Gambling on a New Ship NCL presses inaugural TA: Norwegian Epic Cruise Review by Mr. Luckytoo

Norwegian Epic 4
Mr. Luckytoo
Member Since 2010
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Gambling on a New Ship NCL presses inaugural TA

Sail Date: June 2010
Destination: Transatlantic
Embarkation: Southampton
As someone who was really, really excited about cruising a new ship on it's maiden voyage I can not tell you how much I was looking forward to a royal time.

Shipboard Entertainment:

The ship's decor is beautiful! In fact there are many instances on the ship where NCL went to extremes to get it right - the Cirque Dreams & Dinner for example, is by far the best show on the high seas. Combine a very good three course meal with the cirque performers and you get a dinner show that is family friendly and exciting. Nothing on the high seas comes close. This is a definite must for those cruising the Epic

The Legends in concert is very good as well. Having seen the Legends show in Vegas the show on the Epic was of the same quality just shorter. In Vegas you'll see 7-8 performers doing 2-3 songs. On board we had Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis. All were good performers and all did 4-5 songs with Elvis doing the most. This wasn't a cheesy show but a well More performed show. No extra fee.

Blue Man Group did an hour show. I hadn't seen it before and enjoyed it. I was told by a casino worker from Vegas that the BMG was only 10-15 minutes shorter than the Vegas show - but the Vegas show costs $100. On board the Epic it's FREE!! This was my first time seeing BMG and it was an enjoyable show.

Second City improv performances - I enjoyed the group. There were 6 performers 4 guys and 2 girls. I thought that the brunette, skinny balding guy and larger guy were the funniest. If you like improve than you'll like this. If you don't like improv you may want to pass on this one. No extra fee

The Murder Mystery show was ok. If you like Second City then you will like the murder mystery. The food was good for a fixed lunch menu. I wish the actors would have stuck to a script rather than done as much improve but overall it was an enjoyable 90 minutes. Additional charge.

O'Sheehans: It is located on deck 6 mid ship. It has the looks of your neighborhood Beef O'Brady's (an American Sports Bar). You can get breakfast 24/7 as well as excellent , fish & chips, sandwiches and desserts. If you're looking for comfort food than this is your place. My personal favorite was the fish & chips. The fish was FRESH and fantastic, not the frozen fish sticks. I could go on and on about this restaurant - there wasn't really anything I didn't like at O'Sheehans. Most importantly is the staff who were working there. After 2 days one of the waiters, "Ricky", would greet us by name when we entered and would wave at us if we were walking by. He remembered our drinks and what we had ordered the day before as well. He was friendly, outgoing and really made our visits to O'Sheehans memorable. In fact we filled out two (2) comment cards, which we turned in, complementing the excellent staff and food for O'Sheehans. Now realize that this is a sports pub/restaurant. There is lots of ambient noise from the 2-story atrium behind, the casino at one end and the adjacent bowling lanes. If you're looking for quiet and cozy this is not the place. However if you're looking for comfort food, smiling faces and a place like Cheer's - O'Sheehans is the place to be. Surprisingly this is a no fee eatery.

La Cucina: This Italian specialty restaurant was well worth the $10 cover charge. You go to deck 15, thru the buffet area to the very front of the ship and walk down the stairs. It has a nicely decorated entrance and inside if very cozy - lots of stone, trees, faux library books, etc., We were seated at the window in the very front of the ship. We observed several pods of dolphins, turtles (my wife said seals) and birds. It was a wonderful and romantic atmosphere. My wife and I weren't pleased with the dinner rolls, calamari or minestrone soup (the calamari was better at O'Sheehans). The assistant maitre' de did everything to make us happy. We had the Margarita pizza and we LOVED it! If you like a true Italian pizza, like you get in Rome, then go to La Cucina. Given the appearance of La Cucina and the service I would definitely return to this restaurant.

The churaassioro restaurant, Moderno, was a pleasant surprise. This is NCL's version of Texas de Brazil. Our waitress was friendly, pleasant and provided us with excellent service. The "gaucho's" who brought the different foods around to the table were efficient. This was a very good dining experience and we enjoyed it as much as the Texas de Brazil. My only complaint is that I ate too much of the various meats before they came around with the filet mignon! considering the price for this restaurant I would definitely do this again.

