When you combine many moving parts, the risk of faults increases. When you launch a $1.2 Billion ship with over 3,000 guests onboard the opportunity for failure looms large. When you add 1700 employees from over 70 countries, and then offer 20 bars and nearly as many restaurants in a completely new and innovative design the challenges raise their heads high.
This is why the experience we completed yesterday on the Norwegian EPIC was so spectacular. Were there issues? Of course. Were they minor? Some yes, some a little more perturbing. Were they fixable? Absolutely, with minimal effort.
We chose the Spa Suite as the least expensive entry-point which gave us access to the entire ship including the Courtyard, the Spa thermal suite, the Epic Club Lounge and the Epic Club itself, as well as suite-oriented amenities such as Posh. The services of a Concierge and a Butler made the experience even more enjoyable.
The suite is beautiful. Neutral and muted tones with river-rock wall treatments, a large shower, in-suite jacuzzi tub looking over the ocean, and oodles of storage space (so much that we didn't even start to use 2/3 of it).
We boarded the ship with the assistance of Karan, our concierge...and within 10 minutes of clearing security, were on the ship and in our cabin. The security lines at Southampton were such that a spa experience was really needed by this time.... 1.5 hours in line waiting to get through the metal detectors/x-ray.
The ship is enormous, with niches and atria, and wavy walls to balance out the sheer size of the vessel.
Deck 5 houses the art gallery, internet cafe, Le Bistro, Reception, and the Atrium Cafe. This space may be redesigned eventually, it was underutilized and perhaps this is where the library will eventually be installed. On a related note, its unfortunate the Park West is still operating this gallery, their customer service is nowhere near as good as NCL's.
Further back on deck 5 is Taste, one of the main dining rooms on the ship. Escalators take you up to the casino on deck 6, which is where we spent most of our time (and money). We believe (firmly! ;) ) that the casino was trying to recoup the entire cost of the ship's construction from us, on this 7 day sailing and we helped them out as best we could.
We really liked the atrium with chandelier, and although I've liked the Chihuly glass on the Jewel-class ships, I preferred the 3 level atrium on EPIC.
Ice Bar was a fun experience, and we were pleased to see Canadian IceWine featuring prominently in one of the included drink options.
There were certainly some ongoing construction issues throughout the ship (we had no television for a few days, and no telephone with which to report it!) but we didn't let that detract us from the enjoyment of our cruise.
As usual, and to our expectations the crew and staff were superlative. From the unflinching commitment to customer service that Klaus instills in his staff, through the execution of this as exhibited by team-members all over the ship. We've only taken a single non-NCL cruise (22 days on Sapphire Princess) and although we felt they treated us as valued customers, on NCL we have regularly felt as though we were family, and that we were returning to a second home. An example? The Epic Club is a dining room reserved for the Suites, Courtyard Villas, and certain designated guests...probably available to about 10% of the ship....that's 300 - 400 people. Maria, the hostess, greeted everyone we saw by name starting at day 2. To me this shows a genuine interest in people, and her bright smile seems to confirm it. She was a highlight of our cruise, and a great way to start each morning.
For those who propose that the Daily Service Charge negatively impacts the crew's incentive to try harder....I present Maria as an example of how that does not hold true...and she's not the only one, Ceceelio our room steward was excellent, and Cris our Butler was always at hand should we need something.
Bravo NCL. With so many potential hurdles, you launched a wonderful and innovative ship where the only remaining issues are easily solvable, and you populated it with the best staff we've seen at sea.
Congratulations, we can't wait to sail her again next year!