Norwegian EpicNorwegian Cruise Line
Editor's Note: As of October 2015, the Nickelodeon program will no longer be offered on Norwegian Epic.When Epic debuted in June 2010, it strutted its new-to-cruising innovations proudly. The first solo studio cabins at sea! The first ice bar at sea! The first Blue Man Group show at sea! The first "new wave" cabins at sea! The first translucent bathrooms at sea! (Ok, maybe it should have stopped at its innovative curved-wall cabin design, as the howls continue over the see-through loos.)
Norwegian Epic Cabin Photos
If Epic stands out in one particular area, it's in its cabin design. From its funky "new wave" staterooms and its wildly popular solo Studios to the fact that every outside cabin has a balcony (an industry first), there's a lot to admire -- and question -- on the ship.
Making the biggest splash by far are the 128 Studios, a two-deck complex of inside accommodations accessible by keycard. Geared toward solo travelers and priced at about $800 to $1,000 for a seven-night sail (considerably less than the traditional single supplements that lone cruisers have to pay), each cabin comprises about 100 square feet of living space and contains a full-size bed, separate shower/toilet and sink, a surprising amount of storage and nifty lighting effects that let you change the room's hue depending on your mood. I liked the large round window in each cabin as well; it looks out into the corridor (so no real view), but there's a shade you can close to ensure privacy. I talked to about a dozen Epic voyagers bunking in Studios, and everyone said they loved the concept -- and the execution. Bonus points for the Living Room, where solo-istas can gather to watch TV, drink some coffee and have a drink before heading out.
Meanwhile, tongues have been wagging since Epic's launch over the "new wave" design worked into most cabins (with the exception of inside accommodations, villas and some suites). Think curvy walls, recessed ceilings, rounded queen-size beds and arched sofas. However, it's the revolutionary bathrooms -- which split the commode and the shower into two components, which are separated by the foyer and ensconced in smoked glass -- that are giving some folks fits. Two problems: The stand-alone sinks can be disconcertingly close to beds. And you can see the shadow of the person using the facilities, so unless you close the curtain dividing the enclosures from the rest of the cabin, a simple pre-dinner shower becomes a peep show.
One puzzling side note: While many cabins feature the see-through loos and showers, the Studios do not. The toilets lie behind solid doors, giving the solo passengers, uh, more privacy than those traveling with others. The translucent showers are a Studio staple, however.
Overall, I was more than pleased with the design... and the bathroom configuration. Who doesn't want a little extra roominess? However, I was struck by the difference in the standard Balcony and Deluxe Balcony staterooms (having the chance to sleep in both varieties), encompassing 216 square feet and 245 square feet, respectively (including the balcony). At 6 foot 1, I felt a little cramped in the smaller space (the bed nearly touched the built-in vanity), and I was traveling alone. An upgrade to the larger stateroom included a bevy of extra cubbyholes for clothes, a larger shower, bathrobes, a full range of toiletries and room to move. Both cabin classes accommodate three, but I'd spend the extra money if I were part of a trio.
In any event, cabins come with flat-screen TVs (with a pitifully small range of viewing options); roomy safes; a complex but wonderfully intuitive phone that simplifies setting alarms, making reservations and ordering room service; and a paucity of electrical outlets (be prepared to crawl on the floor to plug in your iPod). The lighting effects are lovely throughout, though it took me two days to figure out how to turn on the light over the sink -- so ask your steward. The curvy couch, alas, looks cooler than it is comfortable. Closet space is fine, though borrowing an iron from housekeeping to de-wrinkle some shirts was an ordeal that took several phone calls and 75 minutes to untangle.
Families can pick and choose among a variety of staterooms, including Balcony and Deluxe Balcony accommodations within close proximity to the Recess Kid's Crew activity area. They're the same size as other balcony cabins, only with an extra upper bed. Many are connecting, so the whole brood can be together.
In addition, Norwegian has introduced 39 spa-themed Balcony, Deluxe Balcony and 322-square-foot Suites into the mix. Clustered near the Mandara Spa, each lodging offers complimentary access to the ship's hydrotherapy area and thermal suite, while passengers in the Spa Suites can take advantage of the Courtyard Villas concierge lounge.
That lounge is just one of numerous amenities offered to splurgers ensconced in the Haven complex, the largest "ship-within-a-ship" enclave in the NCL fleet. Nestled atop the ship on Decks 16 and 17, the space also includes a private pool, two whirlpools, a gym, sun deck and the posh Epic Club restaurant. The 60 accommodations include 46 Family Villas, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and separate living and dining areas (up to 506 square feet); eight Deluxe Owner's Suites, with king-size beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and his-and-her powder areas (up to 852 square feet); and six Courtyard Penthouses, with queen-size beds, separate living and dining areas and a luxury bath (up to 322 square feet).
