Trust NCL to launch a new ship with a bang! Long before Norwegian Epic entered service, the publicity machine made sure we all knew that
this ship would be different. This was an intriguing thought as NCL basically invented modern pleasure-cruising 45 years ago.
After many setbacks Norwegian Epic left her builders at St. Nazaire, France on June 17, 2010 and headed for Rotterdam, Netherlands.
There, she made quite an impression. Looking top heavy at 153,000 tons, Epic will never win a beauty contest but you should not judge this book by its cover. It's once you get on board
that you notice the many "Freestyle" innovations that NCL incorporated in this enormous cruise ship. From new stateroom design to sensational entertainment
options, NCL have managed to make Norwegian Epic the epicenter of the cruise industry.
It's the talk of the (floating) town. Norwegian Epic's staterooms are ... eh ... different. They have curved walls and semi-open bathrooms, with a toilet
on one side and a frosted glass shower stall on the other
side. Think of it what you will, the fact remains that these
so-called "Wave" Staterooms are far from large.
After all, NCL wants you to party and spend as little time
in your cabin as possible. That said, the compact standard staterooms
come well equipped and sport a distinct, clean and utterly
comfortable look. With excellent lighting, a decent balcony and lots of storage space, chances are you will
feel right at home here.
Norwegian Epic is the only contemporary mass market ship that has dedicated single cabins.
Initially the vessel's studio accommodation was
designed for young, budget-conscious guests but by waiving the single surcharge for the closet-like studios the line has create the first seagoing singles club. What
a great initiative! An eerie lit narrow corridor connects all studios, that are modeled after Japan's capsule hotels. They have a separate shower and toilet, but that's
about it. If you want to stretch your legs, head for the dedicated
Studio Living Room which is accessible for studio guests only.
Befitting a ship that serves as an ambassador of the "Freestyle" concept, Norwegian Epic boasts an impressive array of "fun in the sun" activities. Her top decks are given over
to the joys of sunning, plunging, climbing, dancing and drinking. The huge Aqua Park has two swimming pools and a mind-boggling bundle of water slides culminating in the
much-publicized Epic Plunge. While definitely popular, these gadgets take up an awful lot of space resulting in what will be the most crowded pool deck in history on any
sea day. Prepare to battle for deck chairs! Probably the best place to escape the craze is Spice H2O, a novel concept featuring terraced sun decks,
a pool that transforms into a dance floor at night and a giant television screen.
Every large cruise ship has its bottlenecks. On NCL's Jewel class ships, the buffet restaurant can get extremely crowded on sea days. On Norwegian Epic, the design
team have moved the buffet restaurant from the stern to the bow, all the way up on deck 15. This is one of the few public rooms that boast a good view of the sea and given
NCL's excellent buffets, Epic's Garden Café will
undoubtedly draw crowds. On peak hours, extra seating capacity comes in the form of the lovely La Cucina Italian restaurant,
located one deck lower and accessible by stairs from the forward part of the Garden Café. The decor of both restaurant is very attractive, with the Garden Café having
a slightly more contemporary look, while La Cucina oozes atmosphere and is a perfect
choice for a romantic Italian dinner.
Spongebob alert! Ever since NCL teamed up with Nickelodeon, there's a good chance you will run into the likes of Dora, Diego and Patrick on Norwegian Epic. Your
kids will of course be ecstatic, but judging by the reactions on our short cruise adults are equally taken by these colorful cartoon
characters. If you bring the
kids on board, make sure to visit the Recess Kid's Club - a heaven on earth for the youngsters. NCL has a great program for kids, with specific activities for all age groups.
Now that we've seen the upper half of Norwegian Epic, we take the elevator down to deck 7. Most public rooms are grouped together on the lowest three decks, with
"streets" running the length of the ship. Because of this clever layout, getting lost is virtually impossible but to help orientation the stairways and elevator lobbies
are color-coded. All the way aft on deck 7 you will find the entrance to Cagney's Steakhouse and the Moderno Churrasceria. The latter is new
to NCL, offering
a South American style steakhouse in addition to Cagney's all-American atmosphere. Further forward is the spacious elevator lobby and the inviting Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar.
Done in browns and reds, the bar has a somewhat masculine look and feel, which contrasts nicely with the softer color palette of the Shaker's Martini Bar next door.
One of the greatest assets of Norwegian Epic is the vessel's superb layout
of public rooms. Walking from fore to aft on decks 5, 6 and 7, you will pass all bars, lounges and restaurants.
