- Norwegian Epic -
Topping Off the Next Generation of Cruising
Next Big Thing in Cruising
As you all know, we just returned from the debut of both Carnival Dream and Oasis of the Seas this last month. Both of these ships represent a new paradigm in cruising - larger vessels offering better entertainment and a wider variety of dining and nightlife options. Now we have but one all-new next generation cruise ship debut to look forward to; the 4200-passenger Norwegian Epic from NCL coming in June, 2010.
We have reached a new paradigm in cruising - bigger ships with far more options onboard. This trend actually started with the introduction of Celebrity Solstice in November, 2008 - just about one year ago! It is amazing how much has happened in just one year. Solstice and her sister, Equinox (just introduced) are also in the neighborhood of 128,000-tons, much bigger than the average cruise ship, and we are close to the third ship in the Celebrity Solstice-class, Celebrity Eclipse coming in April, 2010.
The point is that cruise ships are getting bigger, and while some may disagree, bigger ships mean more onboard activities and options. Yes, there have always been skeptics every time cruise ships get larger, but each one of the new ships of this generation: Celebrity Solstice, Carnival Dream and Oasis of the Seas have received surprisingly good reviews from the people who sail upon them. These newer and larger ships are already the most popular and highest priced ships in the industry.
So, I want to focus on the next all new big ship coming out - Norwegian Epic from NCL, the last of the new generation of ships. Set to arrive in June 2010, Norwegian Epic is currently under construction at my personal favorite shipyard, the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. This is the same shipyard that built MSC Splendida and Queen Mary 2, two very impressively constructed ships.
Queen Mary 2 was given extraordinary care in making her the fastest ship in the world while also maintaining a very smooth ride. MSC Splendida is a beautiful ship, inside and out. But I especially admire her hardware, which like any famous piece of architecture, gives you a deep appreciation for making functional design visually attractive.
Norwegian Epic has yet to arrive, but like Solstice, Oasis and Dream, I predict she will also receive rave reviews for her interior décor, especially her staterooms, which are unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
These staterooms have already received a fair amount of attention, but it is going to escalate soon. We already covered them in an in-depth piece here "NCL's new F3 Staterooms". The rooms feature beds with rounded corners, curving walls, variable colored lighting with a "love" setting. There are also all-new stateroom designs, such as the "studio suites" with a large, shared living room, and the "Garden Suites," with exclusive access to the private pools on the highest decks on the ship.
Now, while the interior of Norwegian Epic will undoubtedly receive adulation, the exterior design has already received some scrutiny. The reason is a big, boxy set of half-decks placed directly over the bridge. We already know this is the location of the Garden Suites, that set of exclusive suites with their own pool, hot tubs and massage rooms. But it seems to be the mere fact that the decks are set so far forward that spawns the comments because hardly anyone noticed that Oasis has practically the same kind of boxy setup for its loft suites situated over the sports deck. The loft suites are more mid-ships than forward, but they still stick out just as much.
It doesn't matter to me. Yes, Norwegian Epic looks a bit funny from the outside, but you get used to anything once you have seen it enough times. What matters to me is that Norwegian Epic arguably represents more of a sea change in cruising than any other ship, even the remarkably revolutionary Oasis.
For entertainment, Oasis brought us Hairspray directly from Broadway - a huge leap forward in cruise ship entertainment, as well as the Ice Shows and AquaTheater.
But Norwegian Epic will also be a heavy hitter in entertainment with the off-Broadway hit Blue Man Group, a show that I have seen four times and it has never failed to please me. It is quirky, surprising and completely different from any cruise show ever shown before. A perennial sellout in both New York City and Las Vegas, the show may not be for grandma, but for younger people I believe it is one of the most memorable shows I have ever seen.
Norwegian Epic is also going to feature a Second City troupe, the well-known comedy franchise that started in Chicago back in 1961. The same company that spawned hit stars John Belushi, John Candy, Martin Short, Tina Fey, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
The ship will also have "Legends in Concert," a well-known tribute show, as well as "Howl at the Moon," a dueling piano show where the crowd cheers on "their" players, urging them to get wilder and wilder than the other player as the night goes on.
The bottom line is that we have entered the next generation of cruising, and it involves a whole lot more than sitting on deck with a cup of bullion. By far, one of the biggest upgrades is in the area of entertainment; including the licensing of proven hit shows to be fully produced onboard ships for the first time. This next generation also includes new dining options - without taking away the option to eat the food included in the cruise fare. Finally, staterooms have taken a great leap forward from once being rooms where you primarily changed clothes to now being your homes at sea with interactive television systems, soothing décor and truly functional bathrooms.
If you haven't cruised in a few years, try one of these new ships and see what you have been missing. You just might see cruising in a whole new light. The 4,200 passenger Norwegian Epic will make her inaugural transatlantic seven-day cruise on June 24, 2010, departing from London (Southampton). She will arrive in New York, her first port of call in the United States, on July 1, 2010. A new seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise has been added to Norwegian Epic's inaugural season, departing Miami on July 10, 2010, one week earlier than previously scheduled.
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