NCL pioneered the freestyle dining concept (that is, eat whenever you want with whomever you want and wherever you want), and it's taken it to a new level on Epic. Expect to pay a little extra (or a lot, depending on your perspective) for the specialty restaurants onboard, though there are plenty of places to nosh that are included in the cruise fare.
Whereas most mega-ships feature a massive, swanky dining hall where strangers mingle at large tables under glistening chandeliers, Epic goes another route. The closest you'll find to the standard here is the fee-free, 592-seat Manhattan Room, an Art Deco-esque maze with gorgeous two-story windows looking aft and a polished dance floor (there's frequently music for hoofing, and the Legends in Concert show takes place here three times a week). It's a beaut, but it offered up one of the least satisfying meals I encountered thanks to an overwhelming din and sub-par food (for the record, a soggy salad, cold prime rib and a rock-hard baked potato).
Oddly enough, I preferred the chow and the atmosphere at the Garden Café, the ship's buffet-style eatery awash with flowery décor and made-to-order food stations. As crowded as Epic was, I never had a problem finding a seat, plus there's a plethora of window tables -- so even if you're eating alone there's something to watch outside. Steps away and almost poolside is the Great Outdoors, an extension of the buffet offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with easy access to well-spaced tables tucked under attractive tent-like canopies.
There are two other open-to-all, fee-free options onboard. Because I'd heard mixed reviews from fellow Epicureans about Taste, which proffers eclectic fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I approached the atrium restaurant with some skepticism. No worries: I loved the unconventional décor -- a modernistic mix of twisted wood, a giant LED chandelier and free-form walls -- and the sophisticated vibe, and the food wasn't half-bad (tip: try the fish and chips). Less sophisticated and more fun is O'Sheehan's, a new concept for NCL: a sprawling bowling alley-cum-eatery that's open 24 hours and decked out in dark wood and stained glass. It dishes out breakfasts (scrambled-egg wraps, create-your-own omelets and the like) and pub grub.
Still, the gratis options never really measured up to the offerings at the for-fee specialty restaurants. Several venues make their debuts here: Shanghai's is a free, compact, dinner-only Chinese restaurant decorated in deep reds and greens; it has an adjacent noodle bar that was always packed for lunch and dinner. Both are worth a stop, though I'd advise ordering the more exotic fare at Shangai's (read: no lo mein) to shake things up a bit.
Meanwhile, passadors hauling towering skewers of beef and other carnivore cravings make the rounds at Moderno Churrascaria, an all-you-can-eat meatfest ($19.95 per person) sharing space with Cagney's Steakhouse, an NCL dinner-only stalwart. Two words: Go hungry. But perhaps the latter should have its own space -- Moderno's giant salad bar looks out of place within the classy Cagney's ($29.95), which on this vessel is too bright, too busy, too loud and too crowded. While the food was fine, the atmosphere suffers in comparison to Cagney's on other NCL ships.
More successful is the $19.95-per-person, dinner-only Le Bistro, another NCL standard-bearer that gets the royal treatment on Epic. Delicious French fare is presented with panache in a dining room bedecked with sculptures, gorgeous flowers and paintings. Interestingly, this was the only tough reservation I had while onboard. Even more interesting: I could only nab a 5:30 p.m. reservation on the night I wanted to go, but when I finished dinner at about 7:30 p.m., more than half the room was empty.
Looking for romance? Ok, I wasn't, but La Cucina, a relatively low-end Italianate tucked under the Garden Café, was a lovely surprise. A crack team of servers wove in and out of comfortably spaced tables that either hug expansive windows or sit under a faux tree adorned with lanterns. Add in subtle lighting, a quiet vibe, good food (including a grade-A bread basket) and a relatively $14.95 surcharge, and you have a winner.
Two other for-fee options fill the bill admirably if you want something a tad more exotic. Wasabi -- featuring tile floors and comfy high-top chairs set at counters sporting fake wheatgrass in little wooden pots -- offers expertly prepared a la carte sushi and sashimi, plus a full sake menu. I had a delicious, filling combo plate at lunch for $10, and it would have been even cheaper except I wanted to try the vegetable roll. NCL expanded its popular Teppanyaki lair for Epic, which you'll either love or hate depending on your tolerance for knife play, singing, cheering and other non-sedate meal antics while a master chef performs at a grill. I adored it, and at $25 I'm torn over whether the fee is for the food or the entertainment.
