don't be surprised if some OBC shows up on everyone's account
just be happy the toilets flush
this is a very objective review and you should be complimented...don't be surprised if NCL is monitoring your daily blog entries (that's why it's good journalism for you to pay your own way on this one)
June 26, 2010
Last night in the Living Room there were people meeting for dinner, which I took as a positive sign. Unfortunately, because there has not been a host from the cruise staff in the Living Room since the first night, the singles had decided to meet in another bar (Malts), and some of the people didn’t get the message. So a couple of stragglers were wondering where everyone had gone.
The next morning I made my way to the living room about 9:45, and again no host ands this morning there is nothing here – no coffee, no TV, no food. I’m Sorry NCL, but this room was sold as place for Studio Stateroom denizens to gather and socialize. There is nothing inviting about this room this morning, especially if you have to go elsewhere just to get a roll and coffee.
Now, someone had managed to get a signboard and magic marker for studio singles to leave notes; one said “scrabble? Call Joannie in 12345,” and another said “Swing Dancing at 2:00 – let’s meet” I thought that was a good idea when one of wiser guests suggested it and I suspect he managed to get to signboard. But the absence of food, drink and entertainment in the Studio Lounge this morning makes it seem barren and sad. This idea is either going to work or fail miserably, and it all depends on NCL making sure the living room is maintained by a staff member.
One the other hand, I have to say the Garden Café buffet area is one of the best I have seen on a cruise ship – and that says a lot. There are eight separate waffles stations, and near each on is a tray of freshly created Eggs Benedict with hot Hollandaise sauce – delicious. There are several types of breakfast rolls, hot and cold cereals, all kinds of fresh fruits and even carvers who will make you a custom plate of fruit.
Even more interesting, the indoors English Pub, O’Sheehan’s, serves a breakfast (no charge for food in O’Sheehan’s) with a British theme. It features corned beef hash, an omelet with the works, eggs of any style, optional hash browns and of course beans for breakfast as only the English can tolerate. Word that they serve this breakfast 24 hours had indeed gotten around and it was packed this morning. I have to say this looks like a delicious breakfast, and the idea that you can just walk in, sit where you please (many ships seat you with strangers if you want to eat breakfast in a dining room) and be served a complete, hot breakfast makes this a very attractive morning option.
And that takes me to my next topic – the food on the ship is surprisingly good. My eggs Benedict were hot and the Hollandaise was fresh and tangy this morning. Last night I had to opportunity to dine in the Charascurria with NCL President and Chief Operating Officer, Roberto Martinolli. Now, I don’t have Roberto’s resume memorized and being on a ship it is hard to do research, but Roberto is the cruise “genius” NCL recently stole after his many years of working for Costa and Carnival. Roberto has passenger vessels in his blood, his very grandfather being one of the early shipbuilders in the city of Trieste, Italy, to where I will be flying next month to see Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth in the process in the shipyard.
Robert relayed to me how the Epic launch was extremely complicated, which explains many of the growing pains we are seeing this week. Remember, there were three fires in the shipyard, the last one just days before the ship was handed over to NCL. But Roberto says the first one, about two months earlier, was most devastating. That fire, in a crucial technical passageway, completely ruined 700 different cables of varying kinds. Some cables; phone, and power for example, can be spliced. But some cables cannot be spliced and they had to be pulled all the way from the engine control room to the bridge or elsewhere and replaced.
Then, on the second cruise of Epic the ship developed a bad bearing in an engine that caused an almost eight hour delay in leaving Rotterdam and several hours delay in arriving in Southampton as the ship only sailed about 14 knots. Roberto told us (Doug Ward joined us) that the bearing was a simple problem but they just had no way to fix it in Rotterdam, they had to fly to part to Southampton.
Now, ships are basically floating power plants. They have “turbines” that convert burning bunker fuel to electricity. Epic has six of these and it was in of these that had the bad bearing. Meanwhile, the engines that turn the propellers are powered by this electricity. Si, it was not a propeller shaft that had the problem, according to Roberto, and he even said the ship could have run without that motor with no problem. So, I am still trying to figure out why the ship was only moving at 14 knots and arrived in Southampton late. You see how complicated this is? And you thought my job was easy. In case, Roberto is a very gracious host and certainly knows as much about cruise and other passenger ships as anyone in the world.
