The World Awaits Travel, LLC
"the educated way to travel"
by Camille Pepe Sperrazza
My journey aboard the second largest cruise ship in the world, the NCL Epic
August 7 - 14, 2010
The NCL Epic fills two voids in the industry: 1) There are shows so appealing, people wait in line to see them; and 2) Solo travelers are welcomed and encouraged to sail. They have state rooms designed just for them, and a "living room" where they can meet and mingle.
ENTERTAINMENT: No question about it, The Epic has the best nightlife at sea. You'd pay top dollar in NYC and Vegas to see "Blue Man Group" and "Legends In Concert". Here, there's no additional charge. Reservations are a must. On other nights at sea, enjoy music at the Fat Cats Blues Club; laugh with performers from the famous Second City; participate in the zaniness of 'Howl with the Moon," and dance nightly at Spice H20, on Deck 15.
There's a piano player at the Martini Bar, musicians in the Atrium, and at other bars throughout the ship. Check out the daily movies shown on the mega screen in the Atrium on Deck 5 -- the biggest screen I have ever seen and could only imagine. When movies are not playing, tranquil snapshots from around the globe are featured, and one can become mesmerized by gazing at the beauty. At other times, this huge screen become a giant Nintendo Wii game. It can be viewed from Deck 6 while you drink and eat at O'Sheehan's, the 24-hour Irish pub.
Spend $15 - $25, and be entertained at the Cirque Dinner Show, where acrobats "fly" from the ceiling. It's a show reminiscent of ones seen in Paris. Opt to go bowling; check out the lounges; or gamble in the largest casino at sea. Slot machines are spread throughout Deck 7.
I had to travel to Stockholm, Sweden to experience an Ice Bar. The Epic has the only Ice Bar at Sea, a must. The seats, the bar, the sculptures, the glasses from which you drink -- all made of ice. For $20 you get two of the coldest vodka drinks in the world. Nonalcoholic drinks are also available. You're provided with a warm, hooded coat and gloves upon entrance.
There's basketball, paddle ball, ice skating, ping pong, rock climbing, interactive Nickelodeon shows, and a tremendous slide by the pool with lots of huge curves and dips, for those who dare.
FOOD: There are 21 different dining options on board, and although I didn't personally count every one of them, I'm not sure if that figure includes the daily chicken wings, fresh fruit, cheese, and small sandwiches I saw by the casino every night. Basically, there's food in every nook and corner. The two main dining rooms are Taste and The Manhattan Room. I preferred the latter because it's a "supper club," where a live band played "Big Band" music, and there was dancing. It's an elegant, sophisticated, setting. Taste, the other main dining room, seemed to be the more informal of the two. They both have the same set menu, traditional fare, such as steak, salmon, and chicken, available all the time. Each night a new entrée, appetizer, salad, and dessert is featured.
There's 24-hour eats at O'Sheehan's, the Irish pub, named after one of NCL's officers. Breakfast is served all the time, as are burgers, mozzarella sticks, corned beef sandwiches, salads, baskets of fries, and many other favorites, all at no cost.
The buffet is behind the main pool, on Deck 15, and the best part is that it's designed so there's no long lines, even for a ship with about 4,000 hungry people. It has everything. Be sure to check out the side buffet stations after 5 p.m. when you can indulge in fresh chocolate or fruit-filled crepes, topped with a mound of real whipped cream. Go all out and add a scoop of ice cream, also available for no additional fee, and it's not limited to soft serve cones. There's plenty of hard ice cream, including varieties such as Rocky Road, Butter Pecan, sherbets, and yogurts. Nuts, chips, and toppings abound.
During the day, the adults only Spice H20 pool, located in back of Deck 15, has its own small salad bar, a convenient option for those who just want a quick bite, and don't want to deal with the pitter, patter, and splatter of children. At night, this pool, beneath a giant, outdoor movie screen, becomes a dance floor, and there's a spectacular light show on the screen above. You can sometimes see yourself up there on this big board, too. Tons of fun.
Other food venues include NCL's traditional steakhouse, Cagney's; Teppanyaki, Japanese; the Chinese Noodle Bar; Churrascaria, Brazilian; LaCucina Italian, and more.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BATHROOMS AND THE STATEROOMS: You may have heard the buzz about the bathrooms: A "capsule"-enclosed toilet; a second "capsule"-enclosed shower, with frosted glass doors that are a bit "peek-a-boo". Not a problem if you're in an intimate relationship, but what about families and friends? Relax, while it's not the ideal setup, there is a curtain that separates the area from the rest of the room. It does, however, take a bit of planning to use the shower. In between the two "capsules" is the floor in front of the entrance to the cabin, and this area becomes your "dressing room". Hooks are outside the shower 'capsule," but everyone I chatted with, who had this type of room configuration, also used the handle of the cabin door as an extra hook. It's a big unusual, but it's manageable.
The sink in our balcony stateroom was located outside this bathroom area, and can more accurately be described as a "water fountain," as it's not too deep. NCL went with an ultra modern design, and while it's beautiful, it may not be practical. Some of the balcony rooms are also narrow, which doesn't leave much space for walking or suitcase maneuvering. It's important to know that not all staterooms have this same narrow design. I did peek into some of the deluxe balconies that had different configurations and were wider. Again, it's all manageable. Of course, the villas on the top decks are spacious and gorgeous beyond words. They also have their own pool and private eating areas.
I loved the Studios, designed for solo travelers. Although they are small, space is used wisely. The best part is that there's a common living room where you can meet and mingle with other solo travelers. Meeting times were published in the daily activity sheet, and people made plans from there. The living room has its own bar, snacks, and coffee machine. It was the only place on the ship with complimentary cappuccino. Although my understanding was that this area was supposed to be for those in the studios only, no special key was needed to enter, so on our sailing, at least, it was open to all. This may change.
THE INSIDE SCOOP: While it's a mega ship, getting around was relatively easy. Most of the action takes places on decks 5, 6, and 7, and of course, on deck 15, where the pool is. Maps are conveniently located throughout the ship, and they are interactive. For example, you can press a button, and it will tell you where your stateroom is, and how to get there. Note that color-coding is also used. The blue side of the ship means you are closer to the odd-numbered staterooms. If you are seeing orange, you are on the even side.
The technology on board is incredible. You can track your reservations, excursions, and expenses on the television screen in your cabin. You don't have to enter any data -- it's all done automatically. The treadmill is high-tech, too. You can opt to have a "virtual trainer" as you run. The gym and spa area is tremendous. I was on the treadmill every day, and never had to wait for a machine.
It is imperative to make reservations for the shows in advance. The smart thing to do is to book on line when you register your passport information and print out your boarding passes.
I have only touched upon a portion of what this ship offers. You need to see it for yourself. Are you ready for an "Epic" Adventure? Contact me today.
I sailed August 7 - 14, 2010 when the ship was about four weeks old, and this article is meant to provide a broad overview of that particular sailing.
For more information or to book a trip, contact "Commodore" Camille today.
This article was accurate when it was written, but everything in life changes. Enjoy the journey!
Copyright: Camille Pepe Sperrazza