Ship Spotlight: Norwegian Epic
Posted on March 6, 2016
The Epic is Norwegian Cruise Lines largest ship, and it is one-of-a-kind. Originally meant to be one of two ships, and the next generation of Norwegian’s signature freestyle cruising, a dispute over the price of changes to the nearly completed ship resulted in the cancelation of Epic’s sister ship, and the end of Norwegian’s relations with STX France. Norwegian’s newer, smaller, Breakaway Plus ships are built by Meyer Werft in Germany. Designed to be a revolutionary ship, the Norwegian Epic’s design and amenities have proven controversial. Cruisers by-and-large have a love-hate relationship with the Epic. Unlike most other lines who take pains to make their ships recall the ocean liners of the past, the Norwegian Epic fully embraces the apartment block at sea concept that is so derided. The result isn’t all that ugly, but it is more utilitarian than most cruise ships, and that has made the Epic a favorite whipping boy of UglyShips.com, and others. Even its launch was different than most ships. Instead of a godmother, the Norwegian Epic has a godfather: recording artist Pitbull.
So what’s it like to cruise on Norwegian’s grand experiment? Port Canaveral cruisers will get a chance to find out in November of this year. It is a big ship, only slightly smaller than Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class. While the Quantum class was designed and built with the mandate to be the most technologically sophisticated cruise ships in the world, the Epic was designed with the much looser mandate to be the most “freestyle” ship of all time in mind. What that means in real terms is whether or not a cruise onboard the Epic turns out great largely depends on the individual cruiser, and what they expect.
Making Waves: Norwegian Staterooms
Despite all of the drama that occurred over the building of the Epic, most of the controversy that has surrounded the ship has centered on the staterooms, and one particular aspect of their design. One of the bulkheads in nearly every stateroom will have a distinct double curve. One side of which will hold a couch for cruisers to sit on. It looks quite stylish, but it has the drawback of crowding the foot of the bed and reducing balcony access to a single file walkway. The couch is also, by all reports, far more stylish than comfortable. However, that is not the most controversial part of the Norwegian Epic’s design. The Epic’s most epic drama is over the bathrooms in the staterooms.
Bathing and toilet facilities on the Epic are split. The toilet is on one side of your stateroom, and the shower on the other. The vanity sink is in the stateroom. It’s a setup that is familiar to Europeans, but not something most North Americans will be used to. There is a practical problem as the floors of the hygiene areas are approximately level with the floor of the stateroom, meaning that water can intrude into the living area. The thing that attracts the most wrath, though, is the doors on both shower and toilet: frosted glass with a swathe of transparency at the top and on the bottom. While there is a privacy curtain that can be drawn across both, the fact that a bather’s outline can be seen clearly through the door is likely to prove a source of embarrassment to non-intimates who are sharing a stateroom.
On the other hand, if you are cruising with someone you are intimate with—well, we’re sure you can put things together for yourself.
Another feature unique to the Norwegian Epic—and one that has met with cruisers’ overwhelming approval—is the studio staterooms for solo cruisers. Normally, cruisers who are traveling by themselves are penalized for taking a whole room for themselves. They usually end up paying for the empty berth. On the Epic, they get a studio room that was designed for single occupancy and a lounge that is strictly for solo travelers. These studio rooms offer a double bed and plenty of storage. They also have interesting features like 4 different lighting settings to set the mood, a porthole (shuts with a blind) that looks out into the semi-public studio corridor (accessed with a key card), and come with access to a lounge exclusively for solo travelers. The studio cabins share the same split shower and toilet layout that normal staterooms do, but oddly the toilet doors are opaque here.
The overall design is different too. Most cruise ships have ocean view and interior staterooms in the lower hull. The public areas and promenade on the middle decks. Then the balconies and suites start making appearances on the upper decks of the ships. On the Epic, there are no ocean view rooms. All exterior rooms are balconies of some sort. The lower decks are where most of the public areas are, and staterooms are above them.
For better or worse, the bathroom layouts and the studio rooms are what really make the Norwegian Epic stand out from all other cruise ships. They are definitely something that takes getting used to, but they’re not deal breakers. It actually resounds to Norwegian’s credit that they were brave enough to try something new, and whether or not the Epic is the best cruise ship out there, or the worst, will be entirely in the eyes of the cruiser.
Norwegian Epic Deck by Deck
Deck 5 is the first passenger deck and starts with the Epic Theater at the very front of the ship. Entertainment is one of the best things onboard the Epic. Its theater show, the Blue Man Group, and musical tributes are some of the best experiences at sea. Aft of the theater, on the starboard side, are the two Biscayne meeting rooms. Across the way from these is the Le Bistro French Restaurant. Further towards the rear of the ship is the Atrium, and surrounding it is the art gallery, shore excursions desk, guest services, and the atrium bar. At the very rear of the ship on this level is the Taste Restaurant.
Deck 6 above has the second level of the Epic Theater forward. Just aft of this is the Spiegel Tent, where cruisers can see a circus-inspired show, and the Headliners Comedy Club is just across the way. Further back, O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill is one of the most popular places to dine, or just socialize on board. To the rear of O’Sheehan’s is the Casino, which is incorporated into the atrium. The Casino does allow smoking, and this is probably one of the biggest—and least subjective—complaints, that the smell of smoke intrudes on other public areas on the Epic. If it doesn’t bother you then it’s fine, but if you have allergies, it can be a serious concern. To the rear of the Casino is the Shanghai Restaurant, Cascades Bar, and The Cavern Club. Farther aft is the Manhattan Room Restaurant. With freestyle dining, Norwegian doesn’t really have a “main” dining room, but the Manhattan is a close equivalent.