Guests bunking in the private Courtyard Villas complex can also choose to dine for free in the Epic Club, a chic nook on Deck 16 swathed in splashy colors, modern furniture and beaded curtains. Its outdoor component, the Courtyard Grill, serves breakfast and lunch and is similarly light on seating (the Club accommodates 62, the Grill 36).
Finally, don't scoff at the 24/7 pizza advertised everywhere on the ship (seriously, you can't avoid the signs for it). I tested out the delivery service by ordering a veggie pie at 3 a.m. one morning and marveled at a) how quickly it arrived, b) how large it was and c) how good it tasted. For $5, it's one of the best bargains onboard.
Additional for-fee room-service options include a jumbo-shrimp platter ($20) and a cheese selection ($42, serves four). Otherwise, there's standard gratis fare available for delivery, including breakfast (juices, coffee, cold cereals, yogurt, breads, etc.) and all-day selections like chicken soup and a three-egg omelet. For the most part, I found service prompt and pleasant.
Casual dress will easily get you through a seven-night sail on Epic, as it's what freestyle cruising is all about. Though passengers are encouraged to "dress up" one night (read: suits for men, cocktail dresses for women) for pictures, few actually do. On my trip, khakis and polo or cabana shirts were de rigueur for men at night, while sun dresses or skirts with blouses did the trick for women. True, shorts are also common once the sun sets, but resort-casual attire is the norm at posher restaurants like Le Bistro and Cagney's.
Replacing the Blue Man Group, the Epic Theater now hosts the double Tony Award winning (for costume design) musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Based on the flamboyant comedy movie, this colorful extravaganza features over 500 dazzling outfits -- including 200 headdresses -- and an array of feel-good dance floor hits. Located at the front of the ship on Deck 5, the Epic Theater is relatively small, extending over two decks and seating up to 681 passengers -- though with no restricted views to the stage.
Ballroom and Latin dance company Burn The Floor -- featuring 14 dancers, a live band and two singers -- brings their Ballroom Blitz show to the Epic. Expect sizzling and steamy dance routines taken straight from their hit Broadway show.
Hop into the 259-seat Headliners for the Second City improv comedy show. This one's better with a larger audience, and sit closer to the front if you want to see the performers on the tiny stage -- otherwise, you'll be watching them on the TV screens strategically scattered about the room. Better yet, don't miss the Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos show on the same stage. Both are free.
Most shows need tickets -- even the free ones, which are in the majority -- though these can be booked online or at the box office on Deck 6 outside the Epic Theater. Generally, the later the show, the smaller the audience, so go later if you're in a big group and want to sit together.
Formerly Fat Cats lounge, the Cavern Club invokes the spirit of the iconic Liverpool nightspot made famous as the venue for The Beatles early shows. Moodily-lit with plenty of red brick, it makes a good stab at recreating the atmosphere of the 1960s club, though some modern decorative touches do break the spell. The venue is designed in partnership with the owners of the real 57-year-old club, and features Beatles-inspired music from international artists.
For karaoke, late-night dancing and billiards, there's the adults-only Bliss Ultra Lounge, which also features three bowling lanes, plasma screens, and non-stop music.
The Cirque Dreams and Dinner show, is set in the 217-seat, two-floor Spiegel Tent. This theater-in-the-round show is a weird mix of shrill singing, so-so acrobatics and forgettable food, while tickets start at $29.99. The space is generally put to better use during the Second City's three-times-a-cruise, frequently hilarious murder-mystery lunch (costing $20).
Bar Central -- a familiar NCL concept -- is enlarged on Epic and comprises a varied cluster of drinkeries. Along with a cigar bar and beer, scotch and martini meccas, passengers can literally grab a cold one in the Svedka Ice Bar, a stunningly beautiful, freakishly cold (17 degrees) and unique-to-Epic unmissable hotspot. Reservations are required, and the $20 cover buys you two drinks while complimentary faux fur takes the edge off the chill.
Other bars include the O'Sheehan's Neighbourhood Bar & Grill, a popular and spacious 24-hour hub that mixes traditional pub vibe with American diner touches and a three-lane bowling alley. A very different vibe can be found at Spice H2O, an adults-only complex that transforms into an Ibiza-inspired beach club every evening.
Nickelodeon at Sea, which originated on Norwegian Jewel in April 2010, is now an integral part of the Epic experience as well, and darned if adults won't have as much fun as the kids. Don't be surprised if you run into SpongeBob SquarePants and Co. at some point, at events ranging from Dora's Dance Party and character meet-and-greets to Slime Time Live! (yes, someone gets "slimed" onstage in the Epic Theater) and a Nickelodeon arts-and-crafts session.
