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10 Southampton to Cruise to Nowhere Cruise Reviews

This cruise was a first for us. We found the embarkation to be very easy. We were greeted and dealt with by a succession of friendly and efficient staff. The scale of the ship is slightly overwhelming initially. There are plenty of great ... Read More
This cruise was a first for us. We found the embarkation to be very easy. We were greeted and dealt with by a succession of friendly and efficient staff. The scale of the ship is slightly overwhelming initially. There are plenty of great design details to help you find your way about. Interactive screens, a large guest service area and models of the ship detailing what's on each deck. We liked our stateroom and balcony. Not too far from one of the sets of lifts which is a bonus, also positioned towards the bow of the ship on deck 8 so very quiet. We especially liked the complimentary Solarus bistro at the bow of the ship.it would be best to book but maybe you can just turn up as we did. Excellent waiter service sitting undercover in the evening sunshine. Food offered was Mediterranean, a combination of buffet and additional menu options for the main course. All the food was absolutely delicious and served by friendly helpful waiters. We had booked to see a show and were sorry to have to rush such an excellent meal. There is of course a huge range of activities for the young and young at heart. For the 60 plus traveller, ourselves included, it was harder to find some piece and quiet in the sunshine. That said there is an extensive range of sun decks and very comfortable sun beds. Plenty going on surfing, zip line, big children's water play area which looked great fun.it would take all day to cover everything. We also looked in on the teens indoor area. Just so much on offer. Port of call was Cherbourg. Very easy getting off ship with electronic card called a Sea Pass. ( This was waiting at the door of our Stateroom for us on arrival. )Complimentary shuttle bus to town centre. Plenty to do after dark, exploring the ship. Comedy show a bit mixed. Production of Grease excellent. All staff very keen to help with any query. Big range of snack food on offer at Sorrento and mini bites to name 2 we tried. Just a tip it may take a while to get your suitcase delivered so bring swimsuit in your hand luggage if sun bathing is a priority that way no sunshine or time exploring wasted ! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We have just returned from a family taster on the new escape. We were by in large impressed with the ship,but it had teething problems. The life boat drill was a shambles I appreciate that it has to be done but to wait for everyone to turn ... Read More
We have just returned from a family taster on the new escape. We were by in large impressed with the ship,but it had teething problems. The life boat drill was a shambles I appreciate that it has to be done but to wait for everyone to turn up well past it's start time was ridiculous, the majority of us turned up and signed in when told but there were passengers just strolling in well after, a waste of half an hour especially when you are only on board for less than 24 hours. We have previously sailed in the Epic so the Escape had a lot to live up to and in some cases it didn't. The drinks were very expensive as was the al a carte menus. We were fortunate enough to have booked a dining time at the Manhatten Room because they were queuing to get in. Not all that impressed with the menu and way too much garlic butter on the steak. We were disappointed that there was no childrens menu in the restaurants, our 10 year old son had to eat an adult meal which was too much for him and only one thing tat he liked on the menu. All the bars were good and served a nice prosecco. Our stateroom was lovely although we didn't like being woken up by an announcement in the middle of the night about a code bravo. The beds in the stateroom were extremely comfortable. Breakfast was a free for all with passengers bringing their suitcases in the garden cafe and all trying to find a table. We thought the staff were friendly and pleasant. All in all we had a good time but had we not have cruised before it might have put us off, but because we had such an amazing time on the epic we will be cruising again. We won't ,however, be doing a taster again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Well this was our first time sailing with NCL...so it was great to sail on a brand new ship!The Escape is a great sized ship with plenty to do and see. The Top deck was great with the slides and pools along with a huge ropes course and of ... Read More
Well this was our first time sailing with NCL...so it was great to sail on a brand new ship!The Escape is a great sized ship with plenty to do and see. The Top deck was great with the slides and pools along with a huge ropes course and of course crazy golf. My 11yr old loved this, along with ten pin bowling and basketball games, etc. The public areas are great and we thoroughly enjoyed having a good look around. We loved the area around the O'Sheehan's bar, there was a real buzz here. We also really enjoyed the atmosphere in the District Brew house on an evening, the photo booth here went down well with my family members. The three complimentary restaurants were beautifully decorated, along with a lot of the ships décor. The staterooms were of a good size with great sized bathrooms. We stayed in a balcony room one night and an inside cabin the other night (as booked separately) and found them a perfect size. The balcony room came with tea and coffee facilities, but apparently there was no coffee available on the ship, so one teabag had to do! Hopefully this will be sorted out on the next leg of the ships journey. The balcony itself was actually bigger than I thought. We were able to have a look around the Haven suites which were absolutely fantastic! We watched one show, The Million Dollar Quartet, the singing was great but I found the show quite long, my other family members enjoyed it though, it comes down to personal taste though so my recommendation would be to check it out for yourself. Food wise, my favourite meal was at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville's one lunchtime, both the food and service were great, fantastic Keylime pie! We tried the Manhattan restaurant one evening, this was very busy and therefore there was no personal service from the staff. There was a good ambience however. Freestyle dining is great in principal but there were so many queues around the popular eating times, and getting out of the restaurant was a challenge! Personally I would like to see more 'Classic' dishes on the menu, I didn't find the starters or deserts on the menu very interesting. I chose herb encrusted chicken for a main which came with half a tomato and a small spoon of mashed potato, no other vegetables, so a little bland. I didn't enjoy the desert. Yet again this is just my personal opinion. The Garden café was okay for breakfast but not so much for an evening meal, I found the food quite cold. O'Sheehan's served some great snacks, the apple and cinnamon pie was very nice indeed! We didn't have a main meal here, will try that next time. The drinks onboard, as on any ship are very expensive, it would be well worth choosing an alcohol package if you are onboard for longer than a couple of days. The Sail away party on the top deck ( 28th Oct) was great, a fantastic atmosphere! So overall, the ship itself was fantastic, the activities were great, the cabins were great and the general atmosphere was great! BUT my main gripe has to be the severe lack of happy smiley faces with the staff, bearing in mind this is only a couple of days into the ship's inaugural cruises. I was quite shocked actually, normally on a cruise ship staff smile at you and say hello but I simply didn't feel that on this ship, (apart from Margaritaville's) Not sure why? I do love these taster cruises though, a family member was able to experience her first cruise and loved the ship, so it was perfect that it left from Southampton, looking forward to the next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
