THE EPIC'S SOLO STUDIO CABIN
The concept of the solo studio cabins has been long-awaited by many single cruise passengers. Here to for, the best option for a single passenger was to either find a buddy or pay almost double for a cabin. Now, supposedly, a single person won't have to pay the supplemental fee if occupying a cabin by his or herself. One of the ideas fostered by the cruise lines, is to attract more single passengers who formerly balked at paying the extreme supplemental fee especially since they weren't eating double or using double the services offered by the ship. However, don't be fooled until you check the price comparison. On a sailing I've just investigated. The cost of the cabin, even when you pay double, was LESS than the price of a solo studio cabin on the same sailing. This, of course, is due to the current popularity of these cabins vs. the availability of other cabins, and in the future, I suspect the price will be more in line to what it should be. At least I have my fingers crossed.
As others ship lines follow suit, I'm sure that the price of such rooms will be more in line to what they should be and, as a result, will begin to attract more single passengers.
Below are some of my impressions of the solo cabins. You ,of course, can read better glowing information on the NCL publicity pages which is pretty accurate. So here, I am listing my impressions.
[ http://www.epic.ncl.com/the-experience/accommodations/studios/ ]
Running down the middle of the ship, almost from end to end, on decks 11 and 12, are the all inside cabins (128) which make up the solo studio cabins. This area is not open to the general public as it requires a key card to open various narrow passageway doors. Servicing these cabins is the great two level Studio Lounge (discussed near the end of the article.)
To get into the cabin you enter with a key card. Upon opening the door you insert the card into another slot which turns on the cabin lights. Unfortunately, the cabin lights, at this stage of the game, are not very bright. There are several more switches near the key card insert; one turns some of the lights off while the other two control a single overhead light and the shower stall light.
There is some interesting indirect lighting on three walls of the room. This lighting changes color from red to blue to white and all shades in between and is supposed to simulate sunlight, moonlight, romance light (no directions provided [what's that for in a single cabin? Oh!]) - there are buttons to control these. There is also another control - which I couldn't figure out. These auxiliary buttons located towards the head of the bed allow you to freeze any color you want. When the light is frozen at white, the room is much brighter. There also are two night lights right over the head of the bed with their controls illuminated by blue lit buttons.
Over the TV desk area there is a light controlled by a separate switch and, over the sink, there is a similar controlled light. The commode room also has a light controlled by a switch inside the small room.
Probably this is not too important with the exception that the cabin room really has very subdued lighting and probably is not as bright as you would like.
In order to make the room brighter, by changing the alternating lights to white, one has to travel around the bed, turn sideways and negotiate the very narrow passageway between the bed and the built-ins which is only one shoe +3 fingers wide before one can push the sunlight (or white) button. Each time the lights are darkened by either pushing one of the special switches or removing the key card from the lighting slots, the settings return to their original positions. Which means, one has to go through the same rigmarole each time they turn the lights off then on.
SUGGESTION NCL: the bed for a single needn't be as wide as a double bed. A slightly narrower bed would allow more walking space by the closets, drawers, desk and TV. Having the initial indirect light be white (by default - instead of red), later to be adjusted to the various other modes including alternating colors, if desired, would be more ideal for normal use.
He commode is adequate but when in use, and the door closed, one of your legs get squeezed. Of course all you have to do is open the door -- since there is no one else there, not even a guest, Eh? The commode is vacuum flushed and rather fast. The walls of the small room (chamber) is rather sparse.
SUGGESTION NCL: as storage is a premium this is a good place for additional shelves and wall hooks to take care of excess items. I would highly recommend this.
THE SHOWER STALL
The shower stall is quite an interesting, two walls are tiled and the remaining two consist of glass. The stall projects out into the room a little bit and if a person is taking a shower they are exposed to anyone else who was in the cabin. Well, almost exposed, part of the glasses frosted. But you can see outlines and shapes very easily. Now the shower stall is rather small. As the ship comedian said, "all one has to do is soap up the walls and glass and spin around a little bit to get clean." Warning, if you are a large person you will have difficulty in this small space.
I personally had difficulty in closing the shower door. It wouldn't shut for me and remained somewhat ajar. However, the room steward finally instructed me and after I pulled the door with a little more force than probably should be necessary, the door would shut and water wouldn't be running on the floor -- anymore. That's not to say that the Pergo floor didn't get wet, it did. But a bath mat took care that. Some have reported that in other cabins the Pergo floor has started to buckle due to the water on the floor.
THE DOOR BETWEEN THE ROOMS
Between the shower and the John there is a locked door to another room it is faced with a floor-to-ceiling mirror. Unfortunately there is a big gap between the bottom of the door in the floor This is not present much of a problem except when your neighbor is playing the TV or radio loudly and you are trying to sleep. It happened to me as my neighbor came back to his room about 3:30 each morning and turned on his radio. Fortunately, he must've had it on sleep control for it went off in about 30 min. I did have to place a rolled up towel in the crack under the door to cut down on the noise.
