Norwegian Epic Reviews

Passengers: 4,228
Crew Members: 1730
Length: 1080 ft
Tonnage: 153,000

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  • Editor's Rating

    Excellent
    • Cuisine

      5.0
    • Service Level

      3.0
    • Value for Money

      5.0
    • Ship Décor

      3.0
    • Public Rooms

      3.0
    • Staterooms

      2.0
    • Kid's Programs

      4.0
    • Daytime Activities

      3.0
    • Nightlife

      5.0
    • Shore Tours

      4.0
    • Itinerary

      4.0
    • Alternative Dining

      5.0
  • Average User Ratings

    4 User Reviews

Norwegian Epic Editor's Review

Overview

Excellent entertainment, great for singles. Crowded. Many dining and entertainment options, faulty stateroom design

 

Best For People Who Want

Best for People who Want: A fun mega-ship with lots of nightlife, great entertainment, romantic staterooms and a large variety of alternative restaurants. This is the best ship for Solo Cruisers ever due to 128 "Studio Staterooms" available with no singles supplement.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Should be Avoided By People Who Prefer: Quiet settings, uncrowded ships, no kids, all-inclusive cruises where all dinners are taken at pre-set times in the dining room with the same table and waiters every night.

Onboard Experience

 

Norwegian Epic is the first ship built completely to F3 specifications. What does that mean? Back in 2000 NCL created a concept for a style of cruising they called "Free-style." The idea is to make the cruise experience less formalized by allowing people to dine at any time or table they want in the main dining room. They also no longer demanded that people adhere to formal dress or stay in the stateroom on certain nights of cruise.

That was Free-style version 1. As time went on they added new features to the free-style concept, less strict disembarkation procedures, a wider variety of restaurants and new styles of staterooms ranging from the most basic to elaborate suites. The first ships built with two completely separate dining rooms, one for traditional dining and the other for free-style, were called F2 ships.

Now, with F3 they have completely done away with the traditional cruise dining. You can still dine in one of two regular dining rooms with the food included in your cruise fare but it no longer involves a pre-set dining time and table. It is open seating all the time. In fact, Epic has 21 different dining venues onboard, many of them are included in the cruise fare (no extra charge) and some of them premium where you pay an additional charge for a nicer dining experience.

Epic is the biggest ship NCL has ever built by half, at 153,000 tons and 4100 berths. It has a wide variety of accommodations from the "studios" to "Deluxe Owner's suites." With some of them based on a "ship within a ship" concept meaning the denizens have special access to private areas the rest of the ship cannot enter.

Entertainment is the main feature on Epic: the ship features Blue Man Group as one of its stage shows. This is a proven hit that uses a lot of props and this will be one of the first times a cruise ship has built a showroom for a specific performance piece. There is a comedy club to house a Second City cast, the popular improve group originated in Chicago as well as a fun "dueling piano show" called Howl at the Moon. There is a space for Cirque-style performances as well as the usual nightclubs with live or recorded music for dancing, a sing along piano bar, and a jazz club. One of the better stage shows is "Legends at Sea" prsented by the Las Vegas outfit "Legends in Concert." The show features tribute performers for famous artists, the first round being Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis. This show is a full production with real backup singers and dancer and a hot band, all of them from Las Vegas. They have been working together for years and its a very convincing show.

There is an extensive pool-bar called H20 Spice and an Ice-Bar similar to the one in Stockholm where everything inside is made of ice from the bar and chairs to the drinking glasses. The popular "Bliss Nightclub" from previous NCL ships is also present.

But here is the hitch to "F3 Freestyle" as presented on Norwegian Epic: While the ship has 21 eateries and at least 6 different stage shows worth seeing mostly open nightly, they are small and do not hold that many people. So, while NCL Freestyle has freed you from their regimentation - you are highly advised to create your own schedule by going online and making reservations for your entire cruise well in advance of your sail date. You can do this online at NCL.com beginning 45 days before your cruise sails. Thus you are still regimented, but to your own scedule. If you miss a reservation expect to have a lousy seat or miss a show entirely. The idea that you can do anything at anytime, the real Freestyle promise, didn't quite materialize.