Anthem of the Seas Review 3nts 3rd – 6th May 2015 Let me start by saying that these are our thoughts & observations – mine, Hub’s & our 18yr old Son ! We parked in Blue Car Park, walked across the road into the Terminal ... Read More
Anthem of the Seas Review 3nts 3rd – 6th May 2015 Let me start by saying that these are our thoughts & observations – mine, Hub’s & our 18yr old Son ! We parked in Blue Car Park, walked across the road into the Terminal and were met by rows of check-in staff in Blue tops all holding tablets and we were checked in, through Security & Onboard all in 10 mins ! First impression ? WOW – Just WOW !!! Met with a glass of Champers & chance to have a wander and a first look along the Royal Esplanade. Very similar to the Royal Promenade, just smaller. As we boarded just after 11am (we were in Group A) we decided to take as many photos & film as much as we could straightaway, so we started at the top on Deck 16 and worked our way down... After lunch the Staterooms were open so we went down to our D2 Superior Balcony #11692 on Deck 11. Found a sealed envelope outside with 1 x Seapass card in, the other 2 x plus our 3 x RFID wowbands were on our bed. Very happy with our stateroom & pleased to see it did have the ‘Double’ Sofabed we had specifically requested for our 6ft 2” Son who does not sleep easily on a single sofabed. Our case arrived, so we unpacked then headed out to explore some more. Had a go on the Bumper Cars in SeaPlex then made our way up to Deck 16 Aft for Sailaway as we wanted to get some good shots and filming of the 3 x Queens that followed us out of Southampton – Victoria, Queen Mary 2 & Elizabeth as well as Fred Olsen’s Balmoral & P&O’s Azura. At 5pm, Hub & Son went to sign in for their iFly appt. Safety briefing etc took about 40 mins, then they arrived suited up in blue overalls with helmet, up at the iFly and had their go first in their big group of about 12 people – they loved it ! After all of the Group had finished the instructor did a Demo of how it should be done – WOW ! We had booked our Dinner & Show reservations pre-cruise and Day 1 we had We Will Rock You at 7pm so we went to have dinner in the Windjammer - lots of choice & a great relaxed atmosphere ! We Will Rock You was Fantastic – NB. Do Not Leave Until the Very End, lots of people left before the wonderful ending... Day 2 – We did the ‘Bruges & Belgian Chocolate’ RCI Tour and very glad we did. Quick half hour coach trip from the Port of Zeebrugge and we then had a walking tour around Bruges (our Guide Frank, retired Teacher, was very good and so funny !) including the Chocolate Museum with a lesson on how to make all types of chocolate plus tastings !! We had about 45 mins Free-time for shopping before returning to Anthem. Tonight it was Dinner in Chic in which both food & service were also very good then down to Two70 to watch Spectre’s Cabaret – I don’t want to spoil this for anyone, so I’m just going to say that it is Unique & Must be seen !!! Day 3 – We caught the Port Shuttle bus out of Le Havre port into the town & ‘The Docks’ a Mall built in the old dock buildings. We have been to Paris before so we were happy to just have a laid back morning and after a pleasant couple of hours shopping, we caught the bus back to Anthem and spent a relaxing afternoon in the Solarium. Tonight we had Dinner in American Icon Grill and again food & service was very good. We saw the Headliner Show in the Royal Theatre tonight with Paul Zerdin – Ventriloquist. We had seen him before on Indy, but he is very good and very funny ! One slight gripe is that there was nothing arranged for 18-21yr olds to meet-up & introduce themselves – in my opinion, this should have happened on Day 1 after the 15-17yrs 411 !!! Obviously they are not allowed in the Teen Club (as we were told by one of the crew outside) so I do wonder how this age group are meant to meet others their same age onboard ? We are hoping that this will be rectified before our 14 nights cruise on Anthem in July... We booked this 3 nighter to a) get us up to Diamond C&A and b) to try out Anthem before our 14 nights around the Med on her with 7 friends, in July... It is our opinion that RCI has taken the very best of their ships and mixed them with the very best of Celebrity ships – then raised the bar considerably - to produce Anthem of the Seas... Anthem is a stunning ship... Every single member of Crew spoke to us as we passed them - before we had chance to speak to them first... N.B... Special Mention to Roxana Oros who we met whilst she was working in the Windjammer on Oasis in April 2010 (and we haven’t seen her since then) but she saw us walking along the Royal Esplanade on Sunday night (3rd May) and she recognised us and hugged us all – now THAT is a proper WOW Moment !!! We purchased the Soda package for myself and Hub (Our Son doesn’t drink soda so is happy with the included juice & water drinks) and we were very impressed with the Freestyle Coke machines, lots of different choice, however you have to carry your cups around with you to use them, so here is a suggestion... Couldn’t the WOW bands be programmed to include drinks packages? Then plastic throwaway cups could be stored near the Machines, where you just swipe your Wow band at the Machine to get a drink ??? Could also save RCI some $$$ by not having to provide the thick tall plastic glasses that they do at the mo ?? As this was only a 3 nighter, we had the ‘Taste of Anthem’ Menu’s in the restaurants which included a couple of choices from each of the Complimentary Restaurants. Although this was not a problem to us, we are looking forward to experiencing the full Dynamic Dining choices in July !! We really, really like Anthem of the Seas and we are looking forward to cruising on her again for 14 nights in July 2015 !!! Well Done RCI, you have produced another Fantastic Ship with Wonderful Crew & Amazing Shows !!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We were on the “notorious” Christmas Markets in Amsterdam Cruise on MS Queen Elizabeth. This was our first cruise, chosen so that we could sample the Cunard experience. The ship could not dock in Amsterdam as planned due to adverse ... Read More
