Norwegian Epic - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Norwegian Epic


Berlitz’s Ratings

Ship: 386 out of 500

Accommodation: 145 out of 200

Food: 248 out of 400

Service: 275 out of 400

Entertainment: 85 out of 100

Cruise: 285 out of 400

Overall Score: 1424 out of 2000

Norwegian Epic Statistics

Size: Large Resort Ship

Tonnage: 155,873

Lifestyle: Standard

Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line

Former Names: none

IMO Number: 9410569

Builder: STX Europe (France)

Original Cost: $735 million

Entered Service: Jun 2010

Registry: Panama

Length (ft/m): 1,080.7/329.4

Beam (ft/m): 133.0/40.5

Draft (ft/m): 28.5/8.6

Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (79,800kW)/2

Passenger Decks: 15

Total Crew: 1,730

Passengers (lower beds): 4,200

Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 37.1

Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.4

Cabins (total): 2,100

Size Range (sq ft/m): 850.3-100.1/79-9.3

Cabins (for one person): 128

Cabins (with private balcony): 1,415

Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 42

Wheelchair accessibility: Good

Cabin Current: 110 volts

Elevators: 16

Casino (gaming tables): Yes

Slot Machines: Yes

Swimming Pools: 5

Hot Tubs (on deck): 9

Self-Service Launderette: No

Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No

Library: Yes

Onboard currency: US$


An epic-sized, family-friendly, multiple-choice resort ship

Overview. Norwegian Epic is a blast for youthful adults and kids alike. It’s all about lifestyle - bistro eateries, lots of dining choices, color and noise, the perceived über-chic South Beach nightlife at sea, stuffed with entertainment.

The Ship. Norwegian Epic is perhaps the most extreme example of ‘all-exclusive’ cruising, and is a throwback to the days when First Class, Cabin Class, and Tourist Class meant passengers could not access certain areas of the ship - the familiar ‘pay more, get more’ philosophy.

Norwegian Epic is just a tad larger than Queen Mary 2. Its profile isn’t very handsome because several decks above the navigation bridge make it look really top-heavy, like a square lump of cheese. But the two side-by-side funnels - between which is a 60ft (18m) -wide rock-climbing wall - bring some semblance of balance. The ship is about 30 percent wider than the Norwegian Jewel-class ships.

The pool deck has an Aqua Park, with three major water slides - one involves inner tubes that give you a spin before spitting you out into a big bowl, reminiscent of a washing machine. Aft is a large movie screen with amphitheater-style seating, and a nightclub within an area called Spice H2O, which also includes a sun deck. However, despite the ship’s size, the open deck space for sunbathing is extremely small and cramped - much diminished by the ‘exclusive’ Courtyard block in the forward section, whose occupants do have enough sunbathing space.

The three lowest passenger decks contain the main entertainment venues, restaurants and other dining venues, show lounges, and a large casino. Some spaces open to two or three decks in height to create an illusion of space - like mini-atriums, but the overall flow is disjointed and invites congestion, particularly around a casino walk-through area. A dramatic three-deck-high chandelier in the lobby is the largest at sea.

Two escalators do nothing to diminish congestion - they even encourage gridlock at peak times. Sandwiched between these three lower entertainment decks and the upper entertainment decks are seven decks mainly comprised of accommodation units. Something new for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is a bridge viewing room, just behind the navigation bridge.

NCL extracts more money with a number of ‘exclusive’ experiences, including a members-only POSH Beach Club, above the more exclusive Courtyard area atop the ship. This has a Miami South Beach vibe and includes four pay-extra experiences: (1) POSH Vive, 6-9am, when you can participate in yoga classes and treatments in private cabanas; (2) POSH Rehab until noon, so you can recover from a hard night, with Bloody Marys and chill-out music; (3) POSH Sol, noon-6pm, when you can lounge on day beds and enjoy a beach-themed atmosphere; and (4) Pure POSH, echoing Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where you can drink and dance under the stars.

Other ship features include a novel Ice Bar, a chill-out, chat-up venue inspired by the original ice bars and ice hotels of Scandinavia. In this frozen chamber of iced vodka, the centerpiece is a giant ice cube that glows and changes color. The Ice Bar accommodates 25 passengers who are given fur coats, gloves, and hats because the room’s temperature does not rise above −8°C (around 17°F). Naturally, there’s a cover charge, but it includes two drinks. Svedka vodka and Canada’s Inniskillin ice wine are featured.

