To gauge the experience from my eyes, first you need to know a little about me! I’m a 29 year old male who sailed solo for the second time with NCL. This was my 21st cruise. It was perfect for me as there were solo studio cabins available which helped me avoid the single supplement I paid last year onboard the Norwegian Jewel. I’m a non-traditional student and this was my college Spring Break and as such my review will be geared to both relaxation and partying!
This was my 11th NCL cruise and my 10th for Latitudes recognition. I have sailed on other lines including Princess (5x), Celebrity (3x), RCCL (1x) & Carnival (1x). My last non-NCL cruise was in 2009 with Princess Cruises. My entire cruising history is in the last 10 years so cross comparisons (if present) are fairly current.
I flew into Fort Lauderdale on JetBlue who had a weather delay out of Boston. My flight was delayed and didn’t arrive in until after 1AM on Saturday morning (the day of departure from Miami on Epic).
Pre-Cruise Hotel: Hyatt Summerfield Suites – Fort Lauderdale Airport-South
Great hotel for the short time I stayed in it and the price paid. Recently re-modeled with a more contemporary and trendy feel. It is centrally located to a shopping plaza and other eateries nearby. The room was very spacious. The only funny thing about this hotel room was the bathroom doors. There were two and they didn’t close tight without a fight.
Pre-Cruise Transfer: SAS Transportation
This company was a hidden gem a few years ago and now has really developed. I received a phone call from a driver stating he was running early. The driver didn’t sound like the owner and sure enough it wasn’t. Good for them to keep the company in such great working order and to blossom in this economy. Smooth uneventful ride to the port of Miami. I do recommend using their service as it is $15 per person from FLL area hotel to Miami cruise port.
NORWEGIAN EPIC E. CARIBBEAN REVIEW (3/12/11 to 3/19/11):
I arrived to the cruise port around 11AM on 3/12/11. Upon arrival to the port of Miami, the Norwegian Epic was the first stop. Both terminals B & C were utilized. Even number decks went to Terminal C and odd number decks went to Terminal B. I entered Terminal B as I had studio cabin number 11532.
After a quick security screening and completing the health questionnaire I was at the counter. I didn’t have a wait as the Gold & Platinum NCL line was empty! I had my keycard and within 10 minutes was standing outside the EPIC Theater on board. Fabulous embarkation and it couldn’t have been any faster.
Norwegian Epic Public Rooms:
All of the public rooms were very well decorated. With the amount of money that went into this ship, I would have expected nothing less. Attention to detail was everywhere. My favorite restaurant main dining room at night was Manhattan Room. The combination of live music with dining is something of retro-cruising years. Having the option to dance at dinner is something I truly liked.
Bliss Ultra Lounge was another area where when you walked in the door the fog blowing down from the door and the projection of Bliss made it a special venue. The whole layout there was great with pool tables on one side and bowling alley on the other and dancing center on from the bar.
For specialty restaurants, the best décor I found was La Cuccina which you get to through the Garden Café. Other areas with great décor included O’Sheehans, Maltings and Wasabi.
My absolute favorite part of the ship was Spice H2O ADULTS ONLY! It was functional no matter the time of day or night. It worked so well and reminded me of a charter company at night that I sail with from time-to-time and how they setup their pool deck parties. This is STANDARD on Epic! I hope its standard on their upcoming new builds as well!
Norwegian Epic’s layout was completely different than I was accustomed to and I don’t wonder why the Epic will be a one-hit wonder for NCL. On Deck 6 aft the bathrooms are setup one way and on Deck 7 they are polar opposites so if you were not paying attention to which deck you were on, you were going into the wrong gendered bathroom! Bathrooms on this ship were always an adventure to find during the first few days in the public spaces.
My only other issue with the Epic was the elevators. I didn’t mind walking to either forward or aft to get one as I have long legs. However, the elevators were quite slow in coming. From Deck 7 to 11 and then 11 to 15 or just from 7 to 15 was a lot to do via the stairs but I constantly found myself doing that as the elevators were just so slow. Going between Bliss and Spice H2O got to be far too much work and I’d pick one and just stay there until the club closed.
