The two-deck Epic Theater, located forward on Decks 5 and 6, seats up to 681 passengers with no restricted views of the stage. The final curtain went down on the popular Blue Man Group in the summer of 2015, making way for the debut of the Broadway show "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Based on the Oscar-winning movie, it's a dazzling production with fabulous costumes (200 head-dresses alone) and a hit parade of toe-tapping dance floor favorites including "It's Raining Men", "I Will Survive", and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". Note: It contains adult themes and is not recommended for children or the easily offended.
That said, we enjoyed it far more than the rather disjointed Burn the Floor dance show featuring 14 dancers, a live band and two singers. A mix of mainly Latin dance numbers, the skimpy schoolgirl costumes worn in one steamy routine were tacky and questionable to say the least. (Needless to say, the men were not dressed up as schoolboys.)
The theater hosts two shows nightly, at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., to fit in around passengers' preferred dining times. Most shows need tickets -- even the free ones, which are in the majority -- and these can be booked online or at the box office located outside the theater on Deck 6. Generally, the later the show, the smaller the audience, so go later if you're in a big group and want to sit together.
Activities include traditional sun deck staples such as shuffleboard, giant chess and Ping-Pong, along with more energetic basketball challenges and batting practice on the sports courts. There are pool games in the main pool (on certain days) and sail in and sailaway music with the resident DJ.
The versatile atrium on Deck 5 has a large screen and seating area that is used for port talks, movies, trivia quizzes, workshops such as towel animal folding, Nintendo Wii classes and, in the evening, live music. There is no need to reserve seats. Morning trivia quizzes and bingo are also hosted in the Headliners venue, and passengers can pick up crossword and Sudoku puzzles in the library to fill in at leisure.
During the day, the Bliss Lounge hosts various sessions such as complimentary dance classes and circus skills workshops. During the refurbishment, the bowling alley was relocated next to O'Sheehan's. Three lanes are open from 4 p.m. to midnight (for an additional fee).
There are regular meetings for solo passengers, Friends of Dorothy and Friends of Bill W.
There's an almost endless array of live entertainment. The former Fat Cats Lounge was replaced in late 2015 with The Cavern Club on Deck 6, a recreation of the legendary Liverpool club made famous by The Beatles. Moodily lit, with plenty of red brick and retro decor, it is a fun and busy venue that recreates the atmosphere of the Swinging Sixties. Fans of the Fab Four will be disappointed if they expect full-on look-alike and sound-alike tribute bands, but the band we saw made an enthusiastic stab at playing all their big hits and general pop music.
The Bliss Lounge on Deck 7 is a multi-purpose area, and a typical evening will feature ballroom dancing from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m., karaoke from 8:30 to 10:15 p.m. and a nightclub from 10:30 p.m. until later.
Even non-gamblers and non-smokers can't avoid the sprawling Epic Casino that is planted midship on Deck 6 and has to be used as a thoroughfare to reach other venues on this busy deck. With a plethora of slot machines and gaming tables, the main action starts at around 5:30 p.m. (times can vary) until late.
Head to the 259-seat Headliners on Deck 6 for a changing early evening program of comedy and music. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. the venue hosts the standout Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos, where passengers can pass their requests to the talented pair of pianists.
The colorful 217-seat Spiegel Tent hosts the nightly Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show, with tickets starting at $29.99 for standard seats that are furthest from the action. The central stage is surrounded by seats and sets the stage for an unforgettable evening of theatrical entertainment and gravity-defying acrobatics accompanied by dull, forgettable food. However, it is worth going for the show alone.
Norwegian Epic Bars & Lounges
Atrium Cafe (Deck 5): For passengers that like to people-watch, the cafe in the atrium is the place to sip a coffee or chardonnay and watch the world go by. Open 7 a.m. to close.
Epic Theater Bar (Deck 5): This snug, ornate meeting spot is ideal for a pre- or post-show drink and is open to coincide with the twice-nightly shows.
Cascades Bar (Deck 6): Celebrate or drown your sorrows at the bar situated in the casino. Open from 5 p.m. to close.
O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill (Deck 6): The sun is always over the yardarm at this 24/7 pub.
Cagney's Bar (Deck 7): Located inside Cagney's Steakhouse, this is an ideal spot to have a pre-dinner drink. Open 5 p.m. to close.
Humidor Cigar Lounge (Deck 7): This cozy dark-red lounge has the feel of a gentlemen's club and has a humidor stocked with premium-brand and hand-rolled cigars. It tends to be used in the evening, and the cigar-lovers don't like it if cigarette smokers slip in for a sneaky puff. Always open.
Maltings Whiskey Bar (Deck 7): Next to the cigar lounge, and surrounded by evocative old movie posters and photos of the stars, this intimate bar has an old-fashioned feel and offers dozens of varieties of Canadian, Irish, American, Welsh or Scotch single malts and blends from 4 p.m. to close.
Wasabi Sake Bar (Deck 7): To work up an appetite for dinner at the adjoining sushi restaurant, sip some hot sake or go kamikaze with an Ichi, Ni, San (one, two, three) sake "bomb" downed in one swallow. Open 5 p.m. to close.
Shaker's Martini Bar (Deck 7): This piano bar is a sophisticated spot to unwind with a cocktail or a flute of Champagne. Open from 4 p.m. to close.