Be sure to write your schedule down and bring it with you although you should be able to pull up your reservations on your TV system, ours was not working very well on my first cruise so I had to call and ask them to retrieve my schedule. Your keycard acts as your ticket to see what is reserved.

 

During the day Norwegian Epic is like any mega-ship with a few unique and special features. There are plenty of outdoor sports activities including three water slides sure to please the kids including the "Epic Plunge," dropping a total length of 200 feet before spinning you into a round vortex where centrifugal forces keep you going for several turns before dropping through the center.

There is a rock-climbing wall, a rappelling wall, dodge ball court, batting cage, and a climbing cage called the "spider's web." Inside there are seven lanes of bowling (for a small cost) and a sports bar. The ship even offers a version of "ice skating" using a lubricating liquid on top of a large plastic mat. It works - according to the skaters who tried it, it feels almost exactly like real ice.

But Nighttime is when the ship's entertainment comes alive with the shows described above. There are outdoor nightclubs such as Spice H2O by the aft pool and Posh "beach club" where during the day you can lounge on white-cushioned day beds and in private cabanas by the pool and at night enjoy exclusive bottle service, gaming tables and a DJ.

The indoor Bliss Nightclub is even more decadent with its king-size bed chaise lounges that evoke the silent question "What time does the orgy start?" Deep blue, orange and gold sateen cover every surface except the cocktail tables, dance floor and the the four bowling lanes on either side of the room.

The Svedka Ice Bar costs $20 for 45 minutes and includes two shots of vodka in "glasses" made of ice. You get a parka for the duration as the indoor temperature is 17 degrees (F).

The beautiful Epic Club Lounge is for the exclusive use of the Courtyard Villa guests and showcases premium liquors, LED screens make framed video displays showing montages of the world's best artwork, music videos, films, celebrities, fashion and more.

The regular bars onboard include O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill where you can dine on American classics and comfort foods served 24 hours a day. Sporting events are shown on multiple flat screen televisions and you'll find three lanes of bowling, dart boards, pool tables, foosball and air hockey.

Shaker's Martini Bar lives up to its name as a classic martini bar. Maltings Whiskey Bar offers whiskies from around the world; Canadian, Irish, American, Welsh or Scotch.

Cascades Bar is next to the Epic Casino. Cagney's Bar is located inside Cagney's Steakhouse & Churrascaria. Waves Bar is poolside for relaxing in a lounge chair, frozen drink in hand. The Humidor Cigar Lounge is a fully stocked humidor of premium-brand and hand-rolled cigars with comfortable seating, signature cocktails, and an extensive drink menu.

The Sake Bar at Wasabi offers hot sake, saketinis or the infamous "ichi ni san" sake bomb.

Courtyard Grill Bar is a come-as-you-are casual bar perched high above the sea in the exclusive Villas Courtyard Grill.

Decor

When one walks around the Epic, especially in the nightclubs, the one word that comes to mind is "decadent."

The public areas are far less impressive, however. This ship does not have the decorative "wow" of a new Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Celebrity ship. Epic has a bit of an "old Las Vegas" feel with burgundy carpet with creme colored accents. With no soaring atriums (the tallest open verticle area on the entire ship is a mere three decks) the ship tends to feel small and crowded. The views from deck seven looks down on penny slot machines one deck below just reinforces the "Reno Casino" look. On deck seven the décor and finishes are more modern, but not with the sublime decorative dignity of Celebrity or Holland America ships. NCL ships are light-hearted and welcoming, modern but not necessarily high-tech. There is very little nautical sense onboard at all, nothing to remind that you are on a ship.

Public Rooms

The nightclubs all feature comfortable but flashy colors and fabrics, except the Ice Bar which only features ice. The more high-energy places have colored LED lights that look something like neon. Many of the restaurants are themed in decor to match the style of cuisine.