We were on the “notorious” Christmas Markets in Amsterdam Cruise on MS Queen Elizabeth. This was our first cruise, chosen so that we could sample the Cunard experience. The ship could not dock in Amsterdam as planned due to adverse weather conditions. Complaints from just five passengers were the basis of a Daily Mail report which stated, “Around 2,100 passengers on board the Queen Elizabeth were furious at the decision to turn back”. This claim that all passengers were furious is an utter lie. The photograph of the so-called mutiny at Reception shows less than 30 people, around 1% of the 2,100 passengers. We were completely unaware of the demonstration at the time and certainly would have avoided it if we did. So, what was our view of the cruise? We liked the service and food. That in the Britannia Restaurant was very good; our special meal in the Verandah Restaurant was absolutely superb. Our basic inner State Room was well-appointed and spotless and our steward was very helpful and friendly. We enjoyed lectures by Martin Bell and Michael Whitehouse plus entertainment by The Beatles Experience. However the “Royal” Cunard Singers and Dancers were not our favourites. We disliked all extras being charged in US dollars. Charges were fairly expensive anyway and more so due to tourist exchange rates offered by banks and credit cards. I disliked the sale of low-cost ex-demonstration watches on board, which I thought cheapened Cunard’s brand image. We did notice the unpleasant smell of oil in the Golden Lion Pub. We do not know whether this was diesel or heavy fuel oil, but neither aroma goes well with your pie and a pint. Of course we were disappointed when Captain Alistair Clark announced that the ship could not dock at Amsterdam, but we accepted that this was due to bad weather. Perhaps the ship could have made it into the port but not sailed in time when the weather worsened, thus delaying the lucrative Christmas Cruise to the Canaries that followed ours. Who knows? In any event we were satisfied with the Captain’s announcements and pleasantly surprised when 75 dollars per person was deducted from everyone’s on-board bill. Our Clot of the Cruise award goes to the Entertainments Officer. On the morning that we did not dock in Amsterdam his TV programme welcomed us to Amsterdam and warned us to take umbrellas on shore due to the weather forecast. Maybe this stupid error contributed to the “mutiny”. We have learned two lessons on this cruise: 1. Do not believe anything you read in the Daily Mail. 2. Give P & O a chance next time.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This was our first cruise with P & O and we had been looking forward to it very much. We travelled with 5 other member of our family celebrating our parents 60th Wedding Anniversary. Our parents had never set foot on a cruise ship ... Read More
This was our first cruise with P & O and we had been looking forward to it very much. We travelled with 5 other member of our family celebrating our parents 60th Wedding Anniversary. Our parents had never set foot on a cruise ship before so this was their big adventure. We have cruised with both Thomson and NCL before. We had high expectations and generally we were very happy with our weekend. Embarkation was little fraught as there was a problem with the walk over bridge and the tide. We were kept waiting for what seemed to be some time at the security end. My parents were standing for some time and we managed to get on the ship just before my Mother began to feel too shaky. Unfortunately the weather meant we were not able to dock at Zeebrugges so spent all our time at sea, but we did not mind too much as this meant it gave us the opportunity to explore more of the Azura. The ship itself is spotlessly clean, with a comfortable but classy feel. Some areas of the ship, including our bathroom in the cabin, smelt of a cleaning disinfectant which was a little unpleasant - smelling a little like the odours they were trying to cover. Perhaps they should change to something with citrus in! Food was good. The buffet Venezia had a varied spread and it was tasty and colourful. The Peninsula restaurant also supplied a lovely array of food, although vegetables were frozen not fresh and the chef did seem to have a penchant for chewy green beans! The entertainment was excellent. Musicians, comedians and singers were talented and professional. We thoroughly enjoyed them all. The biggest disappointment for us was demeanour of the staff and drinks service. We did not see one member of staff who seemed happy. We saw no smiles; they did not want to chat to passengers and were overall a miserable bunch. In the theatre we waited 50 minutes for a drink and were most concerned when they did not return with our card which is used for payments. The waiters seemed overworked, returning to the theatre with very large trays with drinks for scores of people. They seemed to be totally confused at one point who the drinks were for and what card went back to which passenger. Their pockets were full of them and they spent most of the time sorting through them. We have another cruise booked with P & O, this time with our son and partner to celebrate their engagement. We are on the Oceana going to the Fjords in July. Fingers crossed it will tick all boxes this time. Otherwise we will be back with Thomson.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2014
I visited Getaway, at Southampton, in January 2014 and stayed on-board for two nights. This brand new ship had come straight from the shipyard, via Rotterdam. She was berthed at Southampton’s ‘City Cruise Terminal’ before she crossed ... Read More
I visited Getaway, at Southampton, in January 2014 and stayed on-board for two nights. This brand new ship had come straight from the shipyard, via Rotterdam. She was berthed at Southampton’s ‘City Cruise Terminal’ before she crossed the pond to her home port of Miami. Getaway is the sister ship of Breakaway (both the ‘Breakaway’ class) which entered service in April 2013. It is impossible to fully experience all of the 20+ dining options, bars and entertainment options of this big ship within a few days. This review will just feature some high-lights and my conclusions Getaway The first thing that you notice when arriving at the cruise terminal apart from Getaway’s size (big) is her colourful Hull Art. It was created by popular Miami modern artist and muralist David “LEBO” Le Batard. As the ship will home-port in Miami, much of the ships décor has a ‘Miami’ theme. Getaway is an almost identical design to Breakaway, although some of the public spaces have been re-named/re-themed. ’Freestyle’ has determined her design and she is packed with dining areas and bars. These often have an open-plan design, with some of the bars, and dining areas seamlessly blending into each other, sometimes without walls. It is quite an assault on the senses. What you do not get on NCL ships is any big ‘wow’ spaces such as tall Atriums, ‘Royal Promenades’, Parks or many double height rooms. Getaway has 14 passenger decks numbered from 5-18. Deck’s 6, 7 and the rear half of deck 8 accommodate most of the public spaces. The ship only has two stair towers/elevator banks, which is not ideal for such a big, long ship. However there are some stairs between decks 6, 7, and 8 amidships, at ‘678 Ocean Place’. This is a sort of mini-atrium with giant LED Chandelier. The elevators are large and efficient. Décor: NCL have now dropped the prime colours and embraced a more classy ‘Cappuccino lounge’ style. Internally Breakaway has lots of tasteful brown wood (effect) and beige décor, often creating an understated look. In