Today I have a live interview with Rudy Maxa at 10:40 Eastern time. He is on some 110 radio stations so if you care to look for his station in your area I am sure you can find it on the Internet. Tomorrow he will interview me on KFWB – the CBS station in Los Angeles at 2:00 Pacific time.
We are now in waters 40,000 feet deep. 2518 miles left to go to New York City. Today we are experiencing some high seas; average 9-12 feet, as high as 15 feet; this is the middle of the Atlantic, after all. I won’t say this is a smooth ride, but it isn’t radical enough to need any medicine. I think this ship should ride very well in the Caribbean.
Anyway – the Charascurria was just excellent last night, with one of the best salad bars I have ever had. It is the same salad bar as is offered in Cagney’s Steakhouse. I saw thr blue band in Fat Cats last night and they are hot. Notably, this is not a “Jazz” club as advertised, this act is solid blues, with the leader Slam Allen “tellin’ his story,’ both musically and literally as he talks about playing the blues professionally and gives examples of the styles of his hero’s BB King and Albert King.
I am heading off to see Second City Murder Mystery with author Scott Turow (he is onboard and helped create this entertainment offering) in a few minutes. Then its my interview with Rudy, and I will catch up with you later.
By the way – both the Gibson Guitar rentals and the Legends shows are so far not scheduled to happen during this cruise. Legends has a technical problem that may get sorted out, but the guitars have licensing issues. But by the time of the first Caribbean cruises this should all be fixed. More pictures coming later today.
BBChase - that article you ciet was written in November 2009 - at that time we are all wondering if Oasis would even get its financing. That was at the very bottom of the credit market when no could get any money, but NCL had no choice, they had to pay for ship that was being built.
That is really completely irrelevent today, but an intesting sign of the tines we went through.
I'd like to know how the ship handles the sea, particularly in windy conditions. That massive villa area and the rest of the ship built-up so high looks like it would catch the wind like a giant sail. Also, I'd really like to know more details about the engine and / or shaft issues they had, and are they resolved? Why did NCL go with shaft propulsion as opposed to azipods?
I am a Solo traveler and have been excited since I read an article back in January. Your information just makes me feel better because it is the best information I have been able to find so I figure better to know and be prepared so I can plan accordingly. The pictures for the Solo rooms are great, it is so good to have a visual. I truly hope that they figure out the Living Room because it can be something great if they let it. Have you heard whether they plan on putting a hair dryer and/or coffee pot in the Solo rooms? Please keep the pictures and info coming. I am on for December 17th thru January 1st. and even with the issues you are having am looking forward to the experience:-D
QM2 does have one of these, but it's not very well advertised and only open on sea days.
The Jade also has this feature, but as you said you've not been on that ship so you weren't to know that.
THe RCI 'Voyager' class also have 'Peek-a-boo' bridge where you look down onto the bridge via a window on the front upper deck. However the 'Freedom' and 'Oasis' class don't have them. I don't think the officers like them.
When I was on the inaugural voyage of the Freedom Of The Seas Captain Bill Wright told us they removed the peekaboo bridge because the officers didn't like it. I think he also mentioned security concerns but that was probably just shooting a line.
What has the crowded-ness (I know, not a word) level in the public rooms been? The Epic seems to be a big ship of small public rooms. I know the ship isnt full yet, but can you foresee how 4000 pax will handle the vessel.
Hi Paul, Thank you for taking the time on your sailing to tell about your adventures and about your thoughts. I hope you let the staff onboard know about your suggestions especially regarding the studio living room having a board for leaving notes. Did a passenger just put some type of meeting board up or did the staff put something up? Is it a real board or is it something makeshift? Hotel Director Klaus always welcomes suggestions from his passengers regarding improvements to the passenger experience and I am sure this would get addressed.
I am also glad you finally waited in the living room to meet others. Often times people go to a venue and see an empty room and leave. As you found out, the key is to stay and wait for others to arrive. Maybe a note on the meeting board could be arranging cocktail socials (or maybe through the bartender).
I was surprised to read non studio passengers were walking through the area. Again, this is something the staff onboard would need to know so they can fix. If they do not fix it, then take a look-see up in the courtyard area to see if that is not secured for suite passengers only and report back to us...hehehe.
I think I am on the same future Epic sailing as you. I am new to this cruisemates site although I thought I had joined years ago. Maybe I was just a lurker back then! I enjoy your writing style and your humor. Thanks again for sharing the information.
Enjoy the rest of your adventure!
First off, thanks for sharing your experiences. I do have several questions:
1) Is the shower issue fixed yet?