Deck 7 is for all intents and purposes the promenade deck. Forward is home to Bliss Ultra Lounge. One of the best nightspots afloat. To the rear is the ship’s main street with shopping. The centerpiece is Tradewinds Tax & Duty-Free store. Around the atrium is the Ice Bar, Teppanyaki, Wasabi Sushi & Sake Bar, Shaker’s Martini Bar, and the Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar. The last two are conveniently close to The Humidor Cigar Lounge. This is probably one of the highest flying areas of the ship, but once again it isn’t friendly to those that are bothered by tobacco smoke. Across the way is the barber shop. All the way to the rear of the ship is Cagney’s Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria. Also on this deck is a jogging track around the perimeter of the ship.
The Norwegian Epic is set to call Port Canaveral home in November 2016, have you booked yet? Go Port is ready to take on all Epic cruisers and accommodate them with the best all-in-one packages around. Whether it’s the fly snooze cruise package, or snooze park and cruise, you’ll remove a ton of stress by booking a package with Go Port. Call for assistance at 855-755-4637 or book online.
Deck 8 is the first stateroom deck. It is overwhelmingly skewed towards balcony rooms. There are only 8 interior staterooms on this level. The best rooms on this level are the aft balcony staterooms. Especially the two on the center-line, which are larger than standard, and lacks the wave shaped bulkheads that have proven so controversial. There are also two midship mini-suites that have straighter edges than are normal aboard the Epic.
Deck 9 offers an interesting blend of staterooms. Inside staterooms are direct across the hall from balcony staterooms, large balcony staterooms, and mini-suites. These aren’t the larger family sized interior staterooms. Once again the most spacious rooms available are the two aft balcony cabins and the mini-suites that don’t have the wave bulkhead. Other more spacious rooms are those on the intermittent extrusions outward. The extrusion creates odd shapes that have more space than usual.
Deck 10 Has a similar layout to the deck below. The chief difference is that the two centerline balcony cabins are replaced by two Haven suites. The Haven is the most luxurious area aboard the Epic, and the guests of Haven suites gain access to the private lounge, restaurant, and more inside of the Haven. Beyond the two Haven suites, every exterior cabin has caught the wave.
Deck 11 Marks the beginning of the high rent areas of the ship. The cabins here tend mostly toward mini-suites. Also, along a corridor that runs the length of the center of the ship, are the famous studio staterooms. Overall they almost seem like the ship’s neon-lit back alley. It is a rather neat effect, and the corridor and lounge can only be accessed with a key card. This lounge is two stories and connects with the next deck up.
Deck 12 is largely a clone of the previous deck. The profile of the ship is nearly the same, and the studio staterooms, their special corridor, and their private lounge continues here. This marks the end of the studio staterooms, however.
Deck 13 is where the bridge is located, and passengers can observe the Epic’s command staff in the bridge viewing room. Staterooms on this deck are skewed towards family size. Family balcony and interior staterooms are the norm on this deck, and there are no more solo cabins.
Deck 14 has the Splash Academy Youth Center, the La Cucina Italian Restaurant, the Pulse Fitness Center, and the Spa & Salon. Aft are the spa cabins. The middle of the ship is dominated by Family mini-suites, and there is a good number of family interior staterooms too. This is an excellent deck if you want quick access to fitness, youth, and restaurant facilities.
Deck 15 is the Lido Deck. The Garden Café is an elegant restaurant forward. The Great Outdoors Bar and Grill serves international cuisine in the…well, in the great outdoors. Amidships is the main pool and the water park. The rock climbing walls are just behind, and the intriguingly called splash golf. To the rear of this is The Marketplace shopping area, and off to the side is the Video Arcade. Behind this is the Spice H2O Pool Bar & Grill, along with a pool and two hot tubs.
Deck 16 is the start of the Haven. A luxurious area of the ship with a private courtyard, pool, spa, lounge, restaurant, club, and lounge. The Haven suites are some of the largest suites aboard, as well as the fanciest. Far to the aft of the ship is the Entourage Teens Club and the second level of Spice H2O.
Deck 17 has the second level of the Haven forward, and the sports deck at the very rear of the ship.
Deck 18 host the public sundecks and Deck 19 hosts the Haven’s private sundeck.
The Most Original Epic
The Epic is famously something of an ugly duckling. It has some of the best features of any cruise ship in the world. It also has a lot of small things that drive some cruisers absolutely wild. In truth, these are fairly trivial complaints, and the overall great experience of an Epic cruise far outweighs the negatives. In fact, they’re a large part of the Epic’s charm. It wouldn’t be the same ship without it’s quirks. People love to complain, and they often do so without finding anything out about what they’re so upset about.
In truth, the Epic is one of the best cruise ships out there and probably the friendliest of the new generation of mega-ships. If you’re a veteran cruiser who doesn’t like its stack of blocks appearance, well you ought to look deeper. If you’re new to cruising, then the Epic is a great place to start.
The Norwegian Epic starts sailing 7-night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises out of Port Canaveral in November. We’re looking forward to sailing aboard her, and looking forward to helping you plan your carefree cruise vacation.