The main lobby area is dominated by a large "TV Screen" two decks tall. Surrounding it is O'Sheehan's Pub - a great place to unwind and drink, if only the entertainment was better. This is the only "public" area - the rest is restaurants and entertainment venues.

Cuisine

Norwegian Cruise Lines' new megaship Epic will have more restaurants than any cruise ship ever -- a total of 21. Half of them are "alternative dining" venues, a term the industry uses for restaurants that assess a surcharge.

Cagney's Steak House; fois gras to filet mignon; $25. This most expensive restaurant on the ship is worth the extra cost. For an extra $10 you can get a full lobster in a succulent creamy sauce or a 32-ounce (!) porterhouse steak. The steak is perfect for sharing between two or even three people. They will carve it tableside and can give the end portions to those who like medium rare and the center to those who like rare.

Teppenyaki: This is a Japanese restaurant with a performing chef cooking your entire meal on a hot grill surrounded by counter seating for a dozen patrons. The food and the jokes keep coming. Does the chef's ability to flip a full bowl of rice into his hat without dropping a single grain make the food taste better? Go for the fun, it's worth the price, but not the food.

Le Bistro French restaurant; $20. Truffled scallops over risotto, lobster in a delicious beurre blanc and flourless chocolate cake This restaurant is a staple on all NCL ships and the food is delectable. In fact, the lobster and 32-ounce porterhouse are also available here (also an extra $10 - but you save $5 over Cagney's).

Moderno; traditional Brazilian Charascurria; freshly roasted chorizo, lamb chops or cataña; $18. This is the best restaurant on the ship at any price in my opinion. The meat is roasted on rotating spits under a hot broiler. Now, traditionally the fire is below the meat, but open-flames are dangerous on any ship so the heat is electrically generated. Still, the very slow roasting process allows the juices to steep the meat from the outside in - slowly and succulently. Cataña is a top sirloin where the best cut is the first one. The crispy on the outside and liquid on the inside layer of beefy fat melts in your mouth - a carnivore's delight.

Cagney's and Moderno share a salad bar with gourmet offerings.

Shanghai; traditional Chinese food; $15. I have not tried this one and it is not well attended. The food appears to be typical American-Chinese fare from Kung pow to honey chicken. The décor is more American than Chinese with bright lights and wooden chairs.

La Cucina; Italian fare from pizza to seafood fettuccine; $10. Italian restaurants are very popular alternative dining on most cruise ships, but this one seems more of an afterthought for Epic. As my fellow cruise ship "critic" Doug Ward said, "any Italian restaurant with spaghetti on the menu is not authentic." I have to agree. Now, it is only $10 and my risotto was cooked just right, but the mozzarella was too "cheesy" to be authentic. This restaurant is right priced, but does not compare to the Italian fare on most cruise ships. Also - be sure to leave for your reservation early or carry a ship's map. The only access is by walking down a staircase hidden in the forward section of the Garden Café (buffet area).

Wasabi; the Japanese sushi bar, a la carte pricing with sushi rolls starting at just $3 is a bargain. A complete sushi combination plate with three different rolls and an appetizer is just $8.00.

Noodles; Chinese fast food with noodle and rice bowls starting at $2.50 a la carte. Once again, a very popular spot for a fast and filling meal at a very reasonable price.

Restaurants

Norwegian Cruise Lines' new megaship Epic will have more restaurants than any cruise ship ever -- a total of 21. Half of them are "alternative dining" venues, a term the industry uses for restaurants that assess a surcharge.

Cagney's Steak House; fois gras to filet mignon; $25. This most expensive restaurant on the ship is worth the extra cost. For an extra $10 you can get a full lobster in a succulent creamy sauce or a 32-ounce (!) porterhouse steak. The steak is perfect for sharing between two or even three people. They will carve it tableside and can give the end portions to those who like medium rare and the center to those who like rare.