Then there’s Halo, an über-bar, where garden and courtyard villa occupants, who pay a premium for much better accommodation, have exclusive access, although other passengers can use it by paying a cover charge. This bar sits at the top of the ship on Deck 16 and showcases art and jewelry, ‘modeled’ by shop staff.

Spice H2O is a tiered pool, stage, and movie screen complex for adults only, at the stern. It’s a smaller version of the Aqua Theater aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class ships. With all-day-long music and a huge screen, different themes prevail: (1) Sunny Spice 8am-11am, including spicy drinks and breakfast; (2) Daytime Aqua Spice with sun and water and Chinese take-away food items; (3) Evening Sunset Spice, with a perfect sunset every day; and (4) All Spice at night, offering a show of aqua ballet and dancing. A Beyond the Velvet Rope package for all clubs is available at extra cost.

It’s a big ship, but the elevators are forward and aft - there are none in the middle of the ship, which is tough for mobility-limited passengers. Yet Norwegian Epic has more elevators than the much larger Oasis of the Seas.

A ‘ship within a ship’ two-deck complex provides a private courtyard/pool area, male and female steam rooms, concierge lounge, and private dining rooms and lounge for those willing to pay more for exclusivity.

Niggles include the cigarette smokers in the casino, a walk-through area. The ship sails on alternating seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries during the winter season, and operates Mediterranean cruises in summer.

A non-changeable per person service charge is automatically added to your account daily; 15 percent is also added for bar charges, and a whopping 18 percent for spa treatments.

Families. Family-friendly cabins are within easy access to the Kid’s Crew facilities, in two zones: for Kids 2-9, and tweens of 10-12. Nickelodeon is the family entertainment brand on all cruises, as part of NCL’s children’s programming. Activities include: Slime Time Live, an interactive game; Nick Live, with poolside entertainment; Character (‘Pajama Jam’) breakfast, at extra charge; and meet and greet. There’s also a Nickelodeon in-cabin TV channel.

Accommodation. There are many different accommodation price levels and accommodation grades, including what the company claims as the first ‘Loft Suites’ at sea - although upstairs/downstairs suites have been available for years aboard ships such as Saga Ruby and the now withdrawn QE2. In true nautical tradition, even-numbered cabins are on the port side (red carpet), with odd-numbered cabins on the starboard side (blue carpet); if you’re color-blind, forget it.

The Courtyard Suites (Decks 16 and 17) are located in the ‘block of cheese’ in the forward section called The Haven, above the navigation bridge. There are six courtyard ‘villas’ - two face forward, while six overlook the central pool section, although none has a private balcony. Occupants, however, have access to a four-deck gated-community style grouping of facilities, including a Concierge Lounge, private courtyard and pool, his-and-her steam rooms, and private sunbathing areas - so no need to go to the rest of the ship underneath you, except to disembark or go out to the entertainment decks to play, or escape.

All outside-view suites/cabins have a ‘private’ balcony, curved walls in a ‘wave’ shape for a contemporary look and feel, LED lighting, backlit domed ceiling, comfortable sofa seating (except standard cabins), vanity desk, and minibar. A palette of soft, warm colors in each cabin melds beautifully with walnut- and rosewood-colored veneers and stark white surfaces. See-through (no-privacy) bathrooms have a separate toilet; tub or tub/shower combination, and separate vanity washbasin (few people like the see-through toilet).

Although they are about the same size as current standard industry cabins, there’s an efficient use of space, achieved by separating the toilet and shower unit to either side of the entryway, and by curving the bulkheads and furniture to give the cabins a more open, wavy, and contemporary feel. However, space at the foot of the bed is poor. Also, you’ll need to grab a towel before you step into the shower, because they are in a different location - adjacent to a tiny washbasin.

Eight Spa Suites have private key-card entry to the adjacent Mandara Spa, and complimentary 24-hour access to the inner Thermal Spa. These have more space and larger balconies.

Solo travelers can try one of the 128 studio cabins, many of which interconnect - reminiscent of a capsule hotel. A small window looks out into the passageway. On Decks 11 and 12, these are priced for single occupancy - although they can be occupied by two persons (and two toothbrushes only) since there is a double bed. They measure 100 sq ft (9.3 sq m); occupants have access to a common lounge with hostess, and free espressos/cappuccinos. In interior cabins and studio categories, the bed faces the cabin door, so there’s no privacy.

