Paul Motter Revisits Norwegian Epic - March 17, 2012
Many of you may recall that I was on the veryt first cruise of Norwegian Epic in 2010 - the Transatlantic. I wrote a detailed "virtual cruise" where I gave tons of information no other journalist had at the time.
Yes, I am booked into a singles stateroom and I am very curious to se how far along the singles program has come. When I left they were just trying things out - it was all new. I would like to see if it has become entrenched and standardized, or the opposite; neglected and forgotten.
Either way, it will be interesting. It was a great concept when I first saw it, it will now be even better, or else practically non-existent, and I really don't know yet.
Jay - please tell me what you may want to know and I will try to find out anything you need to know.
Here is the first "watch out" - any show or dinner reservations you make online - be SURE to follow the proves online all the way through and print them out - otherwise they will not make it to the ship. Either way - when you get to the ship be absolutely sure to go to "show reservations" and double-check to see what you have registered. None of mine were recorded, and frankly I hate that.
All of the cruise lines have to work harder to make sure their online reservation systems integrate with the onboard systems. I had a similar problem even on Seabourn last fall.
Here is today's update...
Return to Norwegian Epic
I was on the inaugural voyage of Norwegian Epic, the first regular passenger cruise; a 7-day transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City. That was an exciting cruise as I was one of few industry people onboard there to witness how the ship really worked with real passengers onboard. From NCL we had Roberto Martinoli and as far a fellow journalists there was Doug Ward - author if the Berlitz Guide to Cruises.
The way it worked was this - the ship was built in Nantes, France at the STX shipyard. The ship sailed from France and had a couple of short (two-night) media cruises for the European media. I was informed I would be one of the first American journalists to see the ship if I flew to Europe nd caught the ship - of course I glad to pay for my stateroom, airfare, everything as this was not a regular media cruise.
Ah, but then it was discovered that Carolyn Brown was going to see the ship ahead of me, because she worked for Cruise Critic UK. And once Gene Sloan got wind of that, he decided he had to fly himself to Europe to also see the ship on that first short cruise. So, I no longer had the exclusive I thought I would get, but they also didn't get the same 7-day cruise with a full contingent of real passengers onboard that I experienced.
But even better was being "alone" on the ship with Roberto (who left NCL just a few weeks later) and Doug - two very affable and informed companions in the cruise industry whose company I enjoyed immensely and I would like to think they would say the same about me.
Now I am back - again staying in a studio stateroom for the second time, but it now 18 months after that initial cruise.
Have you ever stayed on a cruise once where your stateroom is on one side of the ship, and then you go back and stay on the opposite side? On my first trip my room was on the port side, so every time I exited I knew the to left to go forward.
On this cruise the identical stateroom (as far as decor) I am staying is on the starboard side, but as soon as I walk in I am oriented to old stateroom, so inevitably every time I walk out I turn left, thinking I am going forward, but I am actually going aft - and there isn't much behind me other than a few stern balcony cabins. So, I keep walking the wrong way - all lot of people are familiar with this phenom (getting turned around on ship) but I just realize the real reason - the fact that you stayed in a similar cabin. I realize now the it is walking into the cabin that actually disorients me - although I am not aware of it when it happens.
Norwegian Epic Back Then
So, this ship came out to an incredible amount of "mixed" reviews. Its biggest challenge was just having to follow the debut of Oasis of the Seas by about just 6 months. Oasis (Allure) is the biggest and truly the grandest cruise ship in the world - but Epic has size, but not as much, nor does it have the same intuitive and revolutionary design.
But not only that - Epic had far more challenges in the ship yard than Oasis faced. Oasis came out about three weeks ahead of schedule - Epic was two weeks late due to a last minute fire in the shipyard that destroyed a large number of critical cables - so many that if Epic had been a living thing, it would have died.
As a result, the number of things wrong with Epic when it was turned over to the public at an overdue date was an epic number. To the best of my recollection:
There were a number of bathrooms with bad or missing plumbing parts: my own shower only put out hot water, so for two solid days I showered in the gym. I was not alone. The top deck had a water slide that over-flowed constantly - flooding the entire sun deck so badly three- to six men were in full-time squeegee duty just pushing the water off of the deck. Several rooms were not finished.
But most of the bad reviews had to do with basic, intention design aspects, that became unintentional problems. Many of them ar still on the ship and some have been fixed.
The top deck-flooding situation has been fixed, as have the showers. Another problem, that of a sink faucet in the "New Wave" state rooms that opened up the water with such force into a basically round bowl sink that it created a spray of water that was enough to soak half of the bed.
The biggest complaint, however, had to do with the only partially private showers and toilets. The reside behind glass screens that are no air-tight (or sound proof) and the glass is merely translucent, so you can see an outline of whatever is behind them. Even better, both are situated on either side of the front doors of the staterooms meaning that if you are in the shower and a room steward opens the door, there is a good chance a neighbor walking by will see you partially nude but behind obscured glass. This situation remains the same.