Me? I'm a Patrick the Starfish fan from way back, so I wasn't ashamed to check out the Nickelodeon character breakfast ($10 for 2 - 12s, $15 for 13 and up) with a friend in the Spiegel Tent. If you can get past the icky green goop that's poured over the pancakes, the breakfast is decent, but it's far surpassed by the energy provided by the characters and the onboard Nick team. Kudos to the picture-taking service offered: Hand the staffers your camera, and they'll snap a photo of you with Diego, Dora and the rest of the gang (Mom and Dad will appreciate the money saved from not having to purchase official ship photos).
Elsewhere onboard, the Recess Kid's Club is the hub for NCL's "Splash Academy" program, which divides kids into four groups by age: Guppies (6 months to 3 years, with parent), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12). When I peeked in (adults aren't allowed in past the door), I saw a bevy of happy young'uns racing around the brightly lit area.
Teens have their own dedicated space on Deck 16, Entourage. The glass-enclosed enclave features air hockey, foosball, flat-screen TVs and plush couches that encourage chilling. A video arcade is situated just below.
Both Splash Academy and Entourage feature a different theme every day, like pirates, space cowboys, jungle fever or circus. Specific emphasis is placed on active offerings -- soccer, physical challenges -- through a partnership with The King's Foundation and Camps, a United Kingdom-based organization that provides sport and activity programs designed for kids. For teens, bowling tournaments, soccer challenges and dodge ball under the stars are just a few of the active offerings. Other typical activities might include arts-and-crafts, trivia, a cake-eating challenge, video games, even an Olympics for the older kids, and face-painting, puzzles and a treasure hunt for the wee ones.
For parents who want to wander the decks after midnight, the for-fee Late Night Fun Zone provides activities from 10:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m.; families pay $6 per hour for the first child, $4 per hour for siblings.
Since I was on the ship in the fall -- off-season and deep into the school year -- I was surrounded by adults, most in their 30s to 50s. But with Nickelodeon activities aplenty, free kids' programs, the teen club and an onboard waterpark that ranks among the industry's best, Epic is a natural for families. That vibe is reinforced by the plethora of connecting and family-specific cabins. Still, Spice H20 and numerous other venues (Fat Cats, Le Bistro, etc.) lend an air of sophistication to the ship, while more adventurous types will dig the climbing and rappelling walls. Even Blue Man Group seems more geared to Mom and Dad than Junior, but the fact that Disney flicks like "Wall-E" and "The Princess and the Frog" were screened late at night on the atrium's giant video screen give credence to the fact that families will find plenty to enjoy onboard.
Who needs a waterpark while you're at sea? Just about everyone it appears, and Epic delivers. Its mammoth Aqua Park is a kaleidoscope of pinks, greens and purples, centering on the Epic Plunge, in which tube-riders zip into a giant funnel before dropping through a 200-foot-long chute into a pool below. It's crazy fun, and I think I screamed louder than most of the kids waiting behind me in line. Two other slides are just as wet, maybe not as wild, but worth the wait.
Otherwise, expect a pair of standard pools surrounded by fountains, funky sculptures and an ocean of loungers. (Tip: Head farther aft to find available seating or check out the nearly hidden -- and frequently uncrowded -- sundeck on Deck 18; take the silver cylindrical elevator to the right of the Garden Café entrance, and don't forget the sunscreen.) Little ones have their own place to frolic in the Splash and Play Zone, a shaded oasis of fountains, wading pools and animal sculptures tucked under the water slides.
Other outdoor diversions include a rock-climbing wall (33 feet high, 64 feet wide) and an industry-first rappelling wall -- no surprise that more adventurers opted to let gravity do the work, so the rappellers (who clamber down the towering edifice) always seemed to outnumber the climbers. Still, the wait to do either paled in comparison to the lines for the bungee trampoline on the sports deck, home to a basketball court, the Spider Web (a two-story climbing cage covered in mesh and packed with sweaty kids) and more empty chaises.
To escape the frenzy of the Aqua Park, check out Spice H2O, a tiered, stage-like space that serves double duty as an adults-only pool during the day and an adults-only party space at night. (If you're worrying about whether the no-kids rule is taken seriously, in my experience it was.) For my money, the huge LED screen hugging the ship's aft detracts from the view; I'd rather see the actual ocean than a projection of waves. But the attendant bar and small buffet space was usually people-free, and there's a calming lull over the area that's fairly rare for Epic.