STUDIO Cabin 11532:
My favorite room inside onboard the ship actually turned out to be my INTERIOR studio cabin! Never in my life would I actually find an interior cabin cool to be in but as a 29 year old, the lighting in this cabin was funky and well downright genius! I wish they had a control for more colors and to make them go faster. Heck – I could turn my cabin into a disco!
While the cabin has some quirks to it, such as the vanity light being in the second from the top cubby hole and so are the outlets – the positives far outweigh any funny placement of things. Having the mood lighting be visible in the shower was great. Nice setup for the studios onboard the Epic and this is what I truly love about the Epic! The room is small at 100 square feet and being a tall guy I thought this would be an issue but for the most part it wasn’t. I just wish the space between the bed and the closet was a little bigger. I have size 14 feet and well I can’t get through that space easy since it’s only a foot in diameter. I heard some suggestions to have some solo balconies on the next ships have been made – sign me up for that as well but keep them looking like this or at least keep the lighting system the same.
Studio Lounge came as part of the studio cabin booking. For some it was known as the Living Room. A goof on the ship’s diagrams was made and it was called the “Living Room” on them but when the door signs were made for the space it was called “Studio Lounge.” This resulted in some confusion during the first two days but people eventually figured it out. Anyway, back to the space itself. The area was decorated with the same lighting system as the cabins which switched color – only the studio lounge had green (cabins do not). There is a bar there and a continental breakfast is served there every morning from 7AM to 11AM. Yvette Adanna is the Junior Waitress who was assigned to the lounge in the morning and she recognized me from the Norwegian Spirit. I was very impressed with that! During the day for munchies there were cookies available and vending machines to dispense soda, Gatorade and water. At night there is a bartender available and a happy hour coinciding with a social for singles hosted by a fabulous woman named Natalie Hammond. Without her help and some others who will be mentioned later, this week would not have flowed smoothly and nor would I have met any of the people who are now friends for life!
Fellow Passengers: I sailed during a traditional college spring break week. The Epic because it’s a newer ship priced out higher than all other ships in the NCL fleet and as a result I think this deterred a lot of college kids to book. The energy was different year over year for Spring Break but it was still loads of fun! In the Studios, the age range was from a younger 20s all the way up to the mid-70s. The average swung younger as some of us were actually non-traditional spring breakers who booked solo cabins.
Now for a run down of what I did day to day and what I experienced so you can see why I rated this ship the way I did:
Day 1 – Embarkation – Saturday - Miami, FL, USA:
Embarkation was a breeze and I was onboard in near record time! Entered EPIC through the front entrance of Terminal B and waited until a person I was traveling with arrived over the gangway from Terminal C. We met up and explored the ship and dined for lunch at Taste Restaurant. It opens at noon. It’s much easier to have a quieter lunch at Taste and be away from the crowds in the café while waiting for the rooms to be ready.
Rooms were available shortly before 2PM and I went up and dumped off my carry-on and played with the lights a bit and was just totally in awe at the size of the room but also the trendy lights! Back off to explore the ship and take pictures and head up to Spice H2O where I met Immclaudio (aka Claudio), the best bar waiter of the entire cruise at Spice H2O, for my first drink.
Watched the ship cast off for the Caribbean from Miami at Spice before heading down to check out the deck party where Paul Scally, Cruise Director was. I recognized Paul Scally from two previous Norwegian Spirit cruises and Scott Mikelonis, Cruise Staff, also from the Norwegian Spirit. In the fun department I knew this would be a good cruise with good cruise staff on board!
Headed back to the cabin and freshened up before stopping by the studio lounge gathering, nightly from 5:30PM to 6:30PM hosted by the wonderfully talented Natalie Hammond. The first night I wasn’t so crazy about the meeting because it was the ice breaker and felt very pushed. As the week progressed, the feeling went away as people got comfortable with one another and initiated conversations on their own without needing a whole “Where are you from? What’s your name? Why are you cruising?” line of questioning to get things going.
Met up with a few people I’d met online before the cruise and headed off to Friends of Dorothy at Shaker’s Martini Bar. It’s a great bar to have it at but nightly it was always a struggle to find seating there and to mingle. The bar has great sightlines of the very expensive chandelier and nice décor.
