My wife and I boarded the not quite finished Norwegian Epic in Rotterdam to spend ten nights aboard disembarking in New York. Due to over running construction our first three nights were spent in a Spa Suite that was beautiful, it was carefully designed to make maximum use of space, with masses of storage, a comfortable circular bed with a corner Jacuzzi bath; an ideal suite for two with access to the fantastic Mandara Spa and Salon just seconds away. The Spa and fitness centre provided every conceivable exercise and treatment facility we could want, staffed with the usual professional and knowledgeable staff that we have come to expect from NCL.
Touring the ship we were simply over awed with the options to eat, drink, party and relax, everything we needed was on decks five, six and seven with fabulous outdoor entertainment on decks fourteen and above. As well as the NCL classic restaurants there are the new dining options including O'Sheehan's which has a terrific vibe overlooking the two story screen which was a must for the soccer fans on this cruise. The Garden Cafe complex is light airy and spacious with so many food stations to meet any taste requirements. Hidden at the forward end of the Garden Cafe down the stairway is the beautiful La Cucina Italian Restaurant which served us fantastic pasta.
The Bistro on deck five seems out of the way but once seated inside the ambience, as well as the new menu was superb, and the addition of a wine sommelier made the experience a delight. Dinner in the Moderno Restaurant is a new twist with the classic serving one would expect in a Churrascaria, this restaurant shares space with the ageless Cagney's and overlooks the Manhattan Room, make sure you are hungry when you go to Moderno, and remember to turn the card to red otherwise the food keeps coming and you can't say no. The Asian complex of Shanghai's, the Noodle Bar and an enormous Teppanyaki included new menus and the food quality and taste were outstanding, our suggestion eat in Shanghai's but make sure you order at least one noodle dish. All of the restaurants we experienced were first class.
There are numerous indoor and deck side bars and I was delighted that NCL has put in a reasonable Humidor cigar lounge which is tucked away so was not full of cigarette smokers but a great place for a cigar, my suggestion here is look at the Sun's cigar area and bring some of that to the Epic. Important to us was the casino, and the Epic Casino excels, it is huge and spirals off in four directions from around the famous chandelier. With many tables, lots of slots and two decent poker tables, the setup works very well, and the dealers looked fantastic on Fedora and Flappers night which is way superior to Monte Carlo night. We loved the design of the casino, it is situated on a major thoroughfare and is surrounded by restaurants, so occasionally when playing tempting food smells would be noticed.
The entertainment is a key feature on this beautiful ship, on our first night we experienced dinner in the Spiegel Tent, and then Blue Man in the Epic Theatre. For two hours the artists in Cirque Dreams and Dinner enthralled us, this is the finest two hours entertainment afloat, if you do nothing else when you cruise on Epic go to the Tent. My wife still talks about the guy in the bath tub doing the washing up, which was probably why we had to see the show again later in the week, me I just wished she could get changed as quickly as the hula hoop lady! It's non- stop, you actually don't notice the food but that is excellent.
Blue Man is a show you either love or say "what was that about?" we loved it, a scaled down more interactive version of the Vegas show we'd seen some time ago and worth the line to get in. The Legends in Concert show was a blast, Tina, Madonna and Elvis were very good but the band and the five backing dancers/singers were just as good.
The other venues we had a blast in were the Ice Bar where my non alcoholic strawberry drink actually froze in the ice glass after ten minutes, we did feel funny dressed in the silver ponchos and gloves waiting to go in as people walked past, well worth the experience and frost bite. Great jazz was playing in Fat Cats when we went in and then stayed for hours. Bliss Ultra Lounge is for people slightly younger than us, but it's a great experience with a very cool entrance later in the evening which caused confusion to some people.
At the start of the fourth day as we were due to leave Southampton we were moved to our Owner's Suite in the new Courtyard Complex. We knew they had worked tirelessly to finish the area and our first impressions were WOW. We have always loved the Courtyards on the Jewel class ships but the EPIC Courtyard is an entirely different and sublime experience. As we entered the reception area the muted colours and decor exude class and comfort, in front of us through the glass doors is a massive Courtyard (compared to the jewel class) with ample space for all the suites, further in front is the steam rooms, treatment rooms etc then the gym above which wasn't finished, but NCL acknowledged this and as always looked after us. From reception we walked around into a sitting area with a bar which has fresh air from the slated glass alongside, then Klaus greeted us as the first passengers to enter the sublime Epic Club Restaurant which in our view has a better design, ambience and location than any other premier cruise line dining rooms we've experienced. The menus and food quality in the Epic Club are first class with masses of choice and great taste. At the rear of the restaurant is the Epic Club lounge which is just beautiful and the perfect place for a pre dinner drink, or for relaxation overlooking the pool deck, and as always a grand piano - what is it with NCL and grand pianos?
Above the Courtyard we discovered even more fantastic space for sun worshippers, as well as Posh. All in all the Epic courtyard complex has the feel of a super deluxe ship within a fabulous ship, we could relax, be pampered and enjoy the luxury and solitude behind the "gold and black door" but then go into the big ship to play......a perfect vacation for us. Then finally the famous Klaus took us to our suite, and OMG it is just perfect for us, six weeks ago we were in the Garden Villa of the Gem and loved it as always but this suite is even better. There are a few small things we miss from the Villa but the design, colour scheme, location, views, bathroom, furnishings etc.etc. are just awesome.
We entered the living/dining room which felt like stepping into a luxury suite, which of course it is, the enclosed solarium balcony with open windows led into a beautiful bedroom, all of this accommodation had floor to ceiling views across and to the side of the bow, and what views. I always maintain that the best place to wake up in the morning is an NCL ship, and our wake ups on the Epic with the drapes drawn back were stunning even with the Atlantic fogs and rain.
My wife tells me the bathroom configuration met all her requirements she could sit in the tub and look out to the sea forward, me I loved the walk in shower that has a massive glass window to the side, I've stayed in hotels that have a smaller bathrooms than this shower, and finally more storage space than we could possibly utilise.
The finish of the suite exceeded our expectations, and the technology rich ship provided all the toys I could want including interactive television that access downloadable movies, account information and even casino games. Also on board is a sophisticated photo gallery that has easy to use kiosks that avoid the time consuming search through endless photos before you found the ones you wanted.
There's so much to do and experience on this ship, she is designed for everyone, and yes of course on her first sailings there are bound to be teething problems, but NCL acknowledged them and dealt with them appropriately. The staff on board had worked tirelessly whilst the ship was in France to bring her into service, and during our time on board they continued to do so. It was a shame that some passengers clearly expected everything to be perfect and we witnessed lots of rudeness from passengers to crew which we believed was totally uncalled for. Overall though I think the majority of our fellow passengers (who were not deliberately looking for things to fault) had a brilliant time. The crew should be proud of what they've achieved so far and it will only get better, as the Epic settles down.
Special thanks from us go to the girls and Ricky who served us in the Epic Club they were just so much fun, our steward Benjamin who did a fantastic job, Karan and Anshuman the Concierge who provided first class professional service, nothing was too much trouble for these guys, our butlers Chris and Ravi who were always only a call away. Not forgetting the team in the casino, they make it such fun whether we win or loose.
The roll call of stars could go on but special mention goes to Captain Vorren a charming and professional mariner who's company we very much enjoyed and last but not least the irrepressible Klaus Lugmaier the man on 8888 who makes it happen, where he gets his drive energy and staying power from is a mystery to us, nothing is ever too much bother and he is so approachable, we are sure it helps that he has Sean with him as well! Thank you crew of the Epic we have spent nine days aboard and have one to go before we dock in New York and our only regret is we have to disembark.