Norwegian Epic for Families
Nickelodeon at Sea, which originated on Norwegian Jewel in April 2010, is now an integral part of the Epic experience as well, and darned if adults won't have as much fun as the kids. Don't be surprised if you run into SpongeBob SquarePants and Co. at some point, at events ranging from Dora's Dance Party and character meet-and-greets to Slime Time Live! (yes, someone gets "slimed" onstage in the Epic Theater) and a Nickelodeon arts-and-crafts session.
Me? I'm a Patrick the Starfish fan from way back, so I wasn't ashamed to check out the Nickelodeon character breakfast ($10 for 2 - 12s, $15 for 13 and up) with a friend in the Spiegel Tent. If you can get past the icky green goop that's poured over the pancakes, the breakfast is decent, but it's far surpassed by the energy provided by the characters and the onboard Nick team. Kudos to the picture-taking service offered: Hand the staffers your camera, and they'll snap a photo of you with Diego, Dora and the rest of the gang (Mom and Dad will appreciate the money saved from not having to purchase official ship photos).
Elsewhere onboard, the Recess Kid's Club is the hub for NCL's "Splash Academy" program, which divides kids into four groups by age: Guppies (6 months to 3 years, with parent), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12). When I peeked in (adults aren't allowed in past the door), I saw a bevy of happy young'uns racing around the brightly lit area.
Teens have their own dedicated space on Deck 16, Entourage. The glass-enclosed enclave features air hockey, foosball, flat-screen TVs and plush couches that encourage chilling. A video arcade is situated just below.
Both Splash Academy and Entourage feature a different theme every day, like pirates, space cowboys, jungle fever or circus. Specific emphasis is placed on active offerings -- soccer, physical challenges -- through a partnership with The King's Foundation and Camps, a United Kingdom-based organization that provides sport and activity programs designed for kids. For teens, bowling tournaments, soccer challenges and dodge ball under the stars are just a few of the active offerings. Other typical activities might include arts-and-crafts, trivia, a cake-eating challenge, video games, even an Olympics for the older kids, and face-painting, puzzles and a treasure hunt for the wee ones.
For parents who want to wander the decks after midnight, the for-fee Late Night Fun Zone provides activities from 10:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m.; families pay $6 per hour for the first child, $4 per hour for siblings.