2) Have you asked if the lack of hair dryers in the studios is a temporary thing (they didn't have time to put them in the rooms) or will there never be a hair dryer in those rooms. If its the latter than they should update what is in those rooms, since I believe they say there are hair dryers and refridgerators and from what I've heard there aren't refridgerators either.
3) Question about the beds in the studios, are they two single beds pushed together or a double bed? I'm wondering if they are two singles, why not take one of the singles out so that there is more room on either side of the bed? I doubt very much there will be too many people sharing a studio.
Sorry, but I will got to all of the questions here anon, and type the answers off line and come back and post them. I need another nap!
I am enjoying my trip now. The number of complaints has been reduced gretly - they are working things out quickly.
As fppr feeling crowded, no, it doesn't, except at showtimes. There is a problem with the venues beinbg too small as I explain in my text below. DO make reservations, but even that will not be enough.
I doubt the beds in a studio stateroom can be sparated, but why anyway? You have to pay the same price to get two separate ones - and they do connect. The other statrooms do not seem to have much room to separate beds, by the way - but they must.
Here is my report...
Sunday – June 27
The Second City Murder Mystery is a lunchtime show along with Second City performing what they call a Murder Mystery. It is essentially jusy a funny show with very little audience interactive beyond what the five person group does in any of its shows – basically asking the audience to shout out a word or ask a question.
The lunch was a cold stuffed chicken breast. Basically, it seems like a fun way for a family to get together for a fun meal; cost $10 per person. I enjoyed it and I was one of the few people to guess who the murderer was based on the very first clue he dropped just a few minutes into the show. But I won’t give it away.
Afterwards I did my first Rudy Maxa radio show, dialing into the States from the ship, then I took a loooong nap, which meant I was wide awake at 9:00 p.m. and could not sleep. I wandered about the ship. I saw some people I met at lunch in the non-reservation line for the 11:00 pm Second City Show so they let me cut in.
Here is what you need to know about Epic reservations; as I said DO make your reservation before you get here. Epic takes a pride in being the first fully free-style ship. This means that there is no venue larger than 680 passengers (the main theater for Blue Man Group and Legends), because the idea is that everyone will be in a different place every night. However, because they do not open the venues even to people with reservations until about 20 minutes before the show, you find everyone lining up as much as an hour before. Those with reservations line up to get the best seats, while another line forms for the 20-30% of seats they do not pre-reserve. Those people start lining up even sooner because all of the reserved seats are filled first, and the rest go to the hoi-polloi.
The program yesterday had a show for a comedian listed to show in the Cirque Theater, which only holds about 200 people. I heard there was a line of 1000 people outside waiting to get in – and no one came along to tell them most of them would never get in. This is why ships should probably continue to have main theaters.
Today the Studio Lounge has working televisions, a host on duty, peanuts on the bar and a blackboard for people who want to meet up. The coffee was hot this morning and they had fresh pastry. I really think this Studio Stateroom idea is going to catch on, but now they just need a little more: A German reader from CruiseMates, named Aviva, just approached me with some suggestions:
“This Lounge is coming along, but the blackboard was my idea. The TVs are good, but the movies in the cabins cost $12 to rent, so they should show the same movies here in the lounge for free. They need more activities here, like a singles host to organize outings and games.”
I suggested they should add some board games and a DVD player. “but the good thing,” I said to Aviva “is that you and I are talking because we both know we are single cruisers and on another ship there is no room like this where we could meet and automatically know we are both open to meeting new people – there is no automatic way to identify other single cruisers on regular ships.”
To which she replied, quite astutely, “Well, I talk to everyone on ships so that is not a problem for me.” Good for her, “and besides they should call us solo cruisers, not single, because that has a bad connotation, and besides, not everyone is single.” Come to think of it, I’m not single. Talking to Aviva I almost forgot that.
Last night I ended up eating a very late night dinner at O’Sheehan’s about 2:00 in the morning. Once again, it is great to have freshly cooked food available 24 hours on a cruise ship. On Princess they keep the buffet open, on Carnival there is a 24-hour pizzeria, and here on Epic they have O’Sheehan’s, the English pub. This is the best of those ideas in my opinion. You can get a tall English bitter at any time. For my late dinner I had chicken wings and pita chips with a tasty, hot spinach cheese sauce. It was hot, freshly cooked, much better than a cold slice of pizza or buffet food from under a heat lamp.