Teppanyaki: This is a Japanese restaurant with a performing chef cooking your entire meal on a hot grill surrounded by counter seating for a dozen patrons. The food and the jokes keep coming. Does the chef's ability to flip a full bowl of rice into his hat without dropping a single grain make the food taste better? Go for the fun, it's worth the price, but not the food.

Le Bistro French restaurant; $20. Truffled scallops over risotto, lobster in a delicious beurre blanc and flourless chocolate cake This restaurant is a staple on all NCL ships and the food is delectable. In fact, the lobster and 32-ounce porterhouse are also available here (also an extra $10 - but you save $5 over Cagney's).

Moderno; traditional Brazilian Charascurria; freshly roasted chorizo, lamb chops or cataña; $18. This is the best restaurant on the ship at any price in my opinion. The meat is roasted on rotating spits under a hot broiler. Now, traditionally the fire is below the meat, but open-flames are dangerous on any ship so the heat is electrically generated. Still, the very slow roasting process allows the juices to steep the meat from the outside in - slowly and succulently. Catana is a top sirloin where the best cut is the first one. The crispy on the outside and liquid on the inside layer of beefy fat melts in your mouth - a carnivore's delight.

Cagney's and Moderno share a salad bar with gourmet offerings.

Shanghai; traditional Chinese food; $15. I have not tried this one and it is not well attended. The food appears to be typical American-Chinese fare from Kung pow to honey chicken. The decor is more American than Chinese with bright lights and wooden chairs.

La Cucina; Italian fare from pizza to seafood fettuccine; $10. Italian restaurants are very popular alternative dining on most cruise ships, but this one seems more of an afterthought for Epic. As my fellow cruise ship "critic" Doug Ward said, "any Italian restaurant with spaghetti on the menu is not authentic." I have to agree. Now, it is only $10 and my risotto was cooked just right, but the mozzarella was too "cheesy" to be authentic. This restaurant is right priced, but does not compare to the Italian fare on most cruise ships. Also - be sure to leave for your reservation early or carry a ship's map. The only access is by walking down a staircase hidden in the forward section of the Garden Cafe (buffet area).

Wasabi; the Japanese sushi bar, a la carte pricing with sushi rolls starting at just $3 is a bargain. A complete sushi combination plate with three different rolls and an appetizer is just $8.00.

Noodles; Chinese fast food with noodle and rice bowls starting at $2.50 a la carte. Once again, a very popular spot for a fast and filling meal at a very reasonable price.

Main Dining Room Restaurants
Meals at Taste and the Manhattan Club are included in the cruise fare, since they are the main dining rooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both of them serve the same menues every night, but the Manhattan Club, seating 600, is aft with nice views of the sea on three sides. There is also a large stage for a live band and a big dance floor. This room is also used for showtime on certain nights. Taste seats 540. It is near the ground floor of the atrium and there is no charge to dine there.

Poolside, there's a very good hamburger, hot dog and pizza station. No charge.

Free room service is available 24 hours with the usual hamburgers, soup and cheesecake. You can have a fresh pizza delivered anytime, anywhere on the ship, for $5.

click on pictures below for larger images:

 
La Cucina  

Teppanyaki

 
Taste   The Manhattan Club
 
The Garden Café offers Lido-style casual dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rather than traditional buffet-style service, the room features separate action stations. The decor is bright, modern and functional. There are plenty of serving stations for very little waiting. Breakfast offers eight omelette stations, pre-made yet still hot eggs Benedict and fresh crispy bacon. There is ice cream, soft and scooped available all day from noon to dinner. One of the better buffet breakfasts we have seen.
 
The only drawback is not enough seating for a full ship, expect to have to ask if you can join someone or you will find your nice hot food going cold. The problem is not a shortage of staff to bus the tables, they are very efficient, it is a shortage of tables.

 

Service

The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant. Expect a number of Asian room stewards and restaurant staff, Filipino and Chinese.

Tipping

$10 per adult per day and $5 per child are added to your folio automatically. Fifteen percent is automatically added to bar bills and spa services. NCL suggests that concierges and butlers be tipped separately in accordance with the services they provide.