Tonight’s dinner was in the Manhattan Room. This is the first time ever I had received a pager for dining in the main dining room on board any Norwegian ship. After about a 15 minute wait and a code alpha call to the Epic Theater, we were seated. Dinner flowed smoothly and the food was hot, cooked to order and served with appropriate speed. Unfortunately we could not stay for Legends Unplugged but tonight was Motown Unplugged with Aretha Franklin’s impersonator. Instead it was off to the Epic Theater for…
BLUE MAN GROUP: 10PM showing. After having seen Blue Man Group six times in Boston at the Charles Street Playhouse, I was hoping this performance would be different than the shore-side performances. It’s a great time if you have never seen Blue Man Group. It’s an energetic, insanely techno, light and well physical (depending on seating) show. It was nice to see it again but if you’ve seen the land-based versions, this is no different. It’s still great to have something like this onboard a cruise ship and it’s definitely different!
After Blue Man Group, I checked out the Bliss Ultra Lounge to see what was going on with the Celebrity DJ there and it wasn’t hopping too much so I went up to Spice H2O and met the other Celebrity DJ (Reaction). I hung out up at Spice for a short while and retired to bed. I was in need of sleep.
Day 2 – Sunday - Sea Day:
After a later than usual start to the day, I was up and off to the Garden Café. While walking through the studio lounge, a junior waitress was standing there and said, “Sir, have you cruised before?” Still waking up I turned to look at her. I said if so it was the either the Jewel or the Spirit (two ships I tend to frequent) and sure enough it was the Norwegian Spirit. Yvette Adanna is a wonderful person and while I was still waking up, a quick jog of the memory recalled her great service from the Spirit cruise in May 2010. Every morning I would see her and say hello and talk. She even remembered the relatives I was sailing with and asked how they were doing! Very special person to have a memory like that!
A quick breakfast at the Garden Café and it was off to the Cruise Critic Meet N Greet in Bliss Lounge. Here I got to meet Paul Scally who recognized me instantly and warmly welcomed me. What further struck me with awe was Denis Prguda, Hotel Director, walking up to me and greeting me by name without me ever saying who I was! This wasn’t the first time a member of the senior management on board the Epic would do this and I was quite impressed with their overall warm reception. Matthias, Assistant Hotel Director (now a Hotel Director on one of the Jewel-class ships) was another shining star from this week. All of them were present at the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet and encouraged us to contact them if any of us had problems and provided their handy phone numbers.
An afternoon of laying out at Spice H2O was great and enjoying the hot tub there before returning to the cabin for a quick disco nap and so started the evening of gatherings. First the solo gathering in the Studio Lounge with Natalie, it was much less formal the second night and I got to meet some really great people. Off to the Friends of Dorothy gathering at Shaker’s Martini Bar before the evening’s entertainment of…
CIRQUE DREAMS & DINNER: 8:45PM showing. This acrobatic, cirque show was fairly entertaining. The storyline jumped from finding acts for a show to on board life and then back to the acts. There was one portion of the show which literally drove me nuts and that was the puppeteer part where the actor’s voice just made me want to scratch nails on a chalkboard. The rest of the performances were outstanding and the cast were very interactive with the audience. I did the standard seating and found myself in a booth on the first floor along the circle. I had great sightlines of the stage because of my height. Also, use the mirrors along the walls to see what’s going on close to you that are out of eyesight. I would recommend this show overall. Its well worth the price paid. The dinner was very salty but otherwise ok. I had read complaints about the food during this show being sub-standard but I thought it was fine (minus the excessive salt).
A quick change of clothes and it was off to FABBA: Fabulous ABBA night at Spice H2O. What a blast this was! A must for any fan of ABBA or for any disco music as after the initial ABBA performances, other disco songs are played. It was a great retro night onboard the Epic and a great way to kick off the theme parties in Spice for the week. I closed the party before retiring just after 2AM.