Many restaurants are open to the atrium or walkway which makes going out to dinner even more enjoyable. In fact, it pretty much feels like going for a night on the
town. The heart of Norwegian Epic is the three-deck Atrium with its huge LED chandelier. Lining the atrium is the attractive Wasabi Sushi Bar, the Sake Bar and
the large Teppanyaki section.
Walking further forward, the reach the retail therapy section. Ah, the joy of shopping! Norwegian Epic's shops offer everything from perfumes to
clothing and jewelry.
Nothing spectacular, just the regular cruise ship offerings. The shops are set up quite nicely though and before you know it you have reached the forward elevator lobby and
the bizarre Bliss Ultra Lounge. Done in the same over the top decor as the clubs on Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Pearl, this is definitely the hot spot of the ship.
At night, a DJ plays here to a full house and waitresses wear mini skirts and leather boots.
Oh, and be sure to check out the two life-sized horses at
One deck lower you will find the large Epic Theater. The room is spread out over two decks with nicely staggered and comfortable seating. This is the home of the Blue Man
Group, performing exclusively on Norwegian Epic. I saw their show on board and it was a blast. Be sure to make reservations early in the cruise to avoid disappointment
as this is one of the must-sees on your cruise. Leave it to NCL to come up with
even more novel entertainment options, including a circus troupe performing in what looks like a
tent. The Spiegel Tent is two decks high and is home to the reservations-only "Cirque Dreams" show, featuring jugglers, acrobats and a lot of wild costumes.
If the likes of Monsieur Minidisc and the Patisserie Sisters appeal to you, you might just enjoy the two-hour dinner show. I wasn't completely convinced and found the show loud and chaotic, but hey... that's me.
Deck 6 is the throbbing pulse of Norwegian Epic. Apart from the Epic Theater and Spiegel Tent, you will also stumble across the Headliners Comedy Club here. Home to both
the Second City comedy troupe and the Howl to the Moon dueling pianos, this is a place you don't want to miss. On our preview cruise, the place was packed and the dueling pianos act
was a major hit. And when you're all done singing and laughing, head right next door. O'Sheehan's Neighborhood is part pub, part bowling alley, part restaurant. Open around the
clock and lining a secondary atrium, this is another triumph of Epic's design team. My tip: come here for breakfast or a quick lunch. It's far more quiet than the buffet
Further aft on deck 6, there's a host of unique spaces to be discovered. First, there's the enormous Epic Casino. Oddly, smoking was allowed here during our preview
cruise. Since the casino is an integral part of the atrium, you really couldn't get away from cigarette smoke. I'm sure that once the ship will reach US waters, the smoking
policy will be adjusted. Another new culinary addition to Norwegian Epic is the excellent Noodle Bar, offering freshly tossed noodle dishes and dim sums. If you
can't get enough of Oriental food, head for Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant. After dinner, you might want to order a drink at Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club. With its
vintage looking leather couches, this is perfect place to hang out.
Expect to pay a fee for dining in any of the specialty restaurants on board. But
rest assured: you won't starve if you don't want to spend any extra money.
The Manhattan Room is a stunning restaurant located all the way aft on deck 6, with a wall of glass overlooking the ship's wake. Here, NCL throws in the odd dinner dance
and the room is also used as a secondary show lounge. One deck lower is another main restaurant. Taste is at the bottom of the ship's atrium and is decorated in a quaint, bistro-like
style. It is a huge room but quite intimate nevertheless. We're now on deck 5, where the vast reception and shore excursion area is located. The Atrium Café serves as the ships
coffee bar, serving Lavazza coffee (at a surcharge). Also on this deck are the photo gallery, art gallery and last but not least Le Bistro, the stylish French eatery. NCL was the
first mass market cruise line to add a specialty restaurant. Le Bistro has been a firm favorite for decades and our dinner there was proof of that.
So we come to the end of our whirlwind tour of Norwegian Epic. She's bold, she's big and she's full of contemporary touches. When sailing on this ship, forget
all about traditional cruise life. Instead, you should leave your tuxedo at home, bring the kids and start partying! Norwegian Epic was designed to attract a younger crowd that want
to a completely unregimented vacation. With 20 restaurants and limitless entertainment
offerings, this ship is like Las Vegas at sea. So next time when you're
looking to book a week at
the Mirage or Caesar's Palace, consider Norwegian Epic. After all, this is a Las Vegas resort that actually sets sail!