SUGGESTION NCL: place some sort of sound barrier at the bottom of this type of door.
SUGGESTION PASSENGER: if your neighbor makes noise, roll up the towel and place it at the bottom of the door to block out the sound. When I mentioned this to my room steward, he did this for me daily -- although it may have been the same towel each day.
Part of the floor is a Pergo material and the remaining portion, mostly under the bed, is carpeted. Not much carpet to walk on.
THE @#$! SINK
The sink is the main contention, not only for people in the solo cabins but for people in other cabins too - IT IS TOO SMALL! The sink area measures about two shoes wide and about one shoe and three fingers in depth. The actual bowl is rather small. One can't help but splash on the Pergo floor. You must commandeer the bath mat or lay another towel on the floor. There is a large available mirror. Please note that there is very little room around the edges of the sink for one to place their toiletries, as the edges are narrow.
SUGGESTION NCL: a larger sink is really necessary. If you are unable to make changes on this ship certainly consider a redesign on future ship buildings. In addition you might even consider additional hooks in the sink area for people to hang toiletry bags. An additional bathmat in each room would be a benefit. Here is also wasted mirror space so considering small shelves might be a valuable addition too.
SUGGESTION PASSENGERS: you might consider taking along some of those removable sticking (non-marking) hooks manufactured by 3M; not only for the sink area but for other areas in the cabin.
THE SHELVES ALONGSIDE THE SINK
There are some cubbyhole areas running down the left side of the sink. Five of them are open, an additional one has a door, and the bottom one is really a slide out trash can.
THE SHELVES UNDER THE SINK
Underneath the sink there are two shelves covered by sliding doors.
SUGGESTION PASSENGERS: it would be handy if you brought along quart size and gallon size plastic zipper bags to house some of your material that you could stuff in these cubbyholes or on the shelves underneath the sink to keep them somewhat organized and easy to reach.
What drawers? THERE ARE NO DRAWERS!
SUGGESTION NCL: what's up with that?
SUGGESTION PASSENGER: you might consider doing this - use your suitcase(s) which you will store underneath your bed as a drawer(s). The bed clears the floor with ample space allowing you to store excess baggage underneath the bed.
The bed is very ample. It is of double bed size. It is furnished with four regular pillows and three colored throw pillows and has a nice European type puff filled blanket. It is really too big for the room and its size is really a luxury.
CLOSET NUMBER ONE
This closet is not really a closet but a depression about as wide as the sink. The top part has a fixture for furnished or brought hangers. There are two shelves at the bottom.
CLOSET NUMBER TWO
This closet also contains a hanging area. On one of the shelves there is a combination lock safe and a shelf below that contains your life jackets. It's door slides to cover the desk and TV area.
All the shelves, sliding doors, and cubbyholes are of the latest IKEA design but fortunately you don't have to construct them yourself.
SUGGESTION NCL: you should add some removable shelves in the closet fixture, perhaps using small dowel hole metal, wood or plastic projections as shelf supports. You can ask for directions at IKEA. Additional shelving space would be welcomed and is needed by your passengers.
THE DESK AND TV AREA
Between the two closets is your TV and (cough) desk (cough). The TV has a remote control and brings in only a handful of stations other then the ships channels. The desk is about as wide as the sink and about the same area as the sink. Part of the desk is taken up by the ice bucket and its tray and glasses. The desk can only be pulled from the wall only a couple of inches. Remember, there is little room between that area and the side of the bed. So the desk becomes essentially useless other than storing a few items. One can't hang their feet over the side of the bed and operate their computer with the desk pulled out. No leg room left.
NCL SUGGESTION: again, what's up with that?
PASSENGER SUGGESTION: if you want to use your computer by placing it on your bed, remember that the airflow will be restricted and it might overheat. It would be best to use it outside the room, in the Living Room or some other area of the ship to keep the interior of the computer cool.
There are two available towel bars and three electrical plugs. Two of the electrical plugs are housed in the cubbyholes alongside the sink and are hard to get to especially if you have items in the cubbyhole.
There is NO HAIRDRYER in the cabin. (There is one in the normal interior and balcony cabins and I also saw a bunch in the men's bathroom of the gym.)
PASSENGER SUGGESTION: you may not find that there are enough plugs or that they are conveniently placed. It might be wise to bring along a small extension cord or one of those 'Y' plugs which allow you to plug in more small appliances. Remember you may have many devices that need to be charged. For example: phone, GPS, computer, iPod/MP3 player, electric toothbrush, electric shaver, camera battery, and vibrating massager.
There is a very unique fake window in each studio. It faces the hallway, has indirect lighting and has an electric adjusting Venetian blind. The purpose, I suppose, is to give you the impression of a large porthole looking out to a moonlit night. One can see shadows of people passing in the hallway, but you really can't see out or in. There are two sliding doors that shut off the view completely.
