street Cruise Terminal at Pier 66.
At your port arrival time, enter the cruise terminal, go through security, check-in, and you’ll be given a boarding group number.
Passengers are then held in a waiting area (coffee/tea/juice are provided) until the captain signals that boarding may begin. (Exact boarding time varies by the day and is at the captain’s discretion.)
Boarding for boarding group #1 typically begins anytime after 11 AM (ours was at 11:30 AM).
Have a plan for when you initially get on the ship. I suggest first going to Deck 6 to make all dining reservations (at Teppanyaki), then all showtime reservations (at The Social Comedy Club).
Then head to your muster station for a brief safety overview.
Afterward, I recommend going to The Local for lunch. It is very laid back and overlooks the activities in the main atrium.
- 9:15 AM: Got in line (which was already 30 people deep) for our 9:30 port arrival time.
- 11:30 AM: Boarded the ship
- 11:40 AM: Made dining and show reservations, did muster station drill, made go-kart and laser tag reservations at a touchscreen kiosk
- 12:15 PM: Lunch at The Local Bar & Grill
- Toured the ship and took photos
- 5:00 PM: Departure. Went to the Sail Away pool deck party.
- 6:30 PM: Dinner at Taste
- 7:30 PM: Comedian in the Encore Theater
Day 2: Day at Sea
Any pre-booked shore excursion tickets are placed in your room on this day.
As on every day of the cruise, we spent our downtime relaxing, playing cards and cribbage in The Atrium, attending presentations & shows, eating, drinking, and enjoying the ship.
- 8:00 AM: Breakfast at The Manhatten Room
- 11:30 AM: Lunch at The Local
- 6:30 PM: Dinner at Cagney’s Steakhouse
- 7:30 PM: Choir of Man performance in Encore Theater
- 9:00 PM: Adult-only comedy shows at Social Comedy Club
Day 3: Juneau, Alaska
- 8:00 AM: Breakfast at The Manhatten Room
- 11:30 AM: Lunch at Garden Cafe
- 3:30-9:00 PM: Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Quest shore excursion
- 9:30 PM: Late-night snacks at The Local before going to bed
Recommendations if touring downtown include Red Dog Saloon and Tracy’s King Crab Shack.
Day 4: Skagway, Alaska
We needed our passports on this day’s excursion as our tour entered Canada.
- 8:00 AM: Breakfast at The Manhatten Room
- Morning hot tubbing
- 11:30 AM: Light lunch in the Observation Lounge
- 12:30-5:30 PM: White Pass Railway and Suspension Bridge shore excursion
- 6:45 PM: Reservations at Q Texas Smokehouse (specialty dining)
- 8:00 PM: Encore Speedway go-kart reservations
- 8:30 PM: Laser tag reservations
- 9:30 PM: The Beatles Invasion performance in Encore Theater
Recommendations if touring downtown include Red Onion Saloon, Klondike Doughboy, Skagway Brewing Co., and Alaska Christmas Store.
Day 5: Glacier Bay (Cruising)
This was, by far, the most scenic day of our Alaska Cruise as Glacier Bay National Park is absolutely stunning.
National Park rangers come aboard the ship and narrate about the glaciers and wildlife you see, as well as share stories about the park’s history.
The narration can be watched live in the Observation Lounge and is simultaneously broadcasted on your stateroom TV and on a large screen in The Atrium.
In addition, the captain opens up the bow of the ship on Deck 8 for this day only, and passengers can enjoy coffee, tea, and hot chocolate while viewing Glacier Bay outdoors.
- 8:00 AM: Went out to the bow of the ship to view Glacier Bay
- 9:30 AM: Breakfast at The Manhatten Room by the windows overlooking Glacier Bay
- Listened to the park ranger talks throughout the day
- Watched the views, glaciers, and wildlife sightings from our balcony stateroom
- 12:30 PM: Light snacks in the Observation Lounge
- 7:30 PM: Comedy Show in Encore Theater
Day 6: Ketchikan, Alaska
- 7:00 AM: Breakfast at Garden Cafe
- 8:15 AM-12:00 PM: Backcountry Jeep and Canoe Safari shore excursion
- 12:30 PM: Lunch at The Local
- 5:00 PM: Encore Speedway reservations (canceled due to rain)
- 5:15 PM: Dinner at Taste
- 7:30 PM: Choir of Man performance in Encore Theater
Day 7: Victoria, British Columbia
Disembarkation instructions are placed in your room on this day.
- 8:00 AM: Breakfast at The Manhatten Room
- 12:00 PM: Lunch at Garden Cafe (ate on the pool deck as it was a beautifully sunny day)
- Afternoon: Sat outside around the pool all day enjoying sunshine and live music; kids went on waterslides
- 4:00 PM: Magic show in Encore Theater
- 5:00 PM: Dinner at Savor
- 8:00 PM: The ship arrived at the port in Victoria. We did not get off the ship as the timing was too late for us and we did not want to do an evening shore excursion.
Day 8: Seattle, Washington
- 7:00 AM: Breakfast at Garden Cafe
- 9:00 AM: Disembarked the ship
- 1:30 PM: Flight home
Norwegian Encore Alaska Cruise Conclusion
With an Alaska cruise having been on our bucket list for quite some time, I feel such happiness having gotten to take our family on this epic Alaskan adventure.
Overall, our experience on our Norwegian Encore Alaska cruise exceeded my expectations in our ship choice, itinerary (that included Glacier Bay), shore excursions, stateroom comfortability, and food quality – as well as Alaska in general.
We would have liked to have experienced more shows on the ship, as well as wish the family-friendly activities (go-karts & laser tag) did not cost extra money and did not require reservations.
I would highly recommend the Norwegian Encore for an Alaska sailing as well as Alaska overall in terms of a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation experience.
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*