Another very vexing design feature is the light switches. The switch over the sink is so badly hidden I had to call the front desk to ask then how to turn it off. Picture this - you have to reach under the sink counter, all the way back to the wall, and feel around for a switch on the wall but under the counter. I literally looked 20 minutes before I called, and five more after I hung up. They had told me "it's under the sink, sir." and I knew I would find it if I kept looking, and I finally did.
Norwegian Epic Now
The plumbing problems have been fixed, but not the lack of privacy. The faucets have been replaced (this is good) so they don't spray all over. The light switches remain the same.
This is a crowded ship, lots of kids onboard. I am now in the studio stateroom "living room," and this is a feature I love about this ship - the fact that solo cruisers have a place to come and meet and mingle. On most cruise ships singles don't even have a way to identify each other.
This lounge is set off behind a key-card protected set of doors so no non-solo residents can come in and hang out. Its the real deal - and a great idea by NCL.
There is constant hot coffee, cookies and sandwiches in here (complimentary). There is also a schedule of events just for solo cruisers to have chance to meet and dine together. They have a bar happy hour daily from 5:00 to 6:00, after which solos can choose to dine together if they want - a grand idea. In fact, the bartenders just arrived, it is good to see NCL is keeping this solo cruiser idea going and not just letting it flounder. You can get a studio stateroom and not have to pay a singes supplement. The rooms are cozy, too. They're are not as cheap as half of a dual occupancy cabin, but they are a good deal.
They are also extremely quiet, comfortable and utile. I took the red-eye to get to Miami from Phoenix, and I slept in my stateroom all day Saturday from about 8:30 pm to 10:00 am Sunday - the next day, whew.
One thing I was really looking forward to has changed. The ship opened with a program where people could rent Gibson guitars during the course of the cruise (with a private practice amp) for people like me who actually play and want to stay in practice. s far as I can see that program has ended, I see no mention of it anywhere. And I am sorry to see this because like so many cruise things, I didn't hear that it ever ended, and I was really looking forward to it.
The have added the Chef's Dinner - only $75 per person and only once per cruise as far as I know. I am booked for that on Monday night - and I am looking forward to it. I am also on here with a group of CruiseMates, some of whom I got to meet today - Todd and Ray - two ver stab and regular personalities on a cruise boards - what a treat to hang out with them.
Anyway - this is day one - I will have much more to reveal when I have more tim to write. Syat tuned.
Thank you for this review. After our first cruise on the NCL Dawn we are interested in the Epic.
I had never heard of a program where you could rent a guitar on board. I would be interested as I missed mine while on ship. I am interested in the Jazz/Blues club they have on the Epic. I love that type of music and I read where they do jam sessions with passengers involved. If this is true I would love to give this a go.
If you enjoy this type of music and end up in the club sometime I would love to hear what you think of it.
Getting excited now reading review.So will have to try book shows early, only blue man one want to see & maybe the cirque one. Do you have to book howl of the moon? How much is the booze on board? We staying on deck 8,8044 balcony room is that deck ok think we close to bliss nite club, well looks under us! So not sure what noise be like there.
Sorry, I have no spell-check on this computer because I have not installed word yet. SORRY!!!!
Getting excited now reading review.So will have to try book shows early, only blue man one want to see & maybe the cirque one. Do you have to book howl of the moon? How much is the booze on board? We staying on deck 8,8044 balcony room is that deck OK think we close to bliss nite club, well looks under us! So not sure what noise be like there.
The Booze is reasonable, as Matt pointed out (our guest chef onboard). He noted beer is only about $5 while many cruise lines charge $7 +.
The main thing is to not only make reservations, but to also be absolutely sure you print them out from the web site - otherwise they don't come onboard. Furthermore, the TV system is not as interactive as I remember they promised it would be - so you pretty much have to go to the reservations desk when you get onboard and double check when you arrive.
We had a big group cocktail party followed by a group dinner last night and that was fun. I got to see everyone including Ray & Todd, who are rooming together. I think there is a bit of of "odd Couple" going on there... (heh heh).
Tonight we all eat at La Cuchina. Looking forward to it.
Charlie .... I will have to check that for you (haappy hour) - since I am not reallly single I am not going to it.
Three days later - the two first days were relatively quiet, but once we hit St Martin the ship got a lot more interesting. While the ship was in port I took advantage of the relative quiet to try out the waterslides. The Epic plunge is a real hoot. You sit in an innertube and push your way into the tube slide - soon you are going really faster (faster than the Disney slide to my recollection) twisting and turning until you hit the big round "centrifuge."
You come into it pretty faster like a ball on a roulette wheel, so you tend to circle around a few times - I went around three times. Eventually all of the water "drains" into a singular hole built into the side of the "hub" in the middle. In my case, I just happened to the plunge into the spoke backwards. OK, it isn't really a "plunge" - it is just a fast slide down a fairly steep tube, then you do a few more fast turns and it is over. But it is really cool and I can see why kids want to do it all day long.
The green water slide is acually smaller and faster - no innertube. The suprising thing is that it is totally dark inside. I couldn't see anything and so you have no real orientation for the motion you feel - which is a little unsettling to me. I got to the bottom and because of my age and too many knocks on the noggin in my lifetime I was pretty dizzy. It took me a few seconds to stop my head from spinning, but I was able to get up and out - without help, which iss good since there was no one there to help me at all. No need to repeat that one, but the plunge I could do all day.
