Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by Dancer Bob: NCL Epic- Not For Dancers
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NCL Epic- Not For Dancers
This was a 7 day Western Caribbean itinerary. I was told there were about 3000 adults and 1100 children (not sure if that meant under-12 or under-18) which is about nominal capacity (there was definitely quite a bit of 3rd and 4th occupancy). The ship did not seem very crowded, but this was not a holiday sailing. This a large and complex ship, even experienced cruisers will have to spend some time learning its features.
Be sure you understand NCL's "Freestyle" concept before booking. There are also several "reserved" areas on the ship, including the Courtyard Suites restaurant and lounge, and adults-only areas, so this is not entirely a one-class ship. One oddity- much of the furniture is designed for really fat people. However, for a cruise ship, most of the passengers seemed quite fit and healthy, so the furniture was actually rather uncomfortable.
Once you have a cover charge for one restaurant, as almost all ships do, I see no reason you cannot have a charge for More others. Nor do I see why the same principle cannot apply to entertainment. However, it can get confusing, and NCL doesn't do a good job of explaining.
This ship is not suitable for dancers. What was supposed to be a decent dance floor in the Manhattan Room was covered with tables and the music in the Atrium was atrocious. I was with a small group of 5 people; there were no more than a dozen people who actually danced.
The studios remind me of rooms in the better European budget hotels. There are two wardrobes, each with 6 hangars, which seems a bit much for one-week freestyle cruises, but less shelf space than single occupancy of a double, and almost no counter space. There was not only a double bed, but two lifejackets as well. The shower and toilet are separate. The shower door does not fit well and towels are not stored within arm's reach; the floor was always wet. There are some 13 light switches.
The singles lounge reminds me of a typical European hotel breakfast room, and about as interesting. Continental breakfast is available. It's a quiet place to go if you can't find anything better to do, but the furniture is not comfortable.
Access to the studio area is keycard controlled, studio passengers only. The design of the studios leaves me baffled; there seem to have been several changes in concept.
Singles should remember that freestyle means, "you don't dine with anyone you don't want to". When the Maitre d' says "No one wants you", he is probably correct. But NCL put considerably more effort into solo activities than most ships, arranging a singles meet every evening at 5.30 PM, inviting all singles, not just those in the solos.
The Manhattan Room and Taste are the non-premium restaurants, and have the same menu. I ate mostly in Manhattan due to the dancing. I found the food and service to be better than expected, with enough daily specials to provide variety.
The buffet provided a wide variety of comfort food, although the menu didn't change. I was quite pleased with the quality and selection.
Manhattan Room: There is supposed to be a dance floor about 20' x 40', but it was covered with tables, leaving about 10' x 15'. The band was not bad, and did try to accommodate requests. Very few people danced.
Atrium: The dance floor was just barely, large enough for Quickstep, but the music was atrocious. The excuse given was that the duo had recorded background tracks with tempo fixed. The mix was very poor, and there was the problem common to live music, of playing far too long.
Bliss: A reasonable sized dance floor for a disco, but it was covered with sticky gunk to prevent falls. Due to drinks taken onto the floor, this was a necessary precaution. The "guest DJ" sets up on the stage rather than the sound booth. The music was better than expected, mainly disco standard- Madonna, Lady Gaga, etc.- rather than the Euro-techno-trash "dance mixes" often found. I don't know how often the DJ is changed. It was patronized mainly by staff rather than passengers and was one of the tamest I've ever seen.
There were also some music nights in Spice, outdoors aft. People got up and "danced"- they moved their feet! Even stuck their hands in the air! Pretty pathetic, actually.
There is no main show lounge, but a number of smaller venues- Cirque du Soleil, Howl At The Moon jazz, Blue Man, etc, to provide variety. Think lowest-common-denominator, mass-market crowd-pleasers, nice but not much on subtlety or sophistication. Some have cover charges, some do not- it can get confusing. Book early for good choice.
I admit that in the Caribbean, I often don't get off the ship. Unless you like snorkelling, Costa Maya is the backside of nowhere, and Roatan not much better.
Overall, except for dancing and price, this cruise provided decent value. I have no objection to a low fare and paying for those services I use, but the solo cabins are over-priced. There was nothing which would persuade me to choose NCL over the competition. I see nothing wrong with most of the concept, but implementation needs some work. Less
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