Norwegian Epic 2-Night Inaugural Cruise Review
Written by: Cruise News
Recently, cruise expert and CruiseReviews writer Jan Shaughnessy was aboard Norwegian Epic for the 2-night preview cruise done in conjunction with inaugural festivities in New York. Here is her in depth review of this major new ship.
NCL EPIC 2-NT INAUGURAL CHRISTENING CRUISE
JULY 2-4, 2010
INTRO – This cruise was a 2-nt inaugural christening cruise out of New York City. During it’s first season the NCL Epic will sail from Miami sailing alternating Eastern and Western seven day cruises. Next summer she will sail from Barcelona doing seven day Western Mediterranean cruises and return in the Winter of 2011 back to Miami to do a seven night Eastern itinerary.
EMBARKATION – Check-in at the New York terminal has improved immensely since my previous cruises out of New York Manhattan terminal, pier 88. I arrived to the pier around 11AM and found very little lines. Check-in is quick when you have already done the pre-registration on line. The agent checks your proof of citizenship, swipes you credit card for onboard purchases, takes your picture for your boarding pass, then fetches your boarding card. The process of taking your picture at check-in saves a step, which some cruise lines are still doing after security, by having you step up to a kiosk and inserting your card to take your ID picture. After check-in we proceeded to the security point, then we were directed to the gangway. Photographers were set up to take Bon Voyage pictures which you can later buy. Having been on many cruises, I always bypass this step. The NCL Epic had two gangways for entering the ship. Embarkation was a breeze. We were on the ship in ten minutes.
THE SHIP- My first impression upon entering the ship on deck 5 was “Wow”. The atrium and guest relations area was very spacious and reminded me more of a large resort hotel. “Spacious”, was an adjective I would use to describe the ship many more times in the next two days. The innovative NCL Epic offers 19 decks of world class entertainment, more than 20 unique dining options, and 20 bars and lounges. The ship boast a lot of “firsts”. The first true Ice Bar at sea, largest tube and bowl slide at sea, largest spa and fitness centre at sea, first repelling wall at sea, first Big Top at sea, the most bowling alleys at sea (6 lanes), and the first time Blue Man Group performs on the sea.
The ship is well laid out and easy to maneuver. Hallway carpet colors will help you learn the ship – red and brown carpets on port side, blue and brown on starboard.
There are plenty of quiet spots on the ship. The Posh Beach Club on deck 18 offers a secluded retreat area with cushioned chairs and bar service. A plethora of deck chairs (2,395), are spread out in several areas on decks 15,16, and 18. Some areas providing more privacy with only 12 lounges in the area.
The casino and shopping area were two other areas that were “spacious”. These areas made me feel I was in one of the large Las Vegas casino hotels and not on a ship. The casino runs length wise down deck 6, flanks out left and right in the center at the atrium and continues length wise. This is the largest casino I have ever seen on a ship (350 slot machines). The design should eliminate the cramped quarters typical of most ships casinos. I believe the spread out design should also help the closed in smell of smoke. The shopping area is reminiscent of a large department store. A very large make up counter serves as a hub in the center. A number of large shops spoke off the hub. A liquor store, candy store, logo shop, fine jewelry, and name brand stores all are generous in square footage. No bumping into each other to pass through.
Cruise passengers can stay fit in the fitness center which sports 42 treadmills with 24-hr access. Fitness classes like stretch and relaxation, Yoga, Pilates, and spinning. Some have a nominal fee. If pampering yourself on vacation is your cup of tea, then head to deck 14 where you’ll find the Mandara Spa and Salon. It offers facials, massages, body wraps, teeth whitening, hair and nail treatments, and new medi-spa cosmetic treatments including Restylane, Botox, and Perlane. All done by a certified physician.