Our final specialty restaurant experience was Tappanyaki - the Japanese show/dining experience. The servers were friendly and efficient. The chef was nice. My only complaint is that I was tasting garlic the remainder of the night and the next morning. My impression of this restaurant was one of having been there, done that but not likely to return.

Manhattan Club. The larger of the two no fee MDR the Manhattan Club is located in the rear of the ship. The dEcor is nicely done with lots of earth tones and wood. We dined in here twice, breakfast and lunch. On each occasion the service was slower than the other places that we ate and the food was not on the same level of the other areas of the ship. Legends in Concert played in this venue but we had seen them and we weren't about to fight the crowd. In a conversation with crew we learned that the galley that serves the Manhattan Club is located on deck 4 so the wait staff has to walk up and down. I guess that explains the longer wait for food.

Taste. The smaller of the two MDR's located on deck 5 right under the casino. Taste has bricks and more color than the Manhattan Club. I think it pushes the envelop in color and I really liked it. The service was good and the food was better than what we received in the Manhattan Club. My only dislike about Taste is the seats in the open area that look upward to the casino and the 7th floor. Looking down on the diners it looks nice, however, seating there and looking up wasn't very comfortable and we asked to be moved. Of the two MDR's I preferred Taste to the Manhattan Club.

The casino is rather long and unlike other cruse lines has dealers at their two (2) poker tables. There is an abundance of table games and this was the first time I can remember playing Pai Gow at sea (would have preferred an automatic shuffler). Table limits ranged from $5 to $25 and there were more than enough dealers present. The slot machines where placed throughout the ship with new slots in addition to the older 3-reel slot machines. My wife made the comment that she felt like this was a real casino rather than a "ship casino". As someone who has spent too much time on land based casino's I concur with my wife. The Epic's casino has a feel of Harrah's in A.C.

My biggest complaint about the casino was the number of smokers on this cruise. While playing in the daily poker tournament there were a few players who couldn't stay away from the cigarettes for more than 10 minutes. One of the machines that my wife seemed to like was on the end and located right next to a cigarette receptacle. I kept wondered why she tolerated the smokers there but that machine was one of a few that actually gave her some profits.

Unlike other ships there really isn't a lot of public outdoor space in which to walk, watch the water or to sit. Deck 7 leads outdoor where there is a jogging track but the presence of the lifeboats doesn't allow you to sit or relax. On Deck 15 there are the side rails but the back of the ship consists of Spice H2O and a pair of hot tubs in the ships corners. There is amphitheatre seating at Spice and the pool raises to a dancing area where they had a "Jersey Boy" group performing the first night. Unfortunately the weather was too cold and windy for me to spend too much time. They sounded really good and appeared indoors on other nights.

The rock climbing walls and repelling walls are located on deck 15 towards the back and near the water slide exits. It seemed that whenever I was on deck there was at least an inch of water that was splashing out of the water slides. It was difficult to walk in that area without getting your shoes wet. According to workers..."we told them {NCL} they need more drains." The rock walls themselves are relatively short compared to those on RCCL. The repelling wall was a letdown as it took longer to put on the gear than it did to come down. For those who have never done rock climbing it's easy enough and should be fun. If however, you're looking for a challenge you may be disappointed. One of my disappointing encounters was going to deck 17 to try the Epic bounce, a bungee/trampoline. I got in line at 5:05 and watched 5 cruisers jumping. When it was my turn the worker in charge had me get on the scale and said, "I'm sorry but the limit is 200 pounds. (I weigh 230) It's a ship's safety rule."

Having done the exact same bungee 18 months earlier at a vacation destination on land (and weighing in at 225) I know that the bungee could handle my weight but it was now 5:50 and after waiting 45 minutes I was upset. "How come there's no sign?" I asked. All I got was a shoulder shrug! So adults beware if you are 200 pounds and above don't bother standing in line. To NCL - Post a darn sign will you?

Considering that this ship has around 5,000 passengers I expected a larger feeling ship. There are basically 5 public area floors, Decks 5, 6 & 7 along with decks 14 & 15. While I didn't feel cramped I was surprised at how difficult it was to find quiet spots on the ship in which to relax and watch the water. The fact that this ship has no library demonstrates that NCL was striving to maximize the entertainment and bar spaces.