Entertainment

As stated, Epic has the Blue Man Group, the hit show that started wowwing New York in early 90s and became the main shows at the venetian in Las Vegas. This is a fantastic show which the Cruisemates' editor, Paul Motter, started recommending to cruise lines back in 1993. He is just happy one of them finally took his advice. Early reviews of the ship generally raved about the show.

Another entertainment staple is the Comedy showroom, "Headliner's Lounge" where the Second City comedy troupe and the dueling pianos show "Howl at the Moon" does their thing on alternate nights. The largest theater onboard for production shows only seat 680 people and is used for Blue Man Group four nights per week and Legends at Sea the other three nights (both do two shows each night). These are the "must see shows on the ship". Other entertainment options include the rock jazz music club "Fat Cats" on the first cruises featuring the "Slam Allen Blues Band - a hot blues band that please audiences nightly.

With an exclusive agreement with Gibson, NCL has guitar and "rockman" amplified headsets for rent onboard for $10 per day to anyone who wants to keep their chops up in the privacy of their statrooms during the cruise. These are offered during the day in the Fat Cats nightclub.

Finally there is the Speigel Tent, a dining and show venue seating just 200 people. This is where you can see Second City's Mystery Lunch "Presumed Dead," (written in collaboration with author Scott Turow) or where you take your kids for the Nickelodeon Breakfast.

Nighttimes are reserved for the special "Cirque Dreams amd Dinner Show" featuring a cast of almost 30 people (10 of them waiters) doing a full two hour "circus-like" show featuring juggling, balancing acts, aerial acrobatics and tightrope walkers. The problem is that this venue is far smaller than it appears in many ship renderings and the actual performer working space is a circle only about 12-feet across. This show is too long and the convoluted script is hard to follow. While it has some redeeming features the show "needs work" and will likely be shortened before too long.

The Casino is one of the biggest at sea with hundreds video slot machines including nickel and penny slots. To the delight of serious players, the craps tables offers Las Vegas betting odds.

Shore excursions run the gamut from canopy zipline tours for thrill-seekers to sedate sightseeing trips.

Cabins

The new staterooms on Norwegian Epic are one of the ship's most unusual features. Dubbed "F3 Staterooms" for free-style 3, the rooms have a completely different style from most cruise ships with rounded walls, dome ceilings, mood lighting, and separate rooms for the shower and toilet.

 

For the entirely new style of balcony cabin, the most common type onboard. NCL says it has "thrown away the rule book with the design of F3. Gone are the regimented typical designs and in place are sleek staterooms that are totally outside the box, designed for the needs of tomorrow's guests." The color scheme involves a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with a splash of color and rich, dark wood. Concealed contour LED lighting and back-lit domed ceilings set off the decor.

The most distinctive design element of the new staterooms, aside from the curved walls and lines creating a modern, inviting look, is that the bathrooms feature a separate shower stall, separate water closet and a modern vanity top sink in the room area. This was a problem for a lot of people who said the bathroom facilities are not private enough. In fact, the translucent glass will reveal what a person is doing inside if the lights are on inside, although the outline is vague. They are not soundproof either. 

In addition, there are two categories that come with private common areas only available to the denizens of those staterooms, for a "ship within a ship" effect.

The Courtyard Suites occupy the front of the ships definitely have the most beautiful public areas of the entire ship. The private pool, hot tubs, indoor and al fresco dining rooms and the private bar are all exquisite.

The other ship within a ship area is the set of 128 "Studio Staterooms" a semi-private enclave of small (100 sq. ft.) cabins sold to single cruisers with no single's supplement fee. This is the best arrangements for single cruisers I have ever seen on a cruise ship. All studios share a common corridor which leads to a shared "studio lounge" where denizens can hang out and meet one another. There is free espresso, sandwiches, salads and desserts, and best of all a hostess to keep people talking and a bulletin board to extend messages to everyone like "lets all meet for dinner in 'Tastes' as 7:00."