ENTERTAINMENT – This is where the NCL Epic really shines. There was far too much entertainment to see it all in my short two day cruise. I chose to see Blue Man Group the first night. BMG is free on the NCL Epic and would cost $100 per person to see this show in Las Vegas. They have a three year contract to perform on the Epic. The second night I enjoyed listening to Slam Allen in the Fat Cats blues/ jazz bar. An excellent band. You’ll want to make advance reservations for major entertainment. Reservations can be made 45 days in advance. You’ll need reservations for BMG, Legends in Concert, Second City Comedy Troupe, and the Spiegel Tent Cirque Dreams & Dinner show which has a surcharge of $20pp. They also have a Murder Mystery show with a cover charge. The Headliners lounge where Second City performs also is where Howling at the Moon dueling pianos is held. Spice H20 up on deck 15 & 16 is where you can enjoy a pool bar and grill while watching themed movies on the big screen. Theme nights and karaoke are held in the very exotic Bliss Lounge. My favorite place was the Irish bar, O’Sheehan’s. The pub was split into two sections; one side was more of the bar area with pool tables and dart boards. The other side was more for the complimentary dining where one could order items like fish & chips, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, Chef salad, burgers and hotdog with chili, chicken breast sandwich, honey smoked salmon, and corn beef on rye. Several Irish, English, German, and Belgium beers were on tap. This seemed to be a popular spot. Part of Sheehan’s (deck 6) over looks the two deck atrium which starts on deck 5. A two deck large broadcasting screen, also used for Wii games, is the center of attention in the atrium area. In Sheehan’s one can sit on tall bar stools that circle the atrium and have the perfect seat for watching major sports events. There are numerous other bars throughout the ship to partake of your favorite drink. Pool bars have six pre-made daiquiri machines. The newest and most innovative bar on the seas though is the Svedka Ice Bar. Inspired by ice hotels in Scandinavia. The Ice Bar is totally ice and requires it be maintained at 17 degrees. A surcharge of $20 per person will get you two drinks and a fur coat to wear. Make your reservations early to experience this unique bar.
Children have plenty of their own entertainment too. The Kid’s Crew and teens programs will keep them busy with pizza parties, treasure hunts, dances, wii, and xbox games. Teens have their own Entourage teen club and video arcade, and the wee ones a Kid’s Aqua Park. Young and old alike will enjoy the rock climbing and repelling walls, full basket ball court, ice skating, bungee trampoline, spider rope climb, and the large Aqua Park with three tunnel slides. Also new to NCL this year is a partnership with Nickelodeon. On the Epic kids can watch live Nickelodeon shows, get autographs with their favorite character, or even have breakfast with them.
DINING – The NCL Epic offers over 20 dining options. Eight of the dining venues are specialty restaurants and have a surcharge. On my short 2-nt cruise I wanted to try one of the speciality restaurants and one of the included with fare restaurants. The first night I ate at the new Moderno Churrascaria Brazilian style restaurant. $18 PP surcharge. The meal starts with a trip to the salad bar. The concept at Moderno is similar to Bubba Gump’s “Go and Stop”. Diner’s are given little cards red one side, green the other. When you are ready for your main course flip it to green. The waiters then start coming around with several different meats on the spindle. Chicken, sirloin, filet, pork ribs, beef ribs, Chorizo sausage. They will continue to keep serving until you flip your card over to red for stop. Dessert is also included with the meal. The Taste and Manhattan dining rooms would be considered more like a main dining room on the Epic. I ate in the Manhattan Room on night two. The dining room is in the aft of the ship on deck 6 and has large windows for viewing. Music is performed in the dining room at 9:30PM. I was pleased to see many tables for two in the dining room, and several of them were up against the windows. The right side of the menu changes every night with appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees. The left side of the menu stays the same and is the anytime items, some are an additional surcharge. I ordered prime rib and it was cooked to order and very good. The other restaurants that are speciality with surcharge are LaCucina Italian, Le Bistro French, Wasabi/Shanghai’s/Teppanyaki all Asian, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and the Cirque Dreams Dinner show. Pizza is complimentary on the ship if you get it on the buffet. You can also have it delivered anywhere on the ship for a $5 service charge. The other included restaurants in addition to Taste and Manhattan are Sheehan’s Pub, Garden Cafe, Spice H20 (Latin and Asian), Epic Club for suite/villa guest, Atrium Cafe & Wine Bar (light fare & snacks), Courtyard Grill (suites/villa), Great Outdoors and 24 hour room service.