Day 3 – Monday - Sea Day:
After a breakfast / lunch on the pool deck at the Great Outdoors, it was time for some sun. I spent the whole day relaxing in the sun and snoozing. Talked with some great new friends made onboard and then it was time for all the social gatherings before heading to tonight’s big event…
MODERNO CHURRISCARIA: 8:30PM Reservation: For keeping the complex schedule of the week down for evening events and reservations, my friend and I goofed and showed up at Moderno on the wrong day. The reservation was booked for Tuesday night which was in conflict with the solo dinner in the Manhattan Room. Luckily the Maitre’d found us an available deuce and sat us. For $20, this meal was outstanding. It all starts with a comprehensive salad bar and then you start in on the meat. Meat is brought tableside and you chose just how much and what type you want when it comes by. Since we were one of the last tables to be sat for the evening, it came down to them asking us what other meats we wanted. My friend stopped long before I did. When I finally turned my card to red, I ate a cow and a half! What an incredible meal! The fixings were great and I tried all the desserts too! I recommend all the desserts. They’re quite tasty! This restaurant was quite popular the entire cruise and I can fully understand why. DO NOT MISS THIS RESTAURANT!!!
After a quick change of clothes, it was off to Spice H2O for the Caribbean Theme Party. Met up with familiar cruise staff faces and spent the night mingling with new friends and dancing. What a great night at Spice!
Day 4 – Tuesday – Philipsburg, St. Maarten:
After a quick breakfast, it was off the ship to explore downtown Philipsburg and some shops before going to Maho Beach. What an incredible time Maho Beach is but whatever you do, DO NOT put your items or beach towels or anything between the signs marked danger! There’s a reason for this! In true epic style, we watched a plane take off and I got blown backwards and all of our belongings got blown into the water – including the beach towels. Greatest exfoliation of your life with sandblast but I can understand the danger sign now! It’s something you have to do at least once in your life. I have been to St. Maarten many times but had never done this. It was quite a thrill!
Back onboard, I realized a logistical nightmare again for Wednesday night. I had booked Legends in Concert against the White Hot Party. There’s simply no way that could happen and so after a quick call to Monica (Epic Concierge Extraordinaire), I was squeezed into Legends in Concert tonight. After a quick shower it was time for the solo gathering dinner at Manhattan Room hosted by Natalie. It was a great dinner with my fellow solo travelers and a great way for everyone to get to know one another. I had to quickly run back and change to get ready for…
LEGENDS IN CONCERT: 9:45PM Show. Three celebrity impersonators included Janet Jackson, a younger Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin. Of the three performers Aretha Franklin was the best voice and looked so much like her. Neil Diamond was right on with his performance. I thought it funny that a back up dancer caught my attention more during the Janet Jackson number than the actual performer did. I thought there was a Britney Spears impersonator as a back up dancer. Turns out, she wasn’t a Legend (or isn’t one yet) but very much could be. I met Casey McConachie later on at Spice H2O and asked her if she did Britney Spears for Legends and she said no, but wow, what an incredible resemblance. I wish her the best of luck on getting a role with Legends in Concert as Britney. This is a MUST-SEE show onboard. Legends Unplugged gives you a rough idea of the main event but you really do have to catch the main show to get a full appreciation of the entire cast.
BURLESQUE: 11:30PM – BLISS: Epic’s singers and dancers put on a great show for the male crowd. I was invited by our fabulous social hostess Natalie who sang a number from the Broadway smash hit “Chicago” and danced. It was a great way to kick off the night in Bliss. I stayed for a while after the DJ took over and then called it a night for another early rise in St. Thomas.
Day 5 - Wednesday – St. Thomas, USVI:
I was off the ship early to do some quick browsing of shops downtown and then I quickly headed over to Magen’s Bay before two other ships arrived. Magen’s Bay was quaint. Found the private beach but decided to head to a more deserted part of the main beach to lie out. As the day wore on, the beach became more crowded as two other ships arrived. I headed back to the ship and decided to try out the Norwegian Epic waterslides!
I tried the EPIC PLUNGE first. While in line for a tube at the bottom of the slide, I got word from other folks that the color of the tube indicates size and speed. I wound up with a blue tube, which everyone told me would result in me getting stuck in the plunge. They were right. I went around about twice and then missed the whole and had to bounce off the middle of the plunge to get down the hole at the other side. I wound up going down the last portion backwards and it freaked me out! If you want to go faster, get the red tube! I tried the green slide next and that was a ton of fun with lots of twists and turns in it. Lastly I tried the purple slide. It was a simple and straight forward slide and it was still a lot of fun. The water park on Epic is definitely not kids only! Adults loved it just as much!!
