Posted by: cruise2 | 5 July, 2010

NORWEGIAN EPIC Review by Gordon Turner

Norwegian Epic seems to have caused a bit of a stir recently on Liners 
List, so let me throw in my $0.02 worth. I was aboard for the seven-day 
maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The random jottings below 
reflect one person's opinion about the ship on one particular voyage. 
Much of what I have read on Liners List has been quite negative, mostly 
about the ship's appearance, and I have to agree that externally she is 
no great beauty.

Let me back up for a moment. A couple of months ago I dropped in on John 
Lang (occasional contributor to Liners List) of The Cruise People here 
in Toronto to make arrangements for a visit to Scotland. On seeing the 
dates for my proposed visit, he advised going over by plane and 
returning on Norwegian Epic's maiden voyage, Southampton to New York. As 
I would be travelling alone, he suggested a studio cabin in the ship and 
obtained one for me at a very advantageous rate. Even though I tend to 
travel in smaller and often obscure ships (e.g. Nordik Express, Le 
Vacancier), I thought that seven days on the Atlantic would be 
preferable to seven hours in a chartered aircraft.

And so it was that I found myself at Southampton on the morning of June 
24, ready to board. Lining up for security took about 45 minutes, then 
check-in and waiting to board took about another 30 minutes. I found my 
studio cabin (12552) readily enough and before long my suitcase arrived. 
Now for a few words about the studio cabin.

It measured about 100 square feet and had an extremely large (and very 
comfortable) bed, described by someone as queen size. Originally, the 
cabin was meant for two occupants but wiser heads prevailed and the 
roughly 120 identical cabins were re-assigned as singles. Just as well, 
in my opinion; two people in this cabin would be one too many. The bed 
dominated the cabin. One side was flush with the corridor wall and the 
other side had only about 12 to 15 inches clearance between the bed and 
the furniture unit on the opposite wall. The shower, the toilet and the 
wash basin were in three separate locations but very close to each 
other. The shower unit was somewhat small, and people of largish 
dimensions could have difficulty fitting themselves in. Soap and 
shampoo came in gel form from wall-mounted containers. The fittings were 
modern, the water was hot and the towels were thick. There was 
sufficient space to hang clothing but space for other articles of 
clothing was very limited and the shelving was not particularly deep. In 
fact, there were no actual drawers but simply shelves--but not enough of 
them. When I tried to stow my suitcase under the bed, I came across two 
largish wicker baskets which could, I suppose, be used to hold clothing.

The wall unit contained the two clothes closets, the flat-screen 
television, the safe, shelves for towels alongside the wash-basin, a 
tiny table (with a tray that contained an ice bucket and two glasses and 
took up most of its space) and a small stool. The ship offered a 
continental breakfast in the cabin, but I wondered about the 
practicality of removing the tray, bucket and glasses and placing them 
on the floor in order to leave space on the table for breakfast. 
Besides, the table and stool would have to be removed to a more central 
area in the cabin for breakfast to be eaten. The 12 to 14 inches between 
bed and table would have made it impossible to consume breakfast at the 
table's original position.

Surrounding the wall unit were strips of semi-concealed lighting that 
changed from green to red to pink to blue and to yellow for no 
discernible reason. Someone informed me that certain buttons could be 
pushed to alter the colours, but my thought was, who really needs these 
colours to begin with? That reminds me, the reading lights were 
insufficient for anyone who likes to read in bed.

The television set was in the wall unit but the only practical place to 
watch it was when in bed.

In spite of the above comments, I like the concept of a single cabin. I 
got down on my knees to inspect the huge bed and found that it consisted 
of two actual bed frames. If the bed could be reconfigured as a single, 
it would leave considerable space in the cabin and make it more suitable 
for single occupancy.

The single cabins, all inside, are spread over Decks 11 and 12, and 
there is a two-deck high lounge for the occupants. During my voyage, the 
lounge was staffed on most occasions by a stewardess or bar tender. 
Coffee and pastries were always available. Cabin occupants appeared to 
make good use of the lounge for socializing. A flip-over chart on an 
easel contained messages each day (for example, Does anyone want to dine 
with me this evening at Taste Restaurant? Anyone for Scrabble?)

Knowing that on a maiden voyage I would likely encounter some problems 
in service or elsewhere, I have to state that those that affected me 
were few, of a minor nature and were solved in short order. For example, 
the lock of my cabin door did not function properly. I notified the 
stewardess and within three minutes (I timed it) someone showed up and 
adjusted it right away.

Norwegian Epic has numerous dining venues, some included in the fare, 
others with an additional charge. Occasionally for breakfast and usually 
for dinner I visited The Manhattan Room, which looked like a traditional 
cruise-ship dining room, large and with windows on three sides. It is 
certainly a handsome room, one of the most attractive I have seen on any 
ship, and I was always able to get a table to myself (which was also 
true of the other dining areas I used). I did not count the tables for 
two in the various rooms, but at a guess, there were more than could be 
found on other large cruise ships. I should point on that on her maiden 
voyage Norwegian Epic carried 3,300 passengers, well below her full 
capacity of around 4,200.

