Epic Entertainment at Sea

| May 25, 2009

Entertainment on Norwegian Epic promises to take cruise ships shows to an entirely new dimension.

If you have ever heard that company attitude trickles from the top down you may have been talking to someone from Norwegian Cruise Lines. The best way to describe the new corporate culture largely attributed to newly installed CEO Kevin Sheehan is "on fire."

Despite the "third place" position NCL has held in the cruise business behind behemoths Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean International, the line has arguably led the industry in terms of innovation, formulating some of the best and most ambitious cruise ideas ever - like open dining, relaxed dress policies and more dignified disembarkation.

Like a small voice finally being heard, NCL is hitting its stride, strutting its stuff with one of its most profitable quarters in recent history and on the edge of introducing a new flagship primed to redefine the brand, if not the cruise experience itself.

The New NCL Emerging

Fairy tales can come true, and while Disney may hold the copyright to that they don't own the concept. That belongs to the new Norwegian Epic set to debut this coming June. Speaking honestly, many people have called it an "ugly duckling" ship but I say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and form should follow function.

Let's be honest - scanning the ship's outboard profile you can't miss the two deck "layer cake" topping that is the Garden Villa complex. It also didn't help Epic's image that her first live pictures to date, last month's sea trials, showed the ship's hull still unpainted, none of the decking in place so only the bumpy red substrate was showing and about 80% of the windows were covered in white paper while the rest were open glass, giving the "face" under the Garden Villa toupee a broken-tooth smile.

Click below for larger images. See the FULL EPIC GALLERY

Epic Model at Seatrade   Epic Profile   Garden Villa Complex
Epic Waterpark   Epic Stern   Epic aft

But please do not judge hastily, the ship is under construction at the St. Nazaire STX Shipyard, which has produced some of the most beautiful interiors I have seen - and inside is where the magic of Norwegian Epic will take place. From the truly innovative stateroom concepts such as mood-driven décor and the cruise industry's first communal neighborhood reserved for single cruisers, add in the truly pace-setting entertainment and Epic is sure to push the boundaries of show time industry-wide.

At Seatrade, CEO Kevin Sheehan and his well-known and well-liked cohort Andy Stuart (EVP sales and Marketing) were beaming during an announcement for planned enhancements to Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private Bahamas island - which just happened to be the first cruise line private island ever.

Engineers will make a large cut in the island to create a nearly isolated marina large enough to admit the "landing craft" tenders saved from the old NCL Norway. This will enable access to the beaches at times when inclement weather might have meant otherwise. The island will receive $20,000,000 in upgrades to the food facilities, new cabanas and the development of new beachfront so more guests can enjoy the surf. The clothing optional beach at the west end of the island will remain untouched. Shhhhh.

Announcing - All Cylinders Firing at NCL

The word "Epic" is often applied to entertainment and the more I ponder this ship the more it feels appropriate. Norwegian Epic may not be the biggest new cruise ship, compared to Oasis of the Seas for example, although at 150,000-tons and 4200 passengers she is in the top tier. But I will predict she will be the first ship where entertainment alone is a significant factor in the guests' final selection of a cruise.

If you haven't already heard, the ship will have the first custom built theater at sea for any show; but they happened to pick my favorite Broadway/Las Vegas hit show ever; Blue Man Group. I have seen this show five times, paying as much as $100/ticket. You will see it for no charge.

But that's not all; there will also be a Second City comedy troupe, a "Howl at the Moon" dueling pianos show, a version of the famous tribute show "Legends in Concert," a jazz club, a comedy club and a litany of themed nightclubs from a pool bar for steamy tropical nights to an Ice Bar for a truly frozen drink.

Read about Epic's Newest Show: Cirque Dreams and Dinner

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