By Paul Motter
NCL promised us that Norwegian Epic would represent the epitome of Free-Style cruising; and they didn't lie - this is the least regimented cruise ship ever. In an ironically simple statement, Jeff Garlin, well-known actor from the HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm summed it up with one ad-libbed line while hosting the christening ceremony, "I feel like I'm in a Las Vegas hotel." Exactly! No Las Vegas hotel ever plans to have all of its occupants in the same room at the same time - they have different food and entertainment options running continuously, and so does Norwegian Epic.
Needless to say - this concept wouldn't work if Norwegian Epic didn't execute in the quality of its food and entertainment - and the ship does execute. The food is far better than anyone expected, and in all honesty, when you are on a ship where everyone says "the food is surprisingly good" you know you are onto something. This includes the main dining rooms and the buffet area - both included in the cruise fare. I have heard this is true of the food on all NCL ships, and so I have to say "congratulations" to them - they put a lot of effort into upgrading the food quality and they succeeded.
Without a doubt, the area where Norwegian Epic excels the most is entertainment. The onboard production of Blue Man Group is as good as any Blue Man Group show I have ever seen on land - and that is a rare statement for a cruise ship. This show was a smash hit on my cruise. By the way - I highly recommend getting a reservation and sitting as close as possible - the show is very visual with a minimum of dialog.
Second City, Howl at the Moon and the Slam Allen Blues Band in "Fat Cats" are also top notch. To sum it up - Norwegian Epic entertainment is not just good for a cruise ship - it is great entertainment for any venue, making it the best cruise ship entertainment I have seen. With Epic, cruise ship entertainment has finally attained credibility, and that was even reflected in the attitude of the players in these shows. If Second City comedians couldn't find something to knock about the ship's food or entertainment then you know it is good. And they weren't being censored - they didn't hold back any jokes about the stateroom bathroom design.
Norwegian Epic gets the Blue Riband for "Best Cruise Ship for Singles" because of the combination of the Studio Lounge and the Studio Staterooms with no singles supplement.
I have never seen solo cruisers feeling more at home and included in the cruise experience. With 128 studio staterooms being sold without a singles supplement they are assured plenty of company on every cruise. Even better, they will be able to find their compatriots on every cruise, and that is the biggest obstacle solo cruisers face on any cruise ship - meeting the people who are interested in meeting them.
Solo cruisers need to be together on a cruise ship, but it isn't just the studio staterooms that make this happen, it is the Studio Lounge, the "living room" just for solo cruisers to meet. Early in my cruise the televisions in there were not working, the coffee machine went unfilled and solo cruisers generally just passed through. But by day four the lounge had a nearly full-time hostess, a bartender and a refrigerator stocked with salads, sandwiches and desserts. Every time I went there people were congregating, playing games, making arrangements to meet for drinks, shows and dinner and really having fun.
Now, many of the things that appeared in the lounge did so at the suggestion of people (like me) staying in a studio staterooms. I know NCL was reading everything I blogged during the trip, and generally everything I said the room needed seemed to appear the next day or so. So - here is one last addition, the room needs a telephone so people can call other staterooms, make reservations, etc.
By the way, at first I knocked the idea that the room did not have keyed access as originally advertised, but I now think many singles will opt to pay for a balcony cabin with the supplement fee solely because this will be the best solo cruise ship in service but not everyone will want a studio stateroom. There is no reason why they should be excluded from the solo cruiser activities onboard.
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