The food during my voyage was entirely satisfactory at the six locations 
where I dined, two with surcharges, four without. While the cuisine was 
not, say, of the standard of Oceania Cruises, it was still completely 
acceptable. There was always a good choice of dishes, some of which 
appeared on the menu for that particular day only and other more or less 
standard dishes that appeared on each day's menu. The tables were 
attractively set and the waiters and waitresses provided smooth, 
efficient and friendly service. Sometimes I had breakfast or lunch in 
the self-service Garden Cafe on Deck 15 where there was always a really 
wide variety of dishes, and once again the food was well prepared and 
tasty. I noticed that even at breakfast time the napkins were linen and 
not paper.

One evening I had dinner at the Moderno Churascarria Restaurant ($18), 
Brazilian-style cuisine, and another evening I dined at La Cucina ($10), 
Tuscan-style food. Both were very good but not exactly memorable.

Now for a word or two about the dress code. The daily programme says 
"Dress Code. Stay relaxed throughout the evening. Resort Casual is 
allowed in all our dining venues. Shorts are permitted in all outlets 
except The Manhattan Room, Cagney's and Le Bistro after 5:00 p.m. Shoes 
and shirts must be worn, no tank tops, flip flops or baseball caps!"

A frequent comment about mainstream cruise ships is the number of 
public-address system announcements. Norwegian Epic's announcements were 
not excessive in my opinion. They usually consisted of reminders about 
art auctions (I have heard that art auctions on some ships are on the 
way out, but I cannot confirm this) and bingo. The ship had passengers 
whose native tongues were French and German, so announcements were also 
in these languages. The captain spoke from the bridge each day.

Norwegian Epic does not have a complete walk-around deck. However, Deck 
7 on the starboard side had a jogging track, 3.8 times around being 
equal to one mile. The port side of Deck 7 offered shuffleboard set-ups. 
It also had some deck chairs set out, but the Atlantic weather was a bit 
chilly for sitting out on an open deck, even though the seas were 
usually smooth.

Norwegian Epic has a very large casino with all the usual games of 
chance. Smoking is allowed in the casino and also in the cabins. The 
ship's photographers were unobtrusive. They did not, for instance, enter 
the dining room and go from table to table, to photograph the diners. 
Photos were priced at US$9.95 and $19.95. Images were sharp; colours 
looked true. Some cruise lines no longer carry photographers, I hear.

There was no ship's newspaper but television provided news from the BBC, 
Sky, CNN and MSNBC. There is no library. If it counts for anything, 
there was no piece of chocolate on my turned-down bed in the evening but 
my cabin stewardess unfailingly twisted towels into animal shapes night 
after night after night.

Entertainment looms large in Norwegian Epic. The Blue Man Group (very 
original) and the Second City troupe (moderately amusing) drew large 
audiences. Reservations can be made for their performances but there is 
no charge for admission. There are also several other kinds of 
entertainment (jazz, pop, comedy, etc.).

I do not know how much Norwegian Epic cost but it appears that no 
expense has been spared. Decor, furnishings and the like set a high 
standard. There are many activities for children, particularly on the 
outer decks.

The ship arrived punctually at New York but disembarkation took longer 
than expected. It seems that Homeland Security and maybe other 
government agencies caused an unanticipated delay in allowing the 
passengers to go ashore.

And so ends my account. It was, all things considered, a very pleasant 
voyage. I expect that NCL knows its market and that Norwegian Epic will 
have a successful career.

Gordon Turner in Toronto


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Responses

  1. This is a wonderful review, covering everything anybody could possibly want to know. Your comments about the bed configuration in the studio cabins are interesting – if space is that cramped, why not just put a single bed in there?
    I wonder did you not eat in Cagney’s Steakhouse as you don’t mention it? This was one of the best meals I have ever had and certainly left me with a much more memorable impression of the food than yours

  2. Hello, Cruises Fan: On the NCL survey I completed, I commented that the studio cabins would be more suitable with a single bed. Other studio-cabin passengers I spoke to voiced similar thoughts. Let’s see what happens, if anything. With so many dining options available, I was unable to sample all of them. If I had been on a 14-day cruise rather than a 7-day voyage, it is likely that I would have given Cagney’s a try. My assessment of the food in the review I wrote was that it was “entirely satisfactory” and “completely acceptable.” For the fee-charging dining rooms I said that the meals were “very good but not exactly memorable.” I think my comments were fair evaluations. On reflection, I would say that The Manhattan Room provided the best cuisine of the dining rooms I visited. If you have further questions or comments, I will be pleased to respond. Regards, Gordon Turner, maiden-voyage passenger.

  3. I was wondering what the ages of the single passenger cabins usually are. My mom (in her fifties) has booked on the same cruise as my family, but is nervous that the single passengers will all be much younger than she is. This will be her first vacation as a single woman, and I want to make sure that she is comfortable with her decision. Thank you.

  4. Hello, Ms. McMahan: On my voyage the single cabins were occupied by people of all ages. Women outnumbered men and quite a few of the women were of mature years but not really elderly. They tended to socialize more than the men. The socializing took place in the lounge that is exclusively for occupants of single cabins. Coffee and snacks were available there and there was also a large board on which occupants of the single cabins could leave messages, such as “Anyone to join me for dinner this evening at 8 p.m., Manhattan Room restaurant?” Please remember that I was on the maiden voyage in late June; it is now October and the ship has been in service for three months, so there may have been changes since my voyage–or maybe not. If further questions arise, please let me know. Regards, Gordon Turner


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