To escape is to ‘break free from confinement or control’ but when it comes to making good on one’s escape, fans of Norwegian Cruise Line evidently have a particular getaway vehicle in mind. In 2013, after 100,000 Facebook fans voted to name the line’s two upcoming Breakaway-Plus class ships, it was ‘Escape’ and ‘Bliss’ that emerged triumphant. Now, with the first of these just weeks away from its scheduled launch, guests will soon experience what ‘escape’ really feels like.

Constructed by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany, the 164,600t vessel had its official float out on 15 August, giving onlookers a first glance of the ship and Guy Harvey’s distinctive hull artwork. Brightly-coloured sea creatures cluster at the stern and bow – the most conspicuous of all, a huge swordfish with its mouth agape and sharp bill running parallel to the prow.

Wildlife artist, diver and marine biologist, Harvey is a passionate advocate for ocean conservation. His pairing with a cruise line might therefore surprise those aware of the sometimes-strained relationship between the cruise community and environmental activists. However, with extensive ‘scrubber’ technology in the form of five exhaust emission treatment units, Escape exceeds required environmental standards, and Harvey hopes his eye-catching mural will heighten public awareness of the need to protect the endangered creatures pictured.

Inside the ship, this message is strengthened through documentaries airing on stateroom televisions, produced by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, educating guests on how best to contribute to conservation efforts.

A haven on earth

What Escape offers guests more than anything is a rather different kind of aquatic life. While the ship’s overall structure bears a close resemblance to its predecessors Getaway and Breakaway, the new design offers some attractive additions and amendments, in which the relaxing qualities of water play a key role.

Take, for example, Spice H20, an outdoor deck area similar to that found on Getaway, but to which has been added a new ‘mystic water cave’, where water gently trickles through a grotto of craggy rocks into a pool. In the adults-only Vibe Beach Club and nearby sunbathing space on Deck 19, more added extras can be found in the forms of water misters and overhanging whirlpool baths for guests to enjoy. Those young at heart can find the largest water park at sea, featuring a new Aqua Racer slide, and for bona fide children, the Kid’s Aqua Park has been extended for Escape too.

However, it is in the spa sections of the ship that the most significant aquatic developments have been implemented.

Spanning two decks with unobstructed ocean views, Escape‘s Mandara Spa offers the largest thermal suite at sea, complete with whirlpools, a steam room, a dry sauna, a sanarium, 17 heated loungers and a salt room accented with neon up-lighting. The feature that makes it stand out from the other spas in the Breakaway class, though, is a complete first for Norwegian: a ‘snow room’. With temperatures of 21-32°F, the icy chamber stimulates blood circulation and even treats (or perhaps subjects) its occupants to powdery snow flurries throughout the day.

In private spa suite The Haven, a two-deck-high waterfall forms the centrepiece to a redesigned guest courtyard, with a new retractable roof for poor-weather days. Several other amendments have been made to this elite ‘ship within a ship’ area, such as a second deck. Developed for Norwegian’s Breakaway class, The Haven can already be seen on Getaway and Breakaway, and offers access exclusively to its members. But Escape takes this exclusivity one step further, with many guest suites now situated within the complex itself, making access easier and allowing guests to feel truly part of the peaceful Haven enclave. The number of Haven suites available has also increased, from 42 on Getaway to 95 on Escape, reflecting guests’ desires for a true and complete ‘escape’. Other changes include an outdoor extension to The Haven’s restaurant, providing guests with an extra sun deck for al fresco dining.

The same approach to these enhancements can be seen throughout the ship as a whole. In contrast to Norwegian’s most recently launched ship, Getaway, where the theme of the Miami and South Florida lifestyle is reflected in rich, vibrant colours, Escape‘s decor is dominated by a soft, calming palette.

Jeffrey Parns is Norwegian’s director of architectural design. Summing up his team’s approach to designing Escape, he describes how the ship has evolved to create the new Breakaway-Plus class.

"Norwegian Escape is a continuation and further development of the Breakaway class, with a more consistent and unified flow of international and contemporary design, taking hotel resorts as inspiration," he says. "We generally convey a sense of relaxation and freedom with the use of natural materials and sophisticated settled colours."

Improvements abound

As ever, stunning sea views are at the heart of guests’ enjoyment of the ship, and tweaks have been made to the Waterfront area (first seen on Breakaway) to increase guest access to these. Linked by three-storey atrium 678 Ocean Place – which features a floating glass staircase and striking LED chandelier at its centre – the Waterfront is Norwegian’s popular oceanfront promenade. Encircling the ship, it is around a quarter of a mile in length, and fuses indoor and outdoor venues.

Commenting on the design team’s approach to the Waterfront, Parns comments, "The connection and integrity of inside areas with the Waterfront has been further developed for Norwegian Escape. Function space has been extended for guest enjoyment."

Further improvements include more dining options and a range of new bars. New restaurant Food Republic, by South Beach gastronomers the Pubbelly Boys, features a glass roof and floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing guests to survey the sea and sky, whatever the weather. Meanwhile, the Taste Restaurant (one of the ship’s complimentary dining options) offers access to a private dining room located just below the main venue, which can accommodate up to 100 guests, allowing groups to dine together in an intimate setting.

Another Waterfront novelty for Escape is The Cellars, from Nappa Valley vintners the Michael Mondavi family, where guests can try their hand at wine tasting as they gaze over the waves.

Seascapes aren’t the only views to be had, though, with Escape‘s Skyline bar offering guests a range of famous vistas. Displayed on LED screen ‘windows’, panoramas of New York may initially confuse guests on Escape‘s Caribbean itinerary, but they will certainly make an interesting backdrop for an evening cocktail or two.

Elsewhere on the ship, more slices of the US are available for guests to enjoy, with musician-cum-businessman Jimmy Buffett’s first ever seaborne Margaritaville restaurant, and a new venue appropriately named The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar. As the first of Escape‘s guests sample the new attractions on offer and relax into their cruise, Norwegian will no doubt be hoping they experience a little of Buffett’s famed ‘island escapism’ too.