Norwegian Escape: My First Norwegian Ship

Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Escape cruise ship is the first of the four Breakaway-class ships of Norwegian Cruise Line vessels –  together with Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Encore. When I transferred to NCL, this became my first ship. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is a subsidiary company of the shipping corporation Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) with headquarters in Miami, Florida.

Norwegian Escape Beginnings

Escape received its name from a contest that was traditionally called “Norwegians Name Their Ships”. It was selected through a Facebook contest that ran from September 10 through 24 of 2015. People from the US, Canada, Spain, Germany and United Kingdom participated. They were asked to vote for their favorite out of the line’s top 10 name prospects – Bliss, Discovery, Dreamaway, Escape, Journey, Muse, Passion, Sailaway, Treasure and Triton. The lucky winner got a free cruise for two during the ship’s inaugural activities. The liner’s christening ceremony was held on November 9, 2015. This was led by the ship’s godfather Pitbull where he performed a live concert and sang some of his best hits.

Norwegian Escape is an exciting ship that looks like a mega-resort at sea. The ship is so big that when I saw it for the first time, I felt like standing in front of a giant hotel. It’s super long extending to more than a thousand feet and towering with 20 decks. It was so much bigger than Pacific Dawn, my very first cruise ship home.

I remember fixing my eyes on its haul while walking towards it when I embarked in April of last year. I never saw a ship looking very much alive with colors for underwater creatures adorned its haul. The theme was designed by Guy Harvey, a famous marine wildlife artist and conservationist.  

Norwegian Escape used to be based in Miami but it moved to New York City last year, making it the ship’s new home port. It goes to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Canada & New England, and Bermuda. By April next year, it will start doing a transatlantic cruise to cross over Europe. It will stay there until summer season is over.  

FAST FACTS

OwnerNorwegian Cruise Line
BuilderMeyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany
Launched15 August 2015
Maiden voyage9 November 2015
Class and typeBreakaway class-plus Cruise Ship
Tonnage164,000 GT
Length1,069 feet (325.9 m)

Norwegian Escape and I

New Home

Joining Norwegian Escape was one of the best days of my ship life. I was away from the sea for months because my mom was sick. At first, I hesitated to go back to ships because there were so many things to do at home. Then the “sea” called me and I realized I missed it too. When my application went through and I was accepted to be part of a new company, I grabbed the chance.

The flight was long compared to what I normally had when going to Australia. I traveled for almost one whole day. The time difference was huge too. It took a toll on my sanity and productivity during the first few weeks of my stay on board.

I joined in Miami on April 7, 2018. My heart leapt when I first caught a glimpse of the Escape. That was my new home for 6 months straight. I was in awe when I stood in front of the enormous ship. It looked so beautiful and I felt quite excited.

You can imagine the surprise and wonder that followed me when we finally boarded. It was even more impressive when you go inside. We quickly looked around before heading to our welcome meeting. I saw a gorgeous chandelier hanging at the top of the ceiling. Its long body looked so elegant with all its magnificent lights and blings.   

As days rolled by, I realized that Norwegian Escape is the ship to go to for people wanting to have unforgettable holiday. It has pretty much everything – from dining, recreation, entertainment, relaxation and many others. No wonder why it’s very busy. There are so many things to do both for the adults and the kids.

The ship offers more than 25 dining experiences. You can choose to go French, Mediterranean, Spanish, Italian, American, Brazilian, and Asian. There are 14 bars and lounges if you wish to party and have fun with friends. There are Broadway shows almost every night, hilarious live comedy, and performances by very talented artists who offer different types of music.

There’s the spa and salon, gym, casino, shops that sell all kinds of stuff, and the youth clubs where I work. I will never forget the expansive Aquapark, looming above the main pool while boasting 4 exhilarating water slides. There are hot tubs, a soothing waterfall grotto, a 3-storey ropes court, mini-golf, basketball court, bocce ball court, and a video arcade.

Yet no matter how lavish and grand the things around me were, there was a special place on deck 5 that I really loved. It was a tiny room that would pass for a big box. This box housed a little bed, a narrow closet, a modest table, 2 luggage, fears, frustrations, joys, hope and dreams. I was lucky to have a solo cabin. This small room became my haven when I transferred to NCL.