Finally I went to bed and slept until 9:30. I was scheduled to met Roberto Martinolli and Doug Ward again for a tour of the engine room, crew quarters and then lunch in the courtyard suites. I will have some great pictures of the engine room up soon, but once again the line would not let me take pictures of the crew quarters. I am sorry, but I have seen plenty of crew quarters and they certainly have nothing to hide on Epic.
85% of the Epic crew gets to sleep in a private cabin. This is unheard of on cruise ships. Most cruise chips put at least two people in every cabin. This crew has a huge game area with thousands of DVD movies to borrow. There was a drum set and guitar amps, I guess for the crew band to play on. The Internet center looked just like one for the passengers; with about 20 workstations, and the gym had the same brand of machines as the passenger gym; five treadmills, five elliptical, stationary bikes, resistance machines and a complete set of free weights. Oh, and an area for aerobics and yoga.
The crew bar a HUGE with a DJ booth, several flat screen televisions, a great disco lighting system and video games like “Rock Band.”
Next we saw the engine control room, which is always interesting, and we were even taken into the bowels of the ship where the generators create the electricity that powers the ship, including all the power onboard and for the two propulsion motors, the electric motors that turn the two propeller shafts.
Roberto cleared up something I had already posted. The bearing that went bad was, indeed, in a propeller shaft (I thought so). We went to see the exact engine it belonged to. The bad bearing was in the middle internal support for the shaft. It was easy to fix, but they just did not have the right part.
Knut Bakken, director of technical operations told us that Epic burn 3500-3700 gallons of fuel per hour. That is “bunker fuel,” a very low grade petroleum product. All together, the ship can create about 100,000 horse power, 24 megawatts of power.
We donned our helmets, gloves and earplugs and went to the engine rooms. You really have to see my pictures to appreciate this experience. We saw both propeller shafts turning, the motors that drive them and where they go outside to water. We also saw the water desalinization plant where they can produce and store 800,000 gallons of potable water, and about 450,000 gallons are consumed daily. They use a reverse osmosis process.
I am going to post this text now and I will post pictures later. Please check back, the pictures are really worth it.
NOTE: I just a got note from NCL PR on board saying the policy is to open the shows at least 30 minutes before showtime, and that the line for the comedian was more like 250 people rather than the 1000 I had heard from passengers. I guess this is one of the problems of traveling on a ship where the PR department is monitoring what I write - (even though I paid my own way) - now you understand the effusiveness of the first press cruise by the American reporters onboard before me traveling for free.
In any case - policy is important and I hope they stick to that 30 minute policy. I personally witnessed a show that opened to reservations just about 10 minutes before showtime. I really dont see why people with reservations should have to stand in line at all, except that they need to have a staff nenber there to check people in.
In any case - I won't be the final judge of how well this system works - we will hear from future cruisers with their own impressions. I do hope you sail on this ship, it is worth it. Then you can let us know YOUR impressions.
Enjoying the reports Paul. I am a bit bummed to hear about the congestion and the requirements to pre-book the entertainment but with 4500 people I guess it has to be that way. I'll make sure I pre-book for the October cruise but it is going to be a hard task to coordinate times with the rest of the group.
I would think the Epic would use a higher grade of fuel other than bunker diesel. Gas turbine or diesel, while more expensive, is much more "green".
Oh well, from my estimate, based on your numbers, she's getting 39 ft. per gallon at 20 knots. :-D
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For being in 9-ft seas I wouls ssaay the ship is fairly stable, but not like Oasis was. I definitely feel it moving, but we are going top speed through the Atlantic (but the seas have calmed down as well). It is not a bad motiion, though. I am not hearing reports of people getting seasick, you feel the motion, but it is NOT too disagreeable.
The crew is VERY happy on this ship, as i just reported. Their crew area is amazing. I don't know why no cruise line will allow me to take pictures of the crew area - its dumb because it iss so nice.
I have to say the food is really surprisingly good - even inthe included venues. I have been hearing this about NCL for the last year or so, and it is true. This will be tough competition for Carnival and Royal Caribbean (especially).
yes, the rock climbing wall exists. It was beeen very cold outside so there is little action on the open decks.
One thing I need to mention is that there is a bad proiblem with loose water on the pool decks. The childrens area, which occupies a key thoroughfare access point, is leaking water and it is rolling througout the top deck. I see this as an ongoing problem.
I will take pics of the rock climbing and even rapelling wall (or whatever they call it).