fact, some public spaces on-board Breakaway could easily be on-board a Celebrity or Cunard ship. There have been comments that Getaway is a little more subtle in terms of internal colours than Breakaway. Entertainment I saw ‘Legally Blonde’ in the main theatre, which is Getaway’s signature show. It was a full production (1.5 hours) and features some excellent singers and dancers. It is definitely quite a few notches above some cruise ships almost amateur ‘Red Coat’ style entertainment. Getaway’s illusionariun (forward deck 6) is a re-branded space replacing Breakaway’s Spiegel Tent, which resembled a big-top style circus tent. The illusionarium is a relatively intimate venue, with a circular stage and domed ceiling, hosting a magic show. The nice thing is that it is close-up magic in the round, with no dark back-stage area for the magicians to hide things. For a surcharge you get a set meal (surf & turn) and the show. The show was very good and featured a compare, a narrative and maybe five (?) magic acts. Very clever moving graphics were projected onto the domed ceiling, although this was done a few times too often. To be honest I could have done without the narrative and extensive dialogue, but this will probably be edited in the future to make the show tighter. Some passengers felt the meal was mediocre, but I spent most of my time concentrating on the magic and not really noticing what I was eating too much. Conclusion Getaway is going to be a massive ‘hit’. She makes ‘regular’ ships look boring. NCL are now providing direct competition for Royal Caribbean’s newer ships. It’s not just media hype, Getaway’s design really does take NCL’s ‘freestyle’ concept to the next level. Getaway is built for ‘fun’. She will suit those wanting a casual, but ‘busy’ cruise experience, packed with multiple dining and multiple entertainment options. Families are well catered for. She will not suit those looking for tradition, relaxation and tranquillity. NCL’s dining flexibility is second to none, compared to the other mass-market cruise ships, although their food and service can be inconsistent at times. It is worth remembering when you are comparing fares of the rival cruise lines, that NCL are market-leaders in the additional on-board surcharge. Although the many surcharges are optional, they are very tempting. However you are paying for ‘choice’. It is important to note that these big ships are designed on the premise that not everybody on-board will want to do the same thing, in the same place, at the same time. This premise largely works, but when it doesn’t, expect queues and congestion. Breakaway is definitely a ‘busy’ ship. I do wonder how the ‘Aqua-Park’ might cope on a hot sunny day at sea, and ‘The Waterfront’ and ‘H2O’ on a warm evening. Although a very simple idea, Getaway’s ‘Waterfront’ makes her much less ‘inward’ focused that some other mega-ships. After all cruising should be about connecting with the sea, at least occasionally. Malcolm Oliver  Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Limitations of this review I was kindly invited on a short UK preview cruise from Southampton in June 2010. This was a few days after Epic had been delivered from the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France (where the QM2 was built) and ... Read More
Limitations of this review I was kindly invited on a short UK preview cruise from Southampton in June 2010. This was a few days after Epic had been delivered from the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France (where the QM2 was built) and entered service. I obviously cannot comment on the quality of the full range of dining and entertainment options as one would ideally need two weeks to sample everything. Only 2,500 guests were invited so I also did not experience the ship operating at full passenger capacity. Norwegian Epic has an impressive 18 decks, although decks 1- 4 are not public decks. Decks 6 , 7 and most of 5 are almost exclusively dedicated to public rooms. Their are 18 bars and lounges, 20 dining options, plus multiple entertainment venues to choose from, in keeping with NCL's 'Freestyle' concept. Most of the public rooms are single height, but not all. Embarkation Although I arrived at Southampton's 'City Cruise Terminal' a few hours after embarkation had began I had to join a long queue which snaked out of the terminal building. It took me almost an hour of slowly shuffling along to actually board the ship. In contrast it took me just fifteen minutes to board 'Oasis' at RCI's new terminal at Port Everglades a few months ago. Maybe the Southampton cruise terminals organization is to blame rather than the ship? For example, I noticed that there were five X-ray machines but only three were being staffed. Such big ships clearly need big infrastructure to operate efficiently, which something that RCI has recognised and put in place with 'Oasis'. Passengers boarded via Epic's 'lobby' which is quite understated being only two decks high. It contains the usual reception desk, shore excursions desk and an atrium cafe. The first thing that struck me was how very wide and spacious the lobby was which instantly reveals the scale of the ship. The lobby has an enormous two story high-definition video screen which instantly signifies that you are on an informal 'fun' ship. It is used to show anything from tranquil seascapes to sporting events. The second thing that struck me is that NCL have re-branded their internal dEcor. The often 'garish' semi-Carnival-esq dEcor of the 'Jewel' class has been replaced with an altogether more sedate approach. Many of the interiors are quite 'classy' and often not as 'glitzy' as RCI, in fact some aspects of the dEcor reminded me more of 'Celebrity'. For example, stair landing featured giant oval mirror designs and many elevator landings feature dark wood panels, reminding me of the QM2 at times. Most of the carpets are much less 'acid-trip' inspired than on previous NCL ships. I will now give you a deck by deck tour of the ship: The front half of the first public deck, deck 5, is exclusively public rooms, the rear half being crew spaces. At the very bow of deck 5 is the 'Epic Theatre'. The Theatre is of course state-of-the-art, but somewhat smaller than you would expect from such a big ship holding just 900 passengers. We are of course used to seeing theatres that accommodate approximately half of a ships passenger compliment in one sitting. However this 'NCL Freestyle' and there are alternative entertainment venues. The theatre has raked seating spread across two decks; there is no balcony/circle. The Theatre offers excellent sight lines. However all the other entertainment venues are much smaller so can offer a higher level of intimacy, ideal for live performance. Working our way aft, after the theatre, there is a photo shop and a very large 'art sales' area. 