New World

A cruise ship is a melting pot of different cultures. One can meet people from other countries around the world. When I was still with my previous company, most of the crew members in the youth team were fellow Filipinas. My other colleagues were English, Kiwis, South Africans and Canadians. There were a few Scottish, Portuguese, and Americans. I also had one boss from Chile. Outside our department there were so many Indonesians, Malaysians, Indians, Ni-Vans, Tongans, and Fijians.

When I moved to NCL, it was not only my ship that grew. Literally, my world expanded, too. There were so many people. Imagine being surrounded by crew members amounting to approximately 1700. That was a lot. They hailed from all over the globe, even from places I never even heard of.

Next to the Filipino community which always accounted for the most number in all the ships I’ve been on, were workers from various Latin American countries. I met crew members from Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. There were people from Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Russia, Spain, Mauritius, St. Lucia, Belize, Zimbabwe, and Senegal. My very first friends were from India, China and Honduras.

Different nationalities mean different languages. In the beginning it was crazy to sit and eat while hearing words that sounded so weird and were meaningless to me. There were a lot of times when I found myself feeling offended by people who won’t speak English and used their first language instead. I thought that was rude. Eventually I began to understand that it was never their intention to make me feel out of place. Rather it was more of convenience. Knowing this, I tried to sharpen my understanding of non-verbal communication. I deliberately tried to study another language, too. Right now my Spanish is getting better. 🙂  

Aside from these people, I was very blessed to be on a ship that goes to beautiful places. It was my first time to be in the US and it felt like a dream. I only spent one day outside Miami then the ship sailed for 3 days to go to New York. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see it up close. I was not allowed to go outside NYC since I was on my first contract.  

Nonetheless, I was able to visit other countries and new places that were exquisitely mesmerizing. I saw lovely beaches in Jamaica and Bahamas. When the ship home ported in New York, it started running 7-day cruises with 2 overnights in Bermuda. I won’t forget swimming with the turtles and frolicking at the beach that has pink sand. Towards the end of my contract, we traveled to other parts of the US. We also went to Canada where I saw maple trees for the first time. Holding a real maple leaf was like touching the cherry blossoms of Japan. It was so special.   

New Me

The new ship environment demanded something new from myself as well. You cannot go to a new place and expect to remain the same. I would like to believe that my half a year stint on Norwegian Escape changed me for the better. This went both on professional and personal levels.

In terms of work, I would say it was the same and yet different. Physically, I was well-rested. Mentally, it was challenging. Unlike in my previous company where I used to do everything, on this ship I was only working with the teens. This enabled me to focus on them more and to come up with activities that they would really enjoy.

I guess the biggest difference between the American teens and the Australian teens that I used to handle was their sense of freedom. Based on observation, the Aussies were a little bit more conservative and had higher level of cooperation and respect for authority.   The teens from the US were wilder and were harder to please. It took a while for me to understand them. Thank God for music which paved the way for me to have a look into their world. I painstakingly listened to rap and hip-hop. I familiarized myself with Drake, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, 6ix9ine, Cardi B, and many more gangster artists that they idolize.

Compared to my old company where there were more Filipinos in the team, on this ship there were only a few of us. The 3 other Filipinas were working with the smaller children and so I rarely saw them. Working on this new ship made me opened my doors to new friends from other countries. I realized that no matter how different we all look, we still share so many things in common. This includes the need to belong, to be respected, to be loved and to be accepted.

Despite meeting new friends, there were still many days when I went to the ports alone. There were just times when I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with because their schedules and their plans were different. But then, that was alright. I found ways to keep myself entertained even when I didn’t have anyone with me. I took responsibility for my own joy.    

