By paul motter
After her initial sea trials, NCL is describing the first time Norwegian Epic ever sailed on the open seas as a "triumphant success." Without a doubt, NCL is very excited to be bringing this new ship into their fleet. Epic is largest ship ever built by Norwegian Cruise Lines by 50%; coming in at 152,000-tons and with 4200 passenger berths. The ship is scheduled to arrive in America in June of 2010.
Now here is the funny thing - we have heard a lot of comments about the design of this ship. Yes, she seems a bit top heavy with that big block of suites on the forward top decks. But keep in mind that in this picture the ship still needs paint above the hull, that many of the windows are covered in paper, including all of the balcony glass railings, and that the wood decking has not yet been applied. She will look much, much better within a few months.
NCL has been planning Norwegian Epic for many years now. I first heard about the plans for this ship four years ago - back when we were in an economic boom and the company planned to build two of these ships, with an option for a third.
When Apollo Management took over control of the board of directors a few years ago it was decided to scale the project back to just one ship. So, Norwegian Epic will be the sole NCL Mega-ship for many years to come. At the time that decision was made NCL was struggling with profitability and popularity. But ironically, in just the last year we have noticed a distinct turnaround in attitude in CruiseMates readers towards NCL and it is quickly gaining ground as one of our favorite cruise lines. Income profitability has turned around as well.
Why? Most of our readers are saying they especially like the diversity of food options on NCL ships. NCL did away with traditional cruise ship dining way back in 2001 by introducing the concept of "free-style dining." Guests can arrive at the dining room at any time and sit alone or with a different set of tablemates every night. But NCL took this free-style concept a step further and innovated something no other cruise line has yet done, they filled their ships with a dozen different restaurants with various styles of cuisine, some at no cost and some with a reasonable cover charge, giving their guests the chance to have a different dining experience every night.
Despite the obvious advantages of "Free-style" it took a surprising amount of time for the concept to become a real plus for NCL. Most traditional cruisers were used to the idea of rarely paying extra for a meal onboard a cruise ship and many resisted. But over the years more alternative restaurants have appeared on more cruise ships. Having a diversity of options is now more appreciated than ever as cruisers get used to the idea of paying a little extra for exceptional quality food.
In most cases the lower basic cruise fare of NCL cruises makes it so you end up paying about the same for your total cruise as you do sailing on a cruise line with all the meals included. You can sail on NCL for a song and never spend an extra penny on dining, but it won't be as memorable as if you budget for the special dining.
Norwegian Epic will also have a fantastic array of entertainment options. The ship will feature the extremely popular Blue Man Group show which took New York audiences by storm and eventually opened at the Venetian in Las Vegas. If you have not seen this show I have to say it is a personal favorite of mine. I have seen this show four times, the first time in New York City in 1993.
In addition, Epic will have the first "Ice bar" at sea. This is a bar essentially built inside of an ice locker. Everything inside the bar is made of ice from the tables and chairs to the vessels in which the drinks are served. The first of these bars was in Stockholm. It is a truly fun experience and one that is sure to be unique to Norwegian Epic for many years to come.
Keep an eye out for the debut of Norwegian Epic in America this June. You can already book the ship and we especially recommend that you look into our Norwegian Epic CruiseMates Cruise on Oct 30th, 2010. Our prices are great and we will be featuring guest chef Matt Sigel who competed on the popular show "Hell's Kitchen."