'I-connect' the internet cafe is located adjacent to the 'art sales' (starboard) and a little further towards the aft is the 'Click' photo gallery, which has 'digital' printing facilities. Adjacent to the photo gallery (port) is 'Le Bistro', French restaurant which is featured on board all NCL ships. Continuing aft, we reach the main Lobby. Just beyond the lobby are two escalators (one up and one down) to deck 6, emerging in the Casino area. Continuing aft, we reach 'Taste' restaurant which like many of the dining rooms onboard, quite intimate. The tables are in its own atrium which has a very impressive 'contemporay' LCD chadelier hanging above it. However passengers above can look down upon the dinners, so it's not ideal for the paranoid. Deck 6 is entirely dedicated to public rooms. At the bow there is the upper level of the 'Epic Theatre'. Proceeding aft, we have the 'entertainment kiosk' which is a booking desk for all of the entertainment. All bookings are held on your pass card/room key, which is scanned on arrival to each show. Continuing aft a little there is the 'Speigel Tent' on the port side, which is a circular double height show lounge which offers the "Cirque Dreams and Dinner" show. The 'Speigel Tent' takes its name from a travelling tent, constructed in wood and canvas and decorated with mirrors and stained glass, originally built in Belgium during the late 19th Century. It is a circular room, with tables, a small center perfornce floor space and a balconly with addotoiponal tables, looking down. Compared to the orignal artist renderings it does not look as circus-tent like and is quite a dark sparse room. It has just 275 seats, but this of course adds to theatmosphere of the live performance. The furniture is flexible; however there were some seats which had their back to the show, which made little sense. The show carries a $15-$20 surcharge, depending where you sit. Adjacent to the 'Speigel Tent' is the intimate 'Headliner's Comedy Club' which speaks for itself. 'O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill' is located amidships. This 'Irish Pub' style lounge, which serves food and is one of the the bigger lounges on the ship. It is very atmospheric and very popular. It looks down onto the lobby and it's video screen. It also has three bowling lanes, dart boards, pool tables, foosball and arcade games (a further three bowling lanes are located in Bliss). Continuing aft, there are two escalators emerge from deck 5 into the Casino area which is located amidships. It is very extensive with 340 slot machines and many gaming tables. Unusually the Casino overlooks the Atrium below, whereas most Casino's on other ships are an enclosed room. I often found myself having to pass through the Casino to get to front or back of deck 6. Unfortunaely it is often quite smokey. Moving further aft we reach 'Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant (starboard). The 'Cascade' bar serves the Casino and is located centrally, and 'Fat Cats' Jazz Club, which is an intimate 280 seat venue. The two level Manhattan Room Restaurant occupies the very aft of the ship. The Manhatten Dining Room is the biggest dining room on bord and takes up the full width of the ship. It has a two deck high ceiling in the centre, although dining is only on the lower level. It has a charming art deco design with square windows overlooking the ships wake. I was initially a little disappointed as the original renderings made the room look larger with an enormous dance floor - more like a Cunard 'Queens Room' with dining tables. In reality the dance floor is somewhat smaller than illistrated. The furniture is flexible so tables, chairs and buffet stations are often set out on part or all of dance floor, at times. In fact the room was used a lot as a meeting venue during the preview cruise with a theatre style chair layout covering the dance floor. I had breakfast in this reseruant and it was very good. Hot items are ordered from the menu. Cold items were available from some buffet stations. Deck 7 has two promenades raunning down each side of the ship. There are 'deck games' on the port side and a 'jogging track' on the starboard side. The Prom offers virtually no sea views as it is almost entirely obstructed by ten very big lifeboats, per side. However no cabins views are obstructed by the lifeboats. The lifeboat follows the modern tend of taking place in various public rooms without the passengers being required to wear lifejackets. The best sea views on Epic are from the many balcony cabins. There is no observation lounge, althoug unuseally the 'Garden cafe' (self service resterant) is located high at the front of the ship of the ship (deck 15) and has some good sea views. At the bow of deck 7 is the 'Bliss Ultra lounge' which is one of the biggest lounges on the ship, along with O'Sheehan's. It is a very trendy and very popular lounge/nightclub, being packed each evening during the preview cruise. The decor is more typical of the 'Bliss' lounges on other NCL ships (i.e. rather eccentric.) Continuing aft, we have the 'Ice Bar' on the port side. This is an interesting novelty. The room holds 25 people, although I think you could easily fit 30 in. The room is quite sparse with an bar (made of ice) a few large ice sculptures and a few ice chairs. You are given a thermal poncho with hood and gloves to wear. In fear of stating the obvious, it's very cold inside. I was dissapointed that our glasses were made of 'glass' not 'ice'. Passengers are allocated a 45 minute slot in the ice bar. Most of my fellow Brits withstood the full 45 minutes apart from women who were wearing skirts and or open toed sandals, who lasted around 20-30 minutes. The ice bar carries a surcharge of $20 but you do get two free drinks of flavored vodka. It was extremely difficult to get a booking for the ice bar on my preview cruise. The opening hours will be surprisingly limited: nightly from 5oopm -10pm. I wonder if the demand will outstrip capacity. I was expecting 12.00pm to 1.00am daily which might ber more realistic? Continuing aft we find the 'Tepanyakki' dining room, 'Wasabi Sushi Bar' and 'Sake' bar (starboard). I had Sushi for lunch which was very good indeed. Also on the port side is 'Shakers Martini Bar'. Continuing aft, we have 'Maltings' whisky bar, the 'Humadore Cigar Lounge', the shops and a barbers shop, where a man can get a haircut and wet shave. There were pictures on the wall of 1970's hairstyles, which now look humerous of course. At the very aft is 'Cagney's Steak house and Churrascaria' which overlook the Manhatten room. As NCL put it: "We've taken our traditional steakhouse and fused it with a trendy, energetic Argentinean-inspired Churrascaria". Decks 8 - 13 are purely accommodation decks, apart from the Medical Centre on deck 10 and the private studio lounge (formerly named the 'Living room') on deck 11/12, serving the 128 small 'Studio' cabins spread over both of those decks. Deck 13 also has a 'bridge viewing' window. Deck 14 has cabins located forward and the 'Recess Kids Club' located amidships. Moving aft is the first squash court at sea, then the 'Pusle' fitness centre/aerobics room, hair and beauty salon and fully aft, the 'Mandarin' Spa. This 'health & beuaty'complex is particularly extensive. Located on this deck are a total of 39 spa suites, which have private entry to the luxurious thermal suite and fitness center. Eight spa suites each feature an in-room whirlpool, although this compremises the cabin space available. Deck 15 features the first level of the very ungainly forward deck extension (sometimes known as the 'carbuncle'). The lower level contains the 'Garden Cafe & The Great Outdoors' which is the self-service buffet area and lido (open air) dining area. The Garden Cafe is is not unlike those on any other modern ship. It is of reasonable size, but not