Alas, that's not the case at the Mandara Spa, a shockingly boisterous affair sequestered on Deck 14. Having just savored the facilities on NCL'S Norwegian Jewel, I expected the same sort of this-is-heaven experience on Epic. Instead, while the treatment rooms were lovely, the hydrotherapy courtyard and thermal suite was just short of a madhouse the half-dozen times I ventured forth. I never did get a chaise on the open-air deck, and the heated-tile loungers were almost always filled, or covered with wet towels.
All of that would have been fine, really, if the main attraction -- the therapy pool -- was actually therapeutic. But the chattering masses packed within ended that dream, and the unwanted showers provided by other guests who stuck their heads under the two super-jets spurting water into the drink mid-pool only added to the discomfort. It's too bad, inasmuch as the space itself is captivating, with an ethereal glow provided by twinkling lights embedded into the ceiling.
Better to save some money and splurge on one of 50 spa treatments (massages, facials, etc.) or hit the fitness center with its 37 treadmills and 18 cross trainers.
Each passenger is automatically billed $13.50 per person, per day in all cabin categories up to and including a mini suite. Suite guests will be charged $15.50 per person, per day. This gratuity supports an incentive program for the service staff. If a passenger is unsatisfied with service and the line can't resolve the issue, he/she can adjust the service charges. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar drinks, and 18 percent is added to spa and salon services. All specialty and entertainment dining carries an 18 percent auto-gratuity. For passengers using concierge and butler service, Norwegian recommends a gratuity "commensurate with the services rendered." The bill can be paid in cash or with credit/debit cards and traveler's checks.
As with many mega-ships, it can be hard to remember that you're on the open ocean. It's no different on Epic, whose grand outdoor spaces are almost entirely confined to the top decks (hence, no wrap-around promenade midship to burn off some calories).
Most of the main activity in the ship's interior centers on Decks 5, 6 and 7, where three levels of restaurants, entertainment venues and shops compete for attention. True, it all seems a bit mall-like, but you can't dispute the convenience.
Depending on the time of day, the three-story atrium and its giant video screen is either a hub of activity or a drowsy dead zone. When the sun is up, expect to see folks playing Wii golf or chatting up friends as tranquil videos backed by zither music light up the screen. At night, sports or movies are the featured attraction -- watch from plush chairs in the Deck 5 atrium coffee bar or, one flight up, on barstools at O'Sheehan's. (I opted for the latter and its eight beers on tap, free grub and perfect sightlines.)
In fact, the area surrounding the coffee bar is an ideal place for some quiet time, containing as it does the chi-chi Le Bistro; Epic's art gallery/auction house; the i-Connect Internet cafe; guest services; and the Click photo gallery. One cool thing about Click: There's no need to stare at hundreds of strangers' mugs when looking for your own. Just swipe your keycard at a kiosk to see your pictures, then find them in the binders located nearby.
For more action, head to Decks 6 and 7, which become packed with passengers at dinnertime and beyond. One place you won't find packed is Tradewinds. The ship's selection of duty-free -- and oft-deserted - shops, offerings include the Pointe, which sells all things NCL and Epic (including a $39.95 ship model); Jetties, for beachwear, cabana shirts and the like; and the Sandbox, a cute kid's store with stuffed critters and a wall of candy that can be yours for $11.96 a pound.
Be aware that the Epic casino slices right through the middle of Deck 6, so slot machines are unavoidable, particularly if you're heading to Shanghai's and several other venues. It's a curious design decision, inasmuch as the clanging sounds from the machine are jarring, and lingering entrails of cigarette smoke drive some passengers away from an area rich in culinary and entertainment options. Even when the area is empty-ish, you can still smell the smoke in the air, making it a real drag (pun intended). That said, the Vegas-esque gambling den is a risk-taker's dream, and at 13,000 square feet the largest NCL casino afloat. Choose among 340 slot machines, plus the requisite tables games, all of which make money go "poof!"
Country of Registration: Bahamas
Regular Capacity: 4100
Maximum Capacity: 4228
Number of Crew:1753
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: International
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
|Norwegian Epic is the ship of choice for those sailing on a Mediterranean cruise or one of our many Caribbean cruises. In fact, we have literally changed the face of cruise line entertainment with the introduction of Blue Man Group at sea, and that's just the beginning. Norwegian Epic is offering world-class performers and a new wave of accommodations - from Studios, designed and priced for the solo traveler, to the private Haven. Add more than 20 different dining options and you'll understand why this is Freestyle Cruising on a truly grand scale.|
Health and Beauty
Dining InformationDinner Gratuity Policies
Daily Service Charge - Any Category up to Mini-Suite $12.95 per guest per day
Dalily Service Charge - Any Suite Category $14.95 per guest per day