The Norwegian Epic can accommodate more than 4,000 passengers. // (C) 2010 Norwegian Cruise Line
In the past, cruise passengers have cited food, service and inclusive pricing as their reasons for cruising, but that could change with Norwegian Cruise Line’s new 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic. While the ship has 21 dining venues (11 free and the others far less expensive than their land-based counterparts), revolutionary concepts in accommodations and some wonderful places to just hang out — its name-brand entertainment might be the ship’s biggest selling point.
On land, Blue Man Group tickets typically run at a minimum of slightly more than $100, with front-row seats costing in excess of $180; all seats are free on Epic, however. A Cirque Dreams show at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., costs $78-$227 per person; Epic guests couple it with dinner for $15-20. “Legends in Concert” tickets at Harrah’s Las Vegas are just under $100 but are free on Epic. And then, there are The Second City comedy troupe performances and the Howl at the Moon dueling piano show — all free to cruisers. These are full-fledged performances, not ones truncated for the cruise set. All of these shows are in addition to other onboard entertainment options and venues, including the sophisticated Fat Cats jazz and blues club, the Aqua Park’s multi-story water slides, two bowling facilities and the wildly popular Nickelodeon at Sea program.
Entertainment aside, Epic is a great ship in its own right. All outside staterooms have balconies, and the design depicts a 21st-century version of art nouveau at its heart, with curves and waves weaving in and out of the carpets, ceilings, fixtures and walls. Most guests liked the graceful curves, but nearly everyone seemed to have trouble figuring out how to open the very generous storage spaces that make an unbroken line on the wall (hint: a major closet is behind the end mirror).
The more organic stateroom shape provoked a great deal of comments, with controversy centered on Epic’s bathrooms. The toilet is in one frosted cubicle, the generous-sized shower in another and the sink is separate and outside. There is an opaque curtain that can be drawn (along a curved line) to contain all three areas, but a number of agents felt that there wasn’t sufficient privacy in the design. Bathroom sinks are being reworked with different fixtures; the current ones work more like kitchen faucets. The cruise line will consider changing the sinks themselves as they are very small and there is certainly room for larger bowls.
Another innovation, however, drew more enthusiasm — the 128 Studio staterooms for solo travelers. The 100-square-foot staterooms are small but are very comfortable inside cabins grouped next to their own attractive lounge with tables, chairs, a bar, coffee and snacks. The Studios have full-size beds, flat-screen televisions, bathrooms and oval windows in the hallway, shielded by tiny Venetian blinds.
What is startling about Epic is the amount of space allocated even where it isn’t strictly needed for function. The 31,000-square-foot spa is a case in point — you could practically fit the spas of 15 years ago into the Epic’s spa reception area alone. The size and facilities equal or exceed some land-based resort spas, and the outdoor areas are equally generous in size. Combined with the accommodations, dining choices and, of course, top-quality entertainment options, Epic truly fulfills her promise to be the culmination of the Freestyle Cruising experience.