enormous. The food choice and quality is pretty good. The plates and cups were china, but trays were notavailable. However the Garden Cafe was prone to getting crowded on my cruise, so what would happen if most of the 4000+ guests decided they all wanted breakfst there at once? Unuseally when dining in the 'Great Outdoors' passengers get a view of the Aqua Park, rather thasn the sea. Having the buffet located forward, rather than aft, as on most modern ship caused me some navigational disorientation at first, but I soon got over it. The main entrance to 'La Cucina', the Tuscan-style eatery on deck 14 is via the Garden cafe buffet (deck 15) making it quite difficult to find, until you know. The centre piece of 'La Cucina' and its Italian decor is a real tree. The resterants also offers some nice sea views being purched high above the bow. Moving aft, into the open air is 'Waves bar' and 'Aqua Park/Kids Aqua Park' and 'Sun Deck'. The 'Epic Plunge', is the only tube slide with a bowl slide and a 200-foot long tube. The Aqua Park also includes two main pools five hot tubs, a wading pool and a kid's pool that features whimsical sculptures, water sprays and a slide. Behind the twin funnels are two rock climbing wall. We then pass through an area called 'The Marketplace' which was not in operation, but I belive it will be an open air sales area (is there no excape from consumerism?) Beyond that is the 'Spice H2O' pool and bar. This area has an aft pool which turns into a dance floor/disco at night. There is another giant video screen which is flanked by two of the biggest speakers that you have ever seen. It is likely to prove very poular in the warm Caribbean climate although the bar can quickly get over crowded. Of course if it's raining or windy, the passengers will all migrate to 'Bliss' which in all likely hood would already be full. Deck 16 forward, features the 'ship-within-a-ship' suite complex. This was not open or even complete on the preview cruise. Deck 17 Aft is the 'sports deck', full-sized basketball court, climbing wall and a very strange 24-foot tall enclosed climbing cage called the Spider Web. Deck 18 is the roof of the 'villa' complex. This features a private courtyard sundeck and public sundeck, port and starboard and the private 'posh beach club'. So I assume the 'have nots' can look at the 'haves' in envy? Cabins NCL have really though 'outside the box' with this one - no other ship in the world has anything similar. All outside cabins have balconies and many have their 'new wave' curved walls. All grades of cabin are uber-trendy and look great in my opinion. The cabin corridors are once again quite 'understated', although not unattractive. NCL still have that clever 'wheel' gadget next to each cabin door which is used to indicate "do not disturb", "please make up may room" etc. without the need for cardboard door hangers. Many of the cabins are an interlocking (mirror-image) design, a bit like a '69' configuration. This is not a new idea as many of the great ocean liners used this design to save space. However 'Epics' cabins have curved walls that help disguise the fact that the standard and deluxe balcony cabins are narrower than most cabins on other modern ships. I was in a deluxe balcony cabin, number 11080. Controversially in the vast majority of the cabins, including mine, have the toilet and shower split into two separate compartments, with frosted glass sliding doors, either side of the entrance door. This design cleverly saves space and allows the creation of a narrower cabin (hence more passengers). There is a vanity sink is next to the toilet cubicle. This wet area has a wooden affect floor, the bedroom area, carpet. Now the lack of toilet and shower privacy is an issue for some people. You can see a person's silhouette through the frosted glass doors of both the toilet and shower. However there is a curtain which can be drawn closing off the wet area (toilet and shower only, not the sink) from the bedroom area - so really it is a non-issue in my opinion. However it could be embarrassing if housekeeping is trying to gain access while you are towelling down as the cabin door is effectively in the wet area. The 'pedestal' style vanity sink looks trendy, but it is nearly useless. Firstly the water constantly leaves the bowl, flooding the surrounding surface and floor. Secondly it has a large fixed spout with does not move, so if you tried to wash you face directly in the sink you would head-butt the spout. (I have since heard that NCL will address this matter). There is a shaving socket by the sink and a mirror. The deluxe balcony cabin has a very large (in fact long) shower with a big shower head on a flexible pipe. The water pressure was very good for a shipboard shower. A glass door beats a curtain any day and the water did not tend to leave the shower and flood the floor. The vacuum toilet barked like a dog as usual, but at more decibels than normal. The deluxe balcony cabins appear to no wider than the standard balcony cabins, but they are much longer. You get an extra wardrobe and cupboards. In fact I counted 15 different cupboards of various shapes and sizes. However the wardrobes were not very deep which will be O.K. in the Caribbean but may cause problems for European garb. When opened, the wardrobe doors block the limited through-way. The shower has shower gel and shampoo dispenser and the sink a soap dispenser (no individually wrapped Molton Brown luxury bath products here). A large sofa (which takes up a disproportional amount of space in the cabins) pulls out to become a third berth. The main bed has rounded ends and tall passengers have complained that it is too short. The cabin lighting is trendy and quite effective, compared to some other ships. The balcony was of a very good size and easily accommodated two upright chairs and a very small table. The dressing table area has a hairdryer underneath it. There is a safe and mini bar. The only power socket (the US type) and under the vanity desk and are difficult to access. I believe the cabin LCD TV's are 'interactive' but none of them worked at all so I don't know. There was also a coffee making machine. The art was also missing from the walls of my cabin - but hey, this stuff will be fixed. The 128 studio cabins located on deck 11 and 12 are just 100 sq ft. They are the nautical equivalent of 'bedsits', yet they are very cute to look at, at least. Unusally have big round windows looking onto the corridor, but people cannot see in. The corridor itself is bathed in a blue light and looks very sci-fi. These cabins were originally designed for couples (obviously small couples) but are now redesignated as 'single occupancy' with no single supliment. Reducing the studio cabins capacity makes the 'studio lounge' twice as spacious, although it appeared rather sterile and univiting to me. (Contrary to the first press releases the studio lounge does not have two levels, just an upper stair case serving the studio cabins on the deck above.) Entertainment I saw the 'Blue Man Group' in the Epic Theatre which was a full 1.5 hour show. Now if you have never seen the BMG (which I had not) it is almost impossible to explain what they do - but here goes: It's a humorous musical and visual show, with no dialogue, featuring the Blue Men drumming, sometimes on plastic plumbing, some rock music, some