QUICK DIAL PHONE
There is a modernistic wall phone on the wall by the bed. It also doubles as the another night light.
There are only a couple of hooks on the door between the adjoining rooms. There is really no place to hang wet laundry, water shoes, bathing suits - not to mention other items of clothing that you might rinse out or hand wash.
SUGGESTION NCL: add additional hooks throughout the cabin for people to hang various items of clothing. The retractable string line in the shower is too short and too close to the wall.
SUGGESTION PASSENGERS: you might consider taking along some of those removable sticking (non-marking) hooks manufactured by 3M for all areas of the cabin. Remember to properly remove them when you leave.
In order to get to your room you have to use a key card to enter a narrow blue-light lit corridor then, use the key card again to get into room. Finally, you use your key card to turn on your room lights. When you remove your key card upon leaving the room, the lights will go off - 'automagically'.
ROOM BAGGAGE DELIVERY AND PICK-UP
Superior. Probably the best of all my 24 cruise ship experiences.
At various locations in the area are some vending machines with snacks and soft drinks on a pay for product basis.
THE STUDIO LOUNGE
Many passengers will agree that it is the Studio Lounge that makes these solo cabins very desirable by adding that special touch for the single passenger. The lounge is really a two-story room where the upper deck (accessed via the deck 12) looks down to the bottom floor on deck 11, much like a balcony, and contains stairs leading down to the main floor. On the main floor one finds a bar area, a snack area, a fantastic coffee machine area, several sets of tables and chairs, several other sets of booth-type sitting and tables, long counter table with stool seats, two giant flat screen TVs on the wall, plus some showcases displaying various Epic available space items.
Now for the magic of the room. This is a gathering place for all the occupants of the 128 solo cabins. It is a place not only where you can congregate, meet each other, make plans for the evening, get drinks, snacks, all sorts of coffee, and cookies, but a place where an assigned program director meets with you from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM each evening to tell you what's happening on the ship, making dinner arrangements, show arrangements, activity arrangements and acts as an interlocutor helping people meet each other. During the same early evening period a bartender is present, it is happy hour and drinks are 2 for 1 -- which in itself, is a boon to your pocketbook. He bartender is happy, you're happy, the cruise line is happy, in fact, everybody's happy. The bars completely stocked and there is necessary equipment for making all sorts of mixed drinks and slushy drinks. Of course, as the drinks are consumed, the noise level rises but who cares? The program director, Megan in my case, does an excellent job, and of course is full of cheerleading motivational energy, as is most of the crew. She is not only helpful with activities on ship, both daytime and evening time, but also off-ship and touring as well. She helps make this experience quite unique and quickly becomes our leader. The program director prepares a daily easel board upon which she writes various tidbits of newsstand directions for activities.
The coffee machine turns out to be one of the best features of the room. It is a Super Duper Star Wars automatic Ring-a-ding-ding device that instantly prepares coffee, espresso, cappuccino, lattes, hot water for teas, warm milk, hot milk, etc. -- at the push of a button after even steam warming your cup. Preparation activities are performed internal to the machine such as grinding, brewing, mixing, milk or cream addition, frothing, foaming, etc. You can believe that this machine is quite used. First, espresso and it's cousins are FREE here. In the rest of the ship, at the coffee bars and even dining rooms, there is a premium charge. No wonder that early in the morning, after exercising in the gym, one can find many singles using the machine. Then before and after breakfast a gaggle of coffee drinkers, and of course during the day. Even, after bar hopping in the evening. Did I mention before that all you do is place your cup under the spout and press the appropriate button, then stand back and watch all the conniptions -- and the drink and machine show is FREE. I'm sorry that my suitcase was not big enough to abscond with the machine off the ship, but I realized that my airline would charge me extra for the additional weight and it was probably not worth it (chuckle).
He studio In concept is an excellent idea which should be quite popular in attracting more solo passengers on this cruise line. Other cruise lines will copy with their new ships and all cruise lines should work out some ways of altering some of their smaller cabins to provide this service -- so the single passenger could (and should) travel at a more appropriate rate than they can at present. There are some fixes which might be made to the Epic's version (see Suggestions) to make the environments more user friendly, but these are somewhat minor and the traveler can, with some ingenuity, overcome the short fallings.
But, come on NCL!, the price shouldn't be more for a solo cabin than the double one-passenger price for a normal cabin -- that defeats the purpose of making it more reasonable for attracting more single travelers. Let me suggest, if I may be so bold, please return to the 'old' days where the supplement was only 25 to 50% more for the single traveler -- especially since the cabins are much smaller, and, in the long run can, arguably, provide more potential passenger income for the cruise line when considering space occupied per individual and the additional income from drinks, fee shows, fee specialty restaurants, cruise sponsored shore excursions, specialty shops, photo sales, pay for services, etc. that are reflected in the heart-stopping final bill.
Gary (LeVoyageur) Hayman