As with NCL's Freestyle 2.0 enhancements; the F3 staterooms include upgraded bedding, linens and towels, Euro pillows, Elemis bathroom products and MP3 connectivity upon request. Balcony and deluxe staterooms have bathrobes, a customized fruit menu, a fresh-baked cookie at turn down on the last night of cruise, an escort to the stateroom on embarkation day, priority restaurant reservation and reception hotlines and special color keycard for ship-wide recognition.

Further design details of the New Wave staterooms include:

New Wave Deluxe:

 

A bathroom that's "outside the box," including:

 

  • Separate water closet
     
  • Separate vanity top sink within the room
     
  • Separate bathtub and shower or luxurious shower
     

Unique curved walls
Concealed contour LED lighting
Back-lit domed ceiling
Comfortable seating area
Flat-screen TV
Mini-Bar
Balcony
Expanded living space

New Wave Balcony:

 

A bathroom that's "outside the box," including:

 

  • Separate water closet
     
  • Separate vanity top sink within the room
     
  • Separate shower stall
     

Unique curved walls
Concealed contour LED lighting
Back-lit domed ceiling
Comfortable seating area
Flat-screen TV
Mini-Bar
Balcony

New Wave Standard:

 

A bathroom that's "outside the box," including:

 

  • Separate water closet
     
  • Separate vanity top sink within the room
     
  • Separate shower stall
     

Concealed contour LED lighting
Most inside staterooms feature the back-lit domed ceiling
Flat-screen TV
Mini-Bar

 

Fitness/Spa

The Health Spa and Salon has two dozen treatment rooms for such exotic treatments as algae detox, lime and ginger salt glows, coconut rubs, and milk ritual wraps, including three for couples. Men's and women's sides are set up with stream and sauna rooms, whirlpool, indoor lap pool, jet-current exercise pool, hydrotherapy pool, and Jacuzzis.

The Center, open 24/7, has 25 treadmills with their own TVs, more than 25 other pieces of fitness equipment, abundant free weights, and a large workout area with lots of aerobic equipment, such as steps and balls.

Children's Facilities

Norwegian Epic is wild about them, as witness: interconnecting cabins, a kids-only pool and water slide, and the Splashdown Kid's Club, featuring a kid cinema and video arcade. Where most at-sea children's programs turn their backs on the under-threes, NCL welcomes even those in their terrible twos.

NCL recently signed an agreement with Nickelodeon to feature the characters onboard the ships for special events for kids as well as just having the caharacters onboard often to brighten the day of your young one.

In addition to selections from their own menu, young passengers can eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets in the Kid's Corner buffet, with mini stools and low tables. The complimentary Kid's Crew program is organized by age group: Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates (6 - 9), Navigators (10 - 12) and Teens (13 - 17). Families can gather in the Card Room for a game of Monopoly or Clue, sing together during family karaoke night, or compete in a "Family Feud" game show.

Attire

Determinedly casual, though T-shirts, shorts, and tank tops are forbidden in the dining rooms after 5 p.m., except for the Garden Café//Great Outdoors. Very few people dress up for the one "formal optional" night.

Fellow Passengers

NCL attracts a lot of families, first-time cruisers and people who enjoy a more "free-form" cruise experience. The nightlife is fun and interactive, especially good for gen-X music buffs.

Norwegian Epic Ratings

  • EDITORS
  • 4.0
  • USERS
  • 4.3
from 4 reviews
DETAILED RATINGS
  •  
    EDITORS
    USERS
  • Cuisine
    5.0
    0.0
  • Service Level
    3.0
    0.0
  • Value for Money
    5.0
    0.0
  • Ship Décor
    3.0
    0.0
  • Public Rooms
    3.0
    0.0
  • Staterooms
    2.0
    0.0
  • Kid's Programs
    4.0
    0.0
  • Daytime Activities
    3.0
    0.0
  • Nightlife
    5.0
    0.0
  • Shore Tours
    4.0
    0.0
  • Itinerary
    4.0
    0.0
  • Alternative Dining
    5.0
    0.0