avant guard slapstick and audience participation: see I told you it was impossible to explain. Anyway it's unique and unconventional which exactly matches how NCL have promoted Epic as being. I really enjoyed the show, although some traditionalists would probably prefer 'Chicago' (soon to be offered on 'Allure of the Seas'). It worth reflecting how much a ticket to this show would cost shore-side, but on board it's free. "Cirque Dreams and Dinner" show, held in the purpose built 'Speigel Tent' room is two hours long. It starts rather slowly with lots of comical dialogue and general tomfoolery. However, after 20 minutes, once the show got going and the proper circius acts performed, the show became a high-energy, interactive spectacle. The acts included a tight-rope walker with a very slack rope, balancing, juggling and strong man acts, to name but a few. There was even a man cavorting in a bath of water and flying on ribbons, much to the delight female members of the audiences. There was also a woman who can instantly change her clothes - I wish she could teach my wife that trick. At several points in the show I feared that I might have to say "waiter there is a performer in my soup" (although soup was not served). The 'dinner' on the other hand was one of the worst meals that I have ever had at sea. This was hardly a good move given the fact that the audience were journalists including Douglas Ward of Berlitz Guide to Cruising and me. Firstly It was a set meal of only three courses, so there was no choice. The first course was a quarter of an iceberg (or similar) lettuce with some mediocre dressing, so hardlyy a salad. The second course was chicken and beef: the chicken being a 'reformed' piece with stuffing in it, mainly tasting of salt. The beef was mediocre and cooked 'medium' with no choice being given as to how you wanted it. The vegetables were relatively stewed and tasteless. A brown gravy coved the meal. The desert was made such dense chocolate that three quarters of my table were unable to stomach it. I recall that NCL said in a press release something like: " you will remember the show but you will not remember what you had for dinner". If only that were ture. That meal is burnt into my taste buds! It's a pity the Chefs were not as talented as the circus performers. On a positive not the waiters did extremely well to work around the show and even joined in occasionally. So it was a poor meal, great show. I belive the surcharge is considerbably less than you would pay for the show shore-side. I walked past 'Howl at the Moon' show (dueling pianos) in 'Headliners' and the crowd seemed to be having a ball. Space /Layout Epic is a floating resort and a reasonably high density ship, in terms of passenger numbers. Another way to look at it, is that 'Epic' has a similar internal volume to the Cunard's 'Queen Mary 2', but will often carry up to 1500 more passengers. However It's not a fair comparison, although an interesting one, because that's the difference between 'Premium' and 'Mass Market'. Epic's fares are likely to be considerably lower than the likes of Cunard. Epic only has two stair towers and respective banks of elevators, so there is a very long walk between them. Some considerably smaller ships have three stair towers/elevators. The elevators are not the fastest or biggest that I've experienced either, those were on 'Oasis'. Oasis only has two stair towers but the speed and size of her elevators compensated. My preview cruise only carried 2,500 guests but the ship already seemed very busy. In fact I found it difficult to get served at any bar in the evening, although the invited guests probaly consumed more alcohol than the normal cruise passenger do. There did not seem to be a 'quiet bar' on offer. The TV screens around the ship which should display how crowded each didning room was were not functioning as yet. It will be essential to book your entertaiment, ice bar and dining choices in advance as all the venues and dining rooms onboard Epic are generally small and will most likely sell-out very quickly. Summary It is refreshing to see NCL finally build a ship which truly competes with the big two and close the gap. Essentially Epic is like an NCL 'Jewel' class ship on steroids. In fact Epic makes the rest of the NCL fleet feel 'intimate' in comparison. In my opinion 'freestyle' matches the tastes of the modern (often younger) passenger better than the traditional system: the inflexible 'two sittings' for diner followed by a main show. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and most cruise lines now operate a form of 'freestyle' on a more limited basis. However 'freestyle' is not perfect and restaurants can become crowded at peak times and queues can form. Epic's major selling point is her multiple dining and entertainment options. I would hesitate to call her 'truly' innovative as this particular innovation took place back in 2001 when NCL introduced 'freestyle' with the 'Norwegian Sun' being the first ship to be designed specifically for 'Freestyle' with eight dining options. However, Epic takes the 'Freestyle third generation' concept further with even more dining options, enhanced entertainment and multiple venues. The cabins may not be conventional or the most spacious at sea, but they are definitely the trendiest. Epic has all the advantages and disadvantages of a big ship. For example the corridors are endless and the stair cases go on forever, so not an ideal ship for those passengers with mobility problems. Epic is a relatively high density ship in terms of passenger numbers. I am not sure how well she will handle her full compliment in terms of embarkation, disembarkation, on board congestion and deck space. Whatever the outcome, you would certainly never be lonely onboard. I will also be interested to hear how the cruising public feels about the quality of her non-surcharge dining and cost of the various surcharge dining options. Although 'Norwegian Epic' with 'Oasis of the Seas' are very different ships, people are bound to draw comparisons. After all, they are the two biggest new ships, operating similar itineraries, in the Caribbean mass-market. So should you book 'Oasis' or should you book 'Epic'? Oasis of course wins on size and her groundbreaking public spaces such as the 'Royal Promenade', 'Central Park' and the 'Boardwalk'. Some aspects of the RCI experience are quite traditional: one main dining rooms, one main theatre with two sitting and two formal nights per week (although there are additional dining and entertainment options). Epic wins on the number of dining choices, dining flexibility and informality (no need to ever dress up if you don't want to) not forgetting the trendy cabins. Both ships have certainly upped the quality of entertainment at sea. Epic offers single 'Studio' cabins with no single supplement which is unique in the industry. Oasis has its 'Loft Suites' and Epic has it's 'ship within a ship' 'Villa' complex. So would I recommend Norwegian Epic? Yes certainly for the young, the young at heart and families looking for a more informal 'fun' experience, with a vast array of dining options, on a very impressive, floating resort. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Given that this was the maiden voyage for fare paying passengers, it started badly when the check in at Southampton ground to a halt, due to "system failure" for quite some time resulting in a significant queue of un-checked ... Read More
