Consider your Stateroom Layout Carefully Before Booking

| June 28, 2010

If you haven't heard about the controversial New Wave Stateroom bathroom facilities on Norwegian Epic, where have you been?

The new staterooms on Norwegian Epic are unlike any cruise ship stateroom you have ever seen. Not only are the curvy and plush, instead of boxy and sterile like most cruise ship cabins, they feature an entirely new approach to hygiene facilities that has become a non-stop topic of conversation onboard. Normally I wouldn't do a feature article on bathroom facilities, but in this case, it is the most common complaint I am hearing on my current cruise, so here goes...

As you enter one of the New Wave Staterooms, the first thing you see are two sets of translucent frosted glass doors, one on your left and one on your right. Depending on your particular stateroom (they come in a variety of combinations) the doors on your left will be either your shower or the toilet, and the doors on the right will be the other.

This is essentially your bathroom, without a sink. This area, which also includes the entrance to the stateroom from the outside hallway between the two facilities, can be separated from the rest of the stateroom, visually at least, with a pull curtain that goes from the corner of the shower to the corner of the toilet.

Now, there are some issues with this. First, the frosted glass is still glass, which means that when the lights are off in the stateroom and the lights are on in the facility one will see a silhouette of whoever is inside. No, you don't see any detail, but you certainly see color, size and posture. You can see what a person is doing at any given time, unless the curtain is drawn, of course.

Another unsavory aspect which I have heard about enough times that it bears mentioning, is that neither of the glassed-off facilities is air tight, meaning they are not sound-proof at all. Every little noise will reverberate inside this glass cubicle, amplified several times before it leaves the tiny room and announces itself to the occupants of the stateroom. Other things will also emit from the toilet area, because it is not airtight. Put another way, if you meet someone on the ship and you are on a first date, you definitely want to ask them to leave the stateroom if you need to use the facilities.

Another issue comes with the shower, which is almost level with the floor making it far too easy for shower water to escape into the stateroom. In fact, the toilet is the same way, and although an overflowing toilet is somewhat rare on a cruise ship (they use a vacuum method rather than a traditional flush), unlike most cruise ships where any water facility has a "scuppered basin" to capture loose water and drain it away, these toilets have no such method so even a tiny overflow could have pretty severe consequences. Drying off in the shower is also a challenge since they are just large enough to stand in, but probably too small for bigger people to bend over. Chances are you will be drying off by the front door, so be sure to lock it and also draw that curtain - then mop the floor with your towel.

By now you are wondering where the bathroom sink is located. It is within the stateroom, outside the curtain. Depending on the size of your stateroom, it will either be opposite your bed, or on the same side and next to your bed. If possible, try to get the cabins where the sink is on the same side of the room as the bed. When it is opposite the bed there is not enough room for another person to pass anyone standing at the sink. If your wife is brushing her teeth, you will have to crawl over the bed to get to the toilet.

Now, I do understand the positive aspects to this bathroom arrangement. A person can be in the shower, another person can be on the toilet and a third person can be at the sink, all at the same time. This is good because you can't do that in a regular bathroom. Or can you? Well, yes you can, but you won't have any privacy. Umm, but wait a minute. While they may have had the right idea, you don't have much real privacy with this bathroom arrangement either, no matter what you do, with the non-sound proofed, non-airtight translucent doors.

Consider your Stateroom Layout Carefully Before Booking

Now there are several very good things about these staterooms. Each one comes with a mini-bar (you have to pay for what is inside, but it is nice to have it), an actual coffeee maker so you can wake up any time and have fresh coffee within minutes, hairdryer and very cool lighting effects.

While the interior staterooms are mostly typical square boxes, the balcony cabins on Epic come in several different layouts, but the concept is the same in each. One of the walls in these staterooms is curved to add visual interest to the d�cor, while the other wall is straight and contains the cabinetry.

The curved long wall from the front door to the balcony is an S-curve. The headrest of the bed fits into the concave portion of the S, which makes it possible to have a queen-sized bed that does not stick out into the room as far as a straight wall. The convex portion of the S is where the sofa goes, which means the sofa is curved in such a manner that a person sitting at one end will be facing away from a person sitting at the other end.

Naturally, two staterooms side by side share the same wall, so the S-curve is reversed in the cabin next-door. This means the other cabin will have the sofa closer to the front door with the bed next to the balcony area. I think this is preferable - there is more room for the sink and you will not have to walk around the bed every time you want to sit down to dress or relax.

Here is the rub, however; these cabins are generally narrower than the average cruise ship stateroom. Even with the bed fitting into a concave curved wall, the foot of the bed is still less than two feet from the opposing wall. This is where the flat panel television is been located. This means the sofa, placed against a protruding part of the S-curve, sticks out into the room by several feet more than in a square box stateroom, so the opposing wall is so close there is no room for even a small coffee table. You are essentially staring straight at a blank wall of wood cabinetry.

The corner of the sofa nearest the sofa is vaguely turned towards the bed, but it is still too far against the opposing wall for practical viewing of the television placed across from the center of the bed. Strangely, the television mounts are also not made so one can change the viewing angle. You must be on the bed to watch television.

Now, with the bed reaching all of the way across the room and the couch curved around the protruding portion of the S-curve wall there is hardly any way for two people to pass each other in the stateroom without one of them having to get out of the way of the other. In other words, with the limited passing room end and to end as well as the ability of sound and other sensory stimulae to escape from the private facilities, perhaps instead of "New Wave" Staterooms, these should have been dubbed the "excuse me" staterooms.

Joking aside, these are cool staterooms in terms of look and I actually applaud the effort made by NCL to do something completely different. Personally, I don't think most married couples and close families will have a problem with these facilities, but there will be some people who will find them vexing. For those people I recommend the studio staterooms like the one I am staying in. Strangely, although this room is being sold to singles with no supplement fee, it has a fully private toilet, in a separate room that is completely airtight and soundproof. Furthermore, if you book two Studio Staterooms you can make them connect and have a fairly large common area and separate bathroom facilities (airtight) for each occupant.


Editor's note: this is a tough article for me to write while I am still on board the Norwegian Epic. Yes, I paid my own air and cruise fare, so I ahve rthe right to complain or criticize as much as I want, but I want to lwt you readers know that NCL has done a very admirable job of taking care of what was a surprising number of problems on this shake-down cruise. Every first cruise has problems, and NNCL has gone out of their way to make ne feek welcome onboard and I thank them.

Most of the guests I talk to are enjoying their cruise a great deal now. And few of them dislike the decor as much as I do. The number of complaints I am hearing has dropped to almost none - except for this one topic. The entertainment is spectacular, and one thing I have not covered in detail yet is the food. This is some of the best cruise food I have ever had, even rivaling Crystal in the special dining restaurants, and also delicious in the "included in the cruise fare" restaurants. Do NOT write this ship off of your cruise list just because of this bathroom issue, there is too much good about this ship for that to be a major deterrent. - Paul Motter


Below are the mockups for the F3 cabins: Click on the pictures for the full versions.

NCLs New F3 Balcony Cabin 1   NCLs New F3 Balcony Cabin 2
NCLs New F3 Deluxe Balcony Cabin 1   NCLs New F3 Deluxe Balcony Cabin 2
NCLs New F3 Inside Cabin 1   NCLs New F3 Inside Cabin 2

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