Svedka and Inniskillin Ice Bar (Deck 7): Undoubtedly the coolest spot on the ship, passengers can literally grab a cold one in the bar where everything -- bar, glasses and stools – is made from ice. Bar-goers are outfitted with cold-weather capes and woollen gloves and the $20 cover gives you a choice of two vodka-based drinks such as the vibrant Cobalt Blue, or non-alcoholic options like Strawberry Eskimo Kiss. Open 5:30 p.m. to close.
Waves Pool Bar (Deck 15): Relax in the sun and enjoy a frozen drink or other refreshments at this poolside bar. Open from 8 a.m. to close.
Spice H20 Bar (Deck 16): Just for adults, this quiet alfresco bar is open from 9 a.m. to close.
Norwegian Epic Outside Recreation
Surrounded by fountains and funky sculptures, the main pool, located midship on Deck 15, is the busiest and noisiest outdoor area, particularly on sunny sea days. Open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., it has four whirlpools, open until midnight. To escape the hustle and bustle of the main pool area, check out Spice H2O, a tiered stage-like adults-only space right at the back of the ship on Deck 15. It's a much quieter, sheltered area with its own pool that's open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are also two hot tubs that can be used until midnight.
Children have their own place to frolic in the Splash and Play Zone, a shaded oasis of fountains, wading pools and animal sculptures tucked under the Aqua Park water slides. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, residents of the Haven suites have their own private pool on Deck 16.
The high point, in more ways than one, is the mammoth Aqua Park on Deck 15; a kaleidoscope of pinks, greens and purples, centering on the Epic Plunge, in which tube-riders zip into a giant funnel before dropping through a 200-foot-long chute into a pool below. Two other slides are just as wet, maybe not as wild, but worth the wait. The water slides are generally open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting.
Other outdoor diversions on Deck 15 include a rock-climbing wall (33 feet high and 64 feet wide) and an industry-first rappelling wall. The sports complex, on Deck 17, has a bungee trampoline and Slide Spider Mountain, a two-deck climbing cage. All of these facilities are usually open, weather permitting, from 10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., but times can vary. Other amenities in the sports complex, usually open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., include a full-sized basketball court.
Passengers tee up at the new SplashGolf attraction, which opened in 2015 in the Splash and Play Zone. This interactive water-based game combines two age-old elements of fun -- water and mini-golf -- and is a top pick for families.
Although there are plenty of them, the loungers around the main pool on Deck 15 fill up quickly. There are more located on balconies around the pool, accessed via a staircase, but there is no shade. (Tip: Head further aft to find available seating or check out the nearly hidden -- and frequently uncrowded -- sun deck on Deck 18; take the silver cylindrical elevator to the right of the Garden Cafe entrance, and don't forget the sunscreen). Alternatively, Spice H20 is a lovely, peaceful daytime sunbathing spot, although the giant screen obscures views of the ship's wake.
Norwegian Epic Services
As part of the 2015 enhancements, the library now occupies a larger area on Deck 5. The subdued, dark decor and comfortable arm chairs and sofas scattered with cushions make it a popular spot to read, do puzzles and snooze. It's a quiet area, and passengers who want to talk can expect some silencing glares. The extensive free-to-borrow collection of books includes popular and classic novels, non-fiction, travel guides, children's books and foreign language titles. You need to check them out with the librarian who is on duty from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on sea days, and 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on port days. There's also an open book exchange shelf where passengers are free to take books left by fellow cruisers.
The card room adjoining the library is a light and airy space with nine card tables. Passengers can borrow board games such as Monopoly and Scrabble along with backgammon, cards and jigsaw puzzles.
On the same deck, situated forward, is the i-Connect Internet room (open 24 hours) with four computers available for use. To sign up for Internet packages, or get assistance with Wi-Fi services, the Internet manager is on duty in the room from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship and packages cost $75 for 100 minutes, $125 for 250 minutes or unlimited use for $29.99 per day.
Next to the Internet room is the walk-through art gallery, displaying a huge array of works ranging from the tasteful to the tasteless. In addition to fixed-price works, Epic also upholds the old seagoing tradition of art auctions. This forward section of the ship also has two meeting rooms, which can be used separately or as one larger venue.
Epic was also outfitted with a brand-new photo gallery, which is next to the card room. The large area includes a retail counter selling cameras and other photographic equipment, plus the gallery area where passengers can view and buy photos taken by the ship's photographers. It's good to see they have done away with the sprawling and wasteful photo displays that are still a common feature on other vessels. Instead, passengers can search for digital images on computer screens before deciding to buy, making the whole process much simpler.
Deck 5 is home to guest services and the shore excursion desk, both located midship. Opposite reception is a seating area with a large screen that projects detailed presentations on all ports of call (the films can also be viewed on the cabin TVs). This area also includes a studio for passengers that want formal photo sittings.
The Tradewinds tax and duty-free shopping area is located midship on Deck 7 and is open at varying hours, but usually until midnight, while the ship is at sea. The shops are laid out like a small shopping mall and sell designer clothes, watches, jewelery, perfume and accessories, along with Norwegian logowear, souvenirs and everyday items and essentials. The Marketplace, a small shopping area selling sundries and casual attire, is located aft on Deck 15.
A novel facility is the bridge viewing room on Deck 13, where passengers can watch the captain and crew through large windows (photos are not permitted). The room also includes interesting photos and memorabilia relating to Epic. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are no self-service public laundry rooms.