The color combination/decor of all the areas was nicely done. This is not the bright gaudy ships that you see with Carnival nor is it the bland colorless boring type of ship. It had a trendy feel. In my opinion I thought that Deck 5 was really a wasted/incomplete deck. Upon entering the ship I observed the 2-story screen (a wow factor) and a coffee bar. Unfortunately due to the layout of the atrium we were unable to find seats to sit and enjoy our lattes. In addition when movies or the world cup soccer was being played on the 2-story screen it was LOUD! I missed having a relaxing place to sit and enjoy a coffee and cake. The front desk was right across from the screen and it was packed with cruisers from the moment we arrived and throughout most of the cruise. Moving forward on Deck 5 was the Park West art gallery and Le Bistro along with the photo gallery and internet area.

The cabin that we booked a deluxe family balcony for our maiden Epic cruise was very pretty. The color scheme and initial impression created that WOW effect when we opened the door. However, after using the cabin facilities I quickly learned that while it may be pretty to behold I was not completely comfortable with the toilet/sink privacy and the lack of space to walk around. Our cabin was not completed as we had no air conditioning and were unable to use our shower for the first two days of the cruise. This cabin also had a tub but there was no stopper. We put in several work orders at the front desk and after 4 days of complaining we just gave up. The lack of TV programming was surprising as well - only 10 channels were available; two being cartoons/Nickelodeon, two were Skynews, and Skynews Sports, two were ship related (view from bridge and ship information), BBC, MSMBC, CNBC and a channel of pre-recorded sitcoms (Friends/Scrubs). No movies unless you wanted to pay $12.95 each. Since I have written about the cabin short comings at length on other threads I will not beat a dead horse. I will say that unless and until cabin changes are made in the future I will not rebook on the Epic.

An interesting concept with the photos in that they use facial recognition software. You turn over your room keycard to the photographer at the time of photos. When you go to view the photos, you swipe it and your accumulated photo's pop-up. In addition the printed photo's are in plastic envelopes in a pocket identified by decks and each cabin has its own folder of photos. This eliminates the need to constantly look for photo's night after night. Nice touch.

On each cruise I have been on my wife and I look back as to what our WOW moment was. Some WOW moments have been the ships, our cabins and the views. On other cruises it was the itinerary or an excursion.

We were disappointed because what we anticipated as being a WOW moment; sailing from Southampton on an inaugural cruise, and sailing into NYC on a maiden voyage, turned out to be nothing more than a "delivery cruise". This TA was no different than any other NCL cruise we have taken. The time and frustration in dealing with the front desk in order to correct the problems with our cabin detracted from our overall trip experience; especially since the problems should have never been allowed to slip thru the cracks if the company had taken the time to perform a proper "punch list". Considering all the pre-sailing hype that NCL did promoting the Epic I felt jilted.

I will remember the excellent service that the staff of O'Sheehans provided. We will also remember this as an entertainment cruise that has set the standard for other ships to live up to. The Cirque Dreams & Dinner show is not only the most unique but finest dinner show on all the high seas. BMG & Legends do a fine job of living up to their land based shows. Second city does an admirable job as well.

I give the crew of the Epic )with the exception of the front desk personnel) huge applause for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. It was refreshing to see their smiling faces wherever we went. You could tell this crew was the best of the best! Heck, I even saw smiling pit bosses in the casino! The ship itself I give a thumbs up for the entertainment value and innovations such as the cirque dinner show, the numerous water slides, the ice bar and a "real" casino.

However, I still find it disconcerting that NCL would rush their flagship to market. It was a mistake to allow this ship to sail without crossing all their t's and dotting their i's. I would expect most of the problems that I encountered during my cruise to be ironed out and corrected in the future. The ship is new and exciting however my disappoint remains.

I doubt if I will remember this cruise on the Epic as "special" or inaugural. Instead I will tell people that I sailed on NCL's newest ship:

The GPIC - Guinea Pig Inaugural Cruise. Less

Published 07/04/10

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Mr. Luckytoo
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