After the social gatherings and a quick dinner at Taste Restaurant, it was time to run off to the Bliss Ultra Lounge for the Dating Game. Usually I am the one who turns up to watch these events and never am I a participant but since Natalie was the one who was doing it and she knew I was in the solo cabin, why not? Stage fright aside, I did it and well I won a fabulous date out with another person staying in the solo cabins (who I had already met). Too funny and a great time nonetheless!
Time to change for what is the HOTTEST and BEST dance party on the high seas…
NCL’S WHITE HOT PARTY!! – SPICE H2O – 10:15PM
A night of high energy mostly house music under the stars. The intelligent lights were going; the white hot angel dancers were out and about. Paul Scally (Cruise Director), DJ Patrick (Epic’s DJ Coordinator) and Celebrity DJ Reaction made this party such a great time. I had a blast and danced the entire night away with all the new friends made on board. This night is all about wearing white and being creative with it. I had a blast and the after party moved to Bliss at 2AM and I followed it all the way up until the last song played shortly after 4AM. HOTTEST White Hot Party in quite a few NCL cruises! Way to go NCL for getting it right on this cruise! This was truly the highlight nightclub night of the entire cruise! Very very well done!!!
Day 6 – Thursday – Sea Day:
I didn’t roll out of bed until just shy of Noon and got some lunch at the Garden Café. I sat out up on deck for a while before heading down to O’Sheehans to get some food to bring back to the Studio Lounge meeting so there would be a somewhat catered event for a solo traveler’s birthday. Natalie got a cake for the traveler as well and a special guest showed up too! Comedy Magician Jeff Hobson stopped by and did a show for her and the rest of us at the Studio Lounge courtesy of Natalie.
Jeff Hobson was truly a great all around magician and comedian. I was astonished at the illusions he performed and I wished I caught his entire show which ran nightly at 11PM in the Epic Theater but couldn’t get the timing to work out with other activities. I would recommend catching his show if at all possible. I’m still trying to figure out one of the tricks he did and how he did it right in front of my face!! After he performed, we dispersed and went to other evening socials and then headed to…
TEPPANYAKI: Always a great food show. Your main course and fried rice are prepared in front of you along with a show put on by the chef. For $25 it’s a good thing to try out at least once. Our waitress looked very familiar and sure enough Ana Isabel was from the Norwegian Spirit. It was a great night with great service and great food. I had the surf and turf combo and it was cooked to my liking.
SHIP ‘N MALES – BLISS: An all male revue of the ship’s hottest guys (who volunteer) for stripping down to their boxers, briefs or in Geronimo’s case (from Cirque) a g-string! Definitely a must-attend for the late night crowd! You may even see Paul Scally, your Cruise Director get a little frisky.
I headed up to Spice H2O shortly after this was done and found it to be closed. No one was up there and so I walked back across the ship and back to Bliss for a while before retiring.
Day 7 – Friday - Nassua, Bahamas:
Woke up early enough to meet up with friends on the pool deck and have some late breakfast. I watched the Epic pull into Nassau and then grabbed some lunch before leaving the ship. There was nothing on the agenda today outside of vacating my room so the carpet could be changed. I wound up at Senor Frogs which is not too far from the port area. For a spring break week, this place was deadsville! Usually the crowd is a bit livelier but this time it wasn’t.
I headed back onboard to meet up with the other solos for a trip to the Epic’s bridge thanks to the wonderful work of Natalie. Natalie also arranged for a special treat afterward and it was celebrity legend impersonator Neil Diamond stopping by and singing a few tunes. It was a great time in the Studio Lounge all week long and Natalie did such an incredible job orchestrating the whole thing!
Friday night a big group of us solos dined together in La Cucina as a way to say farewell, exchange contact information and to just spend one more night together. Out of all the restaurants I went to on the Epic, the greatest décor was La Cucina but the worst service was also found there. The time between courses was painfully long. I realize we were a large group but one of the other tables in our group of people was served everything at least 10 minutes before our table was. The whole dinner service took two hours and while I missed the Second City performance I had booked, I was NOT going to miss the adult scavenger hunt Quest! I had to run out of there and get back to the cabin to change and get the bags out for collection before I ran off to Quest.