Given that this was the maiden voyage for fare paying passengers, it started badly when the check in at Southampton ground to a halt, due to "system failure" for quite some time resulting in a significant queue of un-checked passengers - made worse by the complete lack of information being broadcast to those waiting. Finally through check-in and onboard, complete with a glass of complimentary "fizz", first impressions were positive. This is a substantial ship, airy with lots of open space and multiple choices for both casual or more refined dining, as well as a seemingly inexhaustible list of places to enjoy a drink or two - I lost count after 10. The cabin was comfortable and well appointed; plenty of storage/hanging space and an extremely comfortable bed, with the ablutions department well up to scratch. Tea, but surprisingly for an American Line, no coffee making facilities - not everybody wants to wake up to a single choice of beverage. The cabin steward couldn't provide coffee sachets - "we don't have any, Sir", but a trip to the Ocean View Cafe provided a source of Instant Coffee sachets - not what I would have expected to either find out for myself, or self provide! We were disappointed by the send off from the pier at Southampton, as there wasn't one! We've had more dramatic departures on a cross channel ferry! Though to be fare the standard of ship handling during this 3 day jaunt was at a very high level indeed - arrival at Le Havre went unnoticed, so gently did the "Master" tie up, as was the situation when arriving at Southampton. It was very apparent that this was a "shake-down" voyage, as most of the crew and systems weren't working as seamlessly as one would expect. Starting with the life boat drill, our "station" was in the Moonlight Sonata dining room, where we were seated, not being required to carry or wear our lifejackets!!, by the crew, only to be moved after a delay, as we were all facing the wrong way to see the video screen, and I'm talking about some 100+ passengers here! Many of the features on the impressive in-suite interactive TV system weren't operational "This feature is not operational" seemed to be the most consistent response from the device; and indeed when trying to order room service at lunchtime on the Tuesday, we were informed that this was not available! A phone system glitch apparently, but not helped by attempts to contact Guest Relations, by phone, who then connected me to the same message, not once but twice!! Even in the dining and bar areas most senior Celebrity staff were clearly visible, with mobile phones held to their ears, resolving some problem or other, so all was not running as smoothly as they wanted either. Also for no clear reason the main dining area, the Moonlight Sonata, wasn't open for lunch on 2 of the days, leaving you only with the choice of self service, or pay a supplement to be "properly" waited on - not what we look for on a cruise of this supposed standard. If I wanted to eat in what is effectively a motorway service station (albeit a pretty impressive one) I would have opted for one of the down market lines. Having said that the meals were of a very high standard, and offering a wide choice, and when served, served well. All in all a cruise that could have been so much better, reminding me of one of my reports from my school days "Has the potential, but hasn't applied himself enough!" Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We were invited to attend this all inclusive event onboard MSC Magnifica and expected the highest levels of service and food as they were basically tempting travel agents to go out and get people to book with them. Arrival at Southampton ... Read More
We were invited to attend this all inclusive event onboard MSC Magnifica and expected the highest levels of service and food as they were basically tempting travel agents to go out and get people to book with them. Arrival at Southampton and security checks were quick and easy and we were told to wait in the seating area. Drinks and snacks were provided free of charge. Actually getting to check in though was a different matter we were not told that as we weren't part of the Thomas Cook group that we could have used the suite guests check in lane and have been onboard with 15minutes of the check ins opening instead it was nearly an hour later. Upon boarding the ship our hand luggage was taken from us by staff who then escorted us to our cabins unlike the pointing you vaguely in the direction that you get so often nowadays. Our balcony cabin was nicely decorated and fitted out with more colour than on other ships. The red and black colour scheme gave it a luxurious feel alongs side the walnut coloured furniture. We were provided with threee wardrobes and a few drawers but there was plenty of space under the bed for cases. The cabins are all equipped with flat screen TVs, Hairdryers at the dressing tables and a mini bar. There is plenty of storage space in the bathroom and shower gel & shampoo are provided in wall mounted dispensers. On the balcony itself there were two chairs and a small table which were comfortable. Dining was problamatic and a let down over all ~ food was bland and presented with out any flair, quite often it was cold. On a table for 8 two people had to send meat back for further cooking even though they had ordered it medium well, desserts we missed out and the dining room was very noisy and quite tight space wise ~ I don't think the noise level was helped as we were seated at the side of the waiter station. Decor throughout the ship is opulent with lots of gold and brass in evidence and decadent purples. Smoking is allowed in all bars on the port side apart from the nightclub and does have a tendency to drift. The atrium is a very nice area with plenty of seating and a classical trio playing in the afternoons and evenings. Some areas on the ship have been changed from those in the original brochures which caused a few problems when we were looking for the bar that was hosting our Meet & Greet. The Yacht Club Suites were still being completed whilst we were onboard and a few of the rear cabins were still awaiting the lights on the balcony to be wired in. The pool decks were nice and pleasantly arranged with a stage area near the unenclosed pool whilst the pool with the magrodome had pleanty of chairs and tables surrounding it along with a bar and ice cream servery. The Sports bar was one of the most impressive on the ship with a self leveling pool table plenty of TVs and food available from the bar. The spa area features a smoothie bar for you sip whilst awaiting your appoinment. I had a mini back massage and felt totally relaxed but the prices were steep ~ you would probably be aswell waiting to see if any specials are offered on port days. Overall the staff were polite & efficent but they could do with some extra attention from the trainers for the waiters in the restaurant. Food was OK but again could do with a little extra attention and seasoning. The ship is glitzy to look at but not in the over the top carnival way and I do wonder if the childrens club will be large enough during times of peak demand? Read Less
Sail Date February 2009

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