Dining. There are certainly plenty of dining choices. With 21 restaurants, and eateries, it will take some planning in order to eat where you want, when you want (there is no ‘main’ dining room as such). So, just like in any city or town, you choose where to eat - unless, of course, there are no tables available (this is possible at peak times when everyone wants to see a show simultaneously), and you must wait for a table. There is also no Lido self-service buffet. Instead, different food outlets have been created in numerous locations - 11 are included in the cruise fare, the others require a per person cover or à-la-carte charge. Because gratuities are automatically added to your account, if you change dining venues every time you eat, you don’t need to think about tips.

Cagney’s Steakhouse & Churrascaria, with 276 seats, expands the New York-style favorite of earlier NCL ships to include Argentine churrascarria offerings (skewered meats presented by tableside ‘gauchos’), with a central self-help salad bar.

Taste, on Deck 5, is touted as a European retro-chic restaurant with brick detailing and floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains. The menu includes traditional and contemporary cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Manhattan Room, located aft, is two decks high and reminiscent of an elegant Art Deco supper club, with dance floor and live Celebrity Look-Alike shows. It’s the closest thing to a main dining room and has a spectacular glass window wall aft.

La Cucina is from Tuscany, of course. It’s at the front of the ship, providing great ocean views, one deck above the navigation bridge.

The 124-seat Le Bistro serves French cuisine; there has been a Le Bistro aboard all NCL ships since the first one was installed aboard the now scrapped Norway.

Multiple Asian-themed venues include Shanghai’s for Chinese dishes and noodle bar specialties with an open kitchen and 133 seats; the 20-seat Wasabi for sushi and sakes; and a showy, food-chopping Teppanyaki Grill, with 115 seats.

The Epic Club and Courtyard Grill, in the Courtyard Villas complex, is exclusive to suite and villa occupants and split between an elegant, private club-style restaurant with a large wine display and a casual outdoor area for breakfast and lunch. It can accommodate 127.

O’Sheehan’s is a neighborhood-style sports bar and grill, open 24 hours (no extra charge). It is adjacent to a bowling alley, though I’m not sure why - it disturbs the ambience.

Café Jardin (Garden Café) is a large self-serve buffet, with 728 seats, and is modeled on an English country garden conservatory - but with a French name and ocean views. The casual venue includes ‘action’ stations where chefs prepare pasta and other items, made to order - join the line. The outdoor seating area, the Great Outdoors, looks over the Aqua Park. A section for children, the Kids Café, has low height tables and seats.

Entertainment. The two-deck-high Epic Theater, at the front of the ship, presents major production shows and mainline cabaret acts. Another entertainment venue is the Bliss Ultra Lounge, a decadent venue that contains a bowling alley or two - there’s another one in Sheehan’s on the deck above. This is where late-night comedy and some cabaret acts are presented.

Celebrity look-alike shows, conjuring up the likes of Elvis, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Neil Diamond, and Tina Turner, is part of the entertainment and produced by Legends in Concert, the Las Vegas company that has provided shows for The Strip for over 25 years.

Spiegel Tent is a two-deck-high Cirque-like space, combining a show with dinner, similar to the Teatro ZinZanni dinner theater in San Francisco and Seattle. It’s a mix of in-your-face street theater, acrobatics, and Berlin-style ‘foodertainment,’ with lots of clowning and satire during a two-hour show. There’s a cover charge.

As part of NCL’s creative Check In, Rock Out program, guitar enthusiasts can, for a daily fee, rent a real Gibson guitar and a set of headphones to play in the comfort of their cabin.

Spa/Fitness. The Smile Spa and Pulse Fitness Center complex is possibly the largest at sea (31,000 sq ft/2,880 sq m). Operated by the Steiner-owned Mandara Spa, it is in the center of the ship, and some of the 24 treatment rooms have no view. The Fitness Center has port-side ocean views; the aerobics room has no view. Numerous facilities and services are offered, almost all at extra charge.

Sports facilities include six bowling lanes in two venues (O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill and Bliss Ultra Lounge), a full-size basketball court, volleyball, soccer, dodge ball, a batting cage, bungee trampoline, a 24ft (7.3m) -tall climbing cage called the spider web, and an abseiling wall. Walkers should note that only 2.2 laps around the walking track equals 1 mile.