The Garden Cafe was another “spacious” area. This is one of the best buffet areas I have seen on any ship. The design is set up to alleviate lines. Upon entering the Garden Cafe the stations separate to the left and right. Each side identical. Separate stations for each, Asian, Indian, Salads, Desserts, breads, Pizza, Carved meats and hot dishes, Beverage station, and soft and hard ice cream. Signs above label each station. The Great Outdoor grill by the pool is an extension of the Garden Cafe and serves hamburgers, hotdogs, sausages and grilled chicken breast. In the morning there are several omelette stations in the Cafe. The seating area in the Garden Cafe is plentiful. A nice feature are table caddies at the tables that hold wrapped silverware, ketchup, mustard, and steak sauce. No need to fumble with your silverware while balancing a plate in the buffet line.
CABINS – By far the most talked about new feature on the Epic is the Wave Balcony cabins and the split bathrooms. Much has been written in the media about the cabins, and many are pre-judging these cabins before even seeing them in person. Cabins on the NCL Epic are designed to be energy efficient. Upon entering the cabin you will insert your key into the slot on the wall to activate the lighting system. This design is used widely in hotels in Europe and Asia. The easy slide balcony glass door is treated to deflect heat from the sun. The air conditioning system is also designed to automatically shut off if balcony doors are left open. I was in a regular balcony cabin on deck 8. There are also family balcony, deluxe balcony, family deluxe balcony, and spa balcony. The regular balconies are short on square footage, but I feel are manageable for two people. The cabins have plenty of storage space. You’ll have to really look though, as some storage is built into the facade and doesn’t look like it opens. Cabin amenities include a stocked refrigerator, a coffee maker with coffees and teas, hair dryer, push button safe, and floor to ceiling windows.
The split bathroom design is the contentious thorn that is the talk of the town. The shower and toilet are each a separate compartment with frosted doors. The area in between the two is where the cabin door opens and also serves as a dressing area, which can be closed off to the bedroom by pulling a drape across for privacy. The new vessel sink sits outside this area in the bedroom on the counter. Some have complained about the frosted doors be “too see through”. I found them no more than my shower door at home. Others complain of the split toilet and shower not being private. How so? They each have doors and there’s the curtain to pull shut. I see the new bathroom design as an opportunity for two people to use the facilities that previously, would have had to been used one at a time. Mrs Jones can now do her make up at the sink while Mr Jones showers. And no fogged up mirror! Minor notes about my balcony cabin was the hard to reach plug hiding under the counter inside a cabinet, the flat almost hidden light switch under the medicine cabinet, and no regular towel bar to hang up wet towels (claw hooks only).
The NCL Epic has broken tradition with the new solo traveler cabins. The inside Studio cabins are a comfortable 100 square foot each. They provide a full-size bed, sink and shower. The 128 solo cabins are grouped together in one section and have their own private access lounge to mingle.
Those that are looking for a private, pampered experience may want to book the Spa Suites, Courtyard Villas or Penthouse. You’ll have exclusive access to your own private Villa Courtyard pool and sun deck, spa, and fitness center, along with a private access Epic Club Courtyard Grill and Epic Club Lounge. Your accommodations come with butler and concierge service and upgraded cabin amenities such as upgraded linens, pillow-top mattress, fresh flowers, your own cappuccino/espresso machine, and plush bathrobes. These accommodations are great for those wanting added space and separate bedrooms for families.
OVERALL – I found the crew on the NCL Epic to be friendly and attentive. They always smiled and greeted you in passing. The NCL Epic is an innovative and amazing ship. The variety of entertainment and activities provide something for everyone. The numerous dining options provide something to satisfy all palates.
NCL definitely has hit a home run with the NCL Epic and I look forward to sailing her again on a longer cruise.