There was about a total of 10-15 minutes to wait to take the Plunge, waiting at the slide for an innertube, and then more waitiing on the stairs.
Last night II had a chance to try the new (as far as I know) NCL Chef's Dinner. First, about 12 of us gathered in the Epic Lounge for chaampagne. Then we all shared one big table in the Epic Dining Room ( the main room for the Haven guests). We started with an amuse bouche, with a "molecular gastronome" ball of mango, vodka and jalepeno sitting atop a tropical mirapois in a chinese spoon. Delicious and intriguing.
Next was a cone of tuna tartare topped with a delicious whipped creamcheese with a nice dollop of caviar atop. Both of these courses were paired with a delicious New Zealand Savignon blanc de blanc.
Next came a bowl with cauliflower flan which was the surrounded by an asparagus cream soup. Delicious, even for someone who does not love vegetables. Next; a goat cheese tartlet with a surprisingly sweet sun dried tomato chutney, a perfect combination.
To clear our pallet, we were served a pink grapefruit and moscato granite - all of these and the first "main" course were accomplnied by a delightfully bright and citrusy Napa Valley Chardonnay.
That first main course was a pan seared sea bass - two inches thick, which is how sea bass should be cooked, and is - in almost always in every case except for (surprisingly enough) on Seabourn where it was a 1/4-inch think and had the skin still atttached. The seabass was hot and juicy, not dry at all - succulent. It was accompanied by a lobster voloute (sauce).
The second main course was a veal chop almost two inches think. Most people said theirs was wonderful but mine was dry and too salty. I noticed it was also smaller than the others, so that is probaably the reason why. No matter really, by then most of us were getting so full and rather inebriated. This course brought us our first taste of red wine. A cabernet, again from Napa.
Next we had a cheese course (European traditional style) accompanied by real honeycomb - a taste treat I just adore even if it is just wax along with the honey. Its all organic wax made by bees. The port-wine infused figs were also a tasty side for the white cheeses.
Desert was either a chocolate mousse - beautiful in presentation, but not the favorite of the table, or a yogurt mousse dome atop a crisp hazelnut sablee (cookie) and a lychee raspberry creme.
Afterwards we were invited to return to the Epic club for any after dinner drink we choose -from coffee to cognac. I left early to see the "Legend at Sea" show.
We're looking at booking blue man group nearly seen them in Vegas but be nice to see them at sea! Do you have to book all show or can you just turn up at the duelling pianos bar? Are the free restaurants any good? Which is the best pay for 1? We like most type of food. Think leave the Italian 1 with touring Italy. What time do the bars shut, with everyone being up early going on the excursions. Is it worth booking own tour with priv company or going with ncl with it being are 1st cruise? How is the cruise going?
Jay & Debbie.
I juat got home, y'all, so I an bushed. The last day was a whirlwind of fun as Matt, Ellen & I went to Atlantis to try the waterpark.
Questions: Do you have to book all show or can you just turn up at the duelling pianos bar?
If it is listed it is best to pre-book it. I have to say the dueling pianos were not bearly as busy this trip as they were on my first, but we had this beautiful blonde young lady entertainer - she was a great player and very easy on the eyes. This time they had two guy who were not quite as funny... Kind of the same with the blues bar, Slam Allen was on vaca, but the replacement was pretty good, just not quite the same magic, or crowds.
Blue Man & Legends were all booked up - get reservations. The Madonna show was great, Elvis was good, Steven Tyler was not so great... bu the show is really top-notch entertainment.
Blue Man was every bit as good as ever - same show as in Vegas, I have seen it 7 times now and I still get inspired every time. Amazing.
As far as tours - private tours are really good if you have enough people to afford them. Especially if you have a private car & driver so you get to see what you want.
I have just read your review of the first voyage on Epic and am anxious to hear more about how this cruise compared to that one.
We have a group of 7 booked to sail on Epic for Thanksgiving. Have some concerns about the reservation system and what we might encounter since we will be traveling with my 88 yr old dad who will be renting a scooter for the week.
hope you get a chance to finish this trip report and fill in all the blanks!
I am a past cruiser one time on the Sapphire Princess on the Mexican Riviera and was a great intro to cruising. Now my brother and I are going on the EPIC for the first time. I wanted to try the RCL Oasis or Allure but was too expensive right now but the cruise travel company I went through (the rep) suggested the EPIC and would be in a nice price range. I have read a lot and heard that the Blue Man Group would be performing 8 shows a week and my brother and I have seen them as a staple in Vegas every time we have gone and thought this was a huge plus and money back as far as we were concerned and are definitely going to book at least 2 shows. If anyone out there has never seen one of there shows, you are missing out. I have seen 2 shows in Vegas and a much different but equally cool show on the road in my hometown. I am so looking forward to going. And lastly, thanks Paul for your details on this and any other ship. Letting others know what to expect on the ship they are going to be sailing on later is a HUGE help.