Usually Quest is a well-attended and fun game show. I don’t know if guests were just packing up and getting ready to leave and turned in early or what but this was the worst attended Quest game show I’ve ever been to! Three teams of people were all that could be formed. There wasn’t really much else going on that night except an 80s & 90s party at Spice H2O. Either way, I stayed the night at Bliss for a while and then headed to bed shortly before 1AM.
Day 8 – Saturday – Miami, FL:
Since I chose the NCL transfers to Fort Lauderdale airport for my 1:30PM flight, I was the first bag tag (RED) to be called off the ship shortly after 8AM. I woke up and had breakfast at the Garden Café which opened at 6AM. It was funny to be dining that early in the morning before the sunrise out at the Great Outdoors.
The disembarkation time was fairly accurate and I was through customs in a breeze and then it was off to the busses. Thankfully the older lady who is cranky and has no clue what she is doing wasn’t working on the Fort Lauderdale bus and I got on the bus and within ten minutes we were leaving. This is the smoothest an NCL transfer has ever gone for me! The driver got us to the airport quickly and I had an uneventful trip back home.
Conclusion: The Norwegian Epic is a great and wonderful new ship with great décor found throughout. I was hesitant to sail on her at first with all the negative reviews she got but outside of a funky layout of the ship, I didn’t see where all the negative issues were. She has the most dining options at sea with just about every food you can imagine. Her layout takes a bit of getting used to but once you do then navigating the ship is manageable. A mid-ship elevator bank could be useful on the new builds and figuring out a way to make the elevators operate faster or at least have the doors close quicker on the current ones on the Epic would help out immensely to them moving between decks faster.
The Epic was built for having a choice of entertainment options available and it really didn’t disappoint. Every night there was several things going on and there was simply no way to do it all. I missed the Ice Bar, Second City, Howl at the Moon and never once stepped foot into Fat Cats where Slam Allen was. This cruise was more about meeting new people and having a great time while doing so and I did that. I must return to the Epic to try out all the things I missed (specialty restaurants and entertainment) and to enjoy the great nightlife found at Spice H2O and Bliss.
Lastly, I want to thank all these individuals who made the Epic so much fun and without any of whom, this cruise wouldn’t have been as great as it was. First and foremost a thank you to Natalie Hammond (Cruise Staff & Nickelodeon Staff) for her incredibly out-going personality and making sure us solo cruisers have a blast and make lasting friendships! Second I would like to thank Denis Prguda (Hotel Director) for making sure my Epic experience was just that – EPIC! No matter where I was on the ship, if Denis was in sight he would always take a moment or two to check out how things were going. His assistant/secretary (can’t remember her name) was also checking in with me periodically to see how the cruise was going. Matthias Holz (Assistant Hotel Director) was training his replacement but both were always out and about and always cordial with a friendly hello and inquiring about my experience as well. Paul Scally has taken the reigns off of Paul Baya (no longer with NCL) and become my new favorite NCL Cruise Director. Great guy he is! Thanks to DJ Patrick (NCL employee, not Celebrity DJ) and Celebrity DJ Reaction for making nights at Spice H2O so hot and spicy and exciting and making the White Hot Party so memorable!
Other people involved in making my guest experience memorable were Yvette Adanna (Junior Waitress – Studio Lounge & Cagney’s Restaurant), Ana Isabel Abbano (Teppanyaki), Casey McConachie (Dancer – Legends in Concert), Adriana Laba (Bartender – Bliss Lounge), Scott Mikelonis (Cruise Staff), Caitlyn Owens (Broadcast Supervisor), Kyle (Broadcast Technician), Raluca (Manhattan Room Waitress), Immaclaudio (Bar Watier – Spice H2O), Errol Nelson (Executive Housekeeper for changing the carpeting in my cabin and working with me to make sure it wasn’t an inconvenience) and Monica (Epic’s Concierge who got me out of a two perplexing scheduling problems).
Norwegian Cruise Line is the line for me because compared to all other brands, NCL gives me so much flexibility to do what I want when I want and to dine where I want and now see whatever entertainment I want. No other cruise line gives me more choices and no other cruise line knows how to do nightlife like NCL and especially the Norwegian Epic. I can’t wait to sail again on her some day again soon!