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Review: Escape The Big Top

RATING: 2 Keys          RESULT: Loss           REMAINING: 0:00

100 invisible people. 3 magic words. 1 floating escape game.


An onboard carnival takes an unusual turn when an act goes wrong. It’s then up to the guests to solve the clues and escape the spell before the time runs out.  This complimentary event, which can run up to one hour, is the ultimate combination of intellect and urgency. Escape the Big Top gives guests of all ages the chance to not only compete against the clock, but their fellow guests as well for added fun.

This circus has gone a bit awry. All of the guests who thought they were here to see the bearded lady and the sword juggler are in for quite the surprise.

A booming and haunting voice fills the room just as the show is about to begin. Tired of letting the audience get all of the laughs, the powerful magician has turned the tables and made the guests invisible.

In order to escape the circus, teams must decipher the correct code and figure out the three magical words to undo the spell that made them invisible.


The space used for this game is a dinner theater, so it is already nicely appointed with fancy furniture, a stage, chandeliers, and the like.

Items and props are added throughout the room to give it the circus tent aesthetic. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has done a good job making the multi-purpose space look like the circus.

The set actually exceeded our expectations as the theater is used for multiple other shows and only hosts the escape game twice per week. Each physical puzzle was intricately designed and themed to evoke memories of trips to a carnival or circus.


Game play and puzzles are where Escape The Big Top veers off course from traditional escape games. And by veers off, I mean takes a sharp turn, spins out of control, crashes through the roadside barrier, and plummets off a cliff.

Before the circus gets started, guests are divided into teams of up to ten people. Each group is competing against the clock as well as the other teams.

Several paper based clues as well as a few physical clues and puzzles are found in a bag on the assigned tables to begin the event. Each clue/puzzle relates to a poster or physical prop set up around the theater.

Groups must figure out the clues and determine which puzzle each prop helps them solve. Every puzzle will lead to a word. Those answers correlate to numbers that can be found in a pamphlet on each teams’ table. The end goal is to use all of this to determine the correct three digit code to unlock a padlock. Still with me? Yea, this carnival gets a bit confusing.

The theater becomes a bit chaotic as up to ten teams are running around the tables and stage trying to solve the same puzzles. It most notably was an issue for the final stage that required unlocking a chest on the main stage. There was only one chest so only one person could be trying possible combinations at a time. With ten teams racing against one another, some groups will inevitably hog the lock and not allow other teams the opportunity to test their solutions.

It’s difficult to make an escape game for one hundred people to play simultaneously without these issues arising, but there are ways this could have been improved upon.

Some of the puzzles were surprisingly clever and original! And… others were not. A few were painfully basic and a couple required pretty big logic jumps. Luckily at the end of the show the piped in creepy voice goes over every puzzle and clue. The mysterious magician explains how to arrive at the correct solution to reverse his curse and make the audience no longer invisible.


Our Big Top experience was on the Norwegian Escape. This show is also available on the Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Bliss.

We enjoyed this experience but left thinking of the many ways in which it could have been better. It’s a fun way to spend an hour, particularly for us puzzle enthusiasts. However, the game play of having one hundred people running around a small theater turns this circus into, well… a circus.

Cruisers who find themselves on an NCL ship offering Escape The Big Top should definitely check it out. Don’t book a cruise just to do this though. It’s not worth it, but then there is the whole being on a cruise for the week as well, so on second thought

NCL put in some effort to make this a fun and unique show. We think the cruise industry and the escape room industry would make a perfect pairing so hopefully this is a test run for future projects. The big ships have more than four thousand new passengers every week, so a legitimate escape room would definitely be popular.

Escape The Big Top is a free entertainment option aboard the NCL ships. However, it is capped at around 100 people for each show. These spots fill very quickly. Be sure to head to the Box Office early in the week to reserve spots for the next show!

My brother and I may have gotten a bit frustrated during this game…

Venue Details

Venue: Norwegian Escape

Location: Miami, Florida (Home Port City)

Number of Games: 1


Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 100 people

Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.

Cost: FREE (with purchase of a cruise vacation)


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