What I Learned from Norwegian Escape

My biggest takeaway from my Escape experience was “I CAN!!!” I should not be scared to start over again. This starting over required me to “escape” from situation, people, and old beliefs that made me feel sad, defeated and small. It led me to a new place that enabled me to find my stronger, wiser, and better self. Norwegian Escape will always be special for me because it taught me so many things. It gave me the means to escape the following:

Environment

My last contract with my other company was very challenging. I was so drained because I was all over the ship and was doing so many things. It got even worst when I was sent to smaller ships. There were only a few staff even when there were so many kids. It came to a point when no matter how much I love my job, it was a struggle to carry on. I lost a lot of weight because not only was it physically demanding, it was mentally taxing too. Going to the Escape made me realize that I have the power to change my environment. I can always choose to go to a new place where I can work, have fun and still be able to take good care of myself.

Situation

In 2017 Mama was diagnosed with cancer. I was on board when they broke the sad news to me. It was tough because I had to keep working and look happy even when emotionally I was shattered. Aside from the worries brought by the thought that we might lose her, the medical bills were so high and insurance can’t cover all the expenses.  It also didn’t help that my vacation was long. It was more than 3 months. I was running low on budget and we were paying so many things. By accepting the new job offer I was able to solve my problem because my salary was higher. This allowed me to help my family again.   

Corner

I guess we all have that little dark corner inside our heads. It limits us from doing what we want to do because we’re too scared to fail. I wanted to leave but there were voices inside me that told me “You can’t do it. You’re old. You’ve been here too long. You’re not good enough.” Choosing to leave no matter how scary it felt made me learn to trust myself and to have more faith. I disciplined myself to ignore those voices that spoke of ugly things. I prayed my deepest prayers and believed with all my heart that the God I know and worship is the king of everything including my fears. And there can’t be fear where there is faith.

Ambition

For years, I dreamed that one day I’ll get promoted. I was doing this job for a long time and I was good at it. Foolish and naive, I made myself believe that in exchange for all my hard work I can climb the ladder. By mistake, I thought that it would automatically come. I desired it because I thought having it can make me win the respect of others. When I transferred, I realized how shallow and superficial my ambition was. I was surprised because even though I was new, I gained the respect of my colleagues after they saw how I worked. This experience polished my rough edges. I realized that I am not my job title. My self-worth should not depend on it. I should strive for excellence rather than recognition from others.

People

Mama, being sick, has been one of the lowest and highest point of my life. It brought us closer us a family. It brought us closer to God. I must say it also helped me discover who my truest friends are. Real friends will care and support you during trying times. Sadly, I learned that not all my friends were that. Having spent a few good times with them doesn’t automatically make us “good friends.” I may have had thousands of pictures with them, but it doesn’t mean they will be around to offer help. It made me reevaluate myself and the kind of relationship I’ve established with the people around me. When I joined the Escape, I was more careful and more selective of people to spend time with. I looked for authenticity, genuine love and care that I found in my family.

Enemy

By this I meant the greatest enemy I have – MYSELF. “We are so accustomed to the comforts of “I cannot”, “I do not want to” and “it is too difficult” that we forget to realize when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak.” These were the wise words of a best-selling author named Pandora Poikilos. For the longest time that was my story. I’ve gotten used to my “old world” and I embraced it’s predictability. It became too safe that the mere thought of taking risks and trying new things became so scary. It was liberating when I was finally able to escape. I discovered that new doors are waiting just outside my comfort zone. I only needed to be brave.

Before You Go

Don’t get me wrong. I wrote this not to list down things I didn’t like about the company where I used to work. On the contrary, I will always be thankful for my 6 fruitful years with them. My stay there honed me into becoming an excellent youth worker. I learned so much from them.  When I think of my old ships, I remember the good times more than the bad. I met good friends there too and some of them I consider like my own family.

This article was written only to suggest that when things no longer work, we should stop lying to ourselves. We always have the option to go. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Or better yet we should try new things even when we’re scared. If not, we’ll never know what rewarding opportunities await.

So if you find yourself lost, discouraged, sad, or even when you just feel like you had enough you can always choose to leave and escape. After all, you are never alone in your journey. There are loving people around you who will support you. Most importantly, there’s someone up there who will guide you. Go where you really want to go. Always remember that there is no place so desolate that you cannot find God there. No set of circumstances can ever isolate you from His loving presence.

Follow your dreams.

Jen

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