There are several indications that Norwegian Cruise Lines will not let Norwegian Epic be the last word in NCL ships for long. Several sources have hinted of plans by NCL to order at least two new-design ships with an option for a third. The Seatrade organization is reporting that the ships will be "post-Panamax" (too big for the current Panama Canal) but smaller than Norwegian Epic.
The first real hint that NCL is ready to build new ships came during last July's media cruise on Norwegian Epic in New York where CEO Kevin Sheehan said that "[economic] conditions are right" for a new ship order by NCL, including that the news would "supply the sizzle" for an NCL stock market initial public offering.
The concept of new ships was also confirmed to me personally in an email last July from former Executive Vice President Roberto Martinoli who said he was leaving his full-time position with NCL but remaining "On a permanent basis to oversee the newbuilding for NCL." Roberto's specialty is building new ships and the fact that he is still in the NCL loop indicates NCL is serious about going forward.
While Norwegian Epic, the newest NCL ship, is currently sailing out of Miami, there are plans to move the ship to Barcelona for the summer of 2011. Now, that date is too soon for a new ship to be built and take its place, but it does portend that NCL is eager to test the Epic design in Europe and possibly move it there on a permanent basis some day.
The rumors further say the ships will be built in the Meyer Werft shipyards in Germany instead of the STX shipyards in France where Epic was built. While the German Meyer Werft built seven of the ships currently in the NCL fleet, there was a serious falling out with that French shipyard during the building of Norwegian Epic, which for many years was known solely as the "F3 Project."
The F3 project was originally announced as far back as 2006 when the line was negotiating with STX Finland who declined because the 2007 deadline was too close. The original order finally placed with STX in France in 2007 was for two ships, the first to be delivered in May, 2010, with an option for a third F3 ship.
In fact, a cruise line rarely builds a "one of a kind" ship as Norwegian Epic is slated to become. But the Apollo Management investment group bought a 50% interest in NCL from Star Cruises of Malaysia later in 2007 and took control of the board of directors. The board first cancelled the option for the third ship in September, 2008. Then a rumor circulated to NCL insiders that the entire F3 Project was canceled, which turned out not to be true, but certainly put some fear into the shipyard.
In October, 2008, without any previous public comments concerning the project, the STX shipyard announced that they were halting construction on both F3 ships and looking for a new buyer for the partially completed first ship. Reportedly both Royal Caribbean and MSC took a look, but the design was too far-fetched for other cruise lines. When no buyers came forth the ship yard was apparently forced to re-negotiate with NCL.
In December, 2008, NCL officially limited the F3 project to just the one ship already under construction. Yet another rumor said NCL paid a $133 million dollar "kill fee" for cancelling the second ship (100-million Euros), but Roberto Martinoli, whose specialty is relations between shipyards and cruise lines, told me last July that the "kill fee" was not that much.
In any case, while there are reasons Norwegian Epic will not have any sister ships, that isn't a reason to dislike the ship. It is certainly well worth a cruise as long as you understand that you should make show reservations before you sail and that the staterooms have certain design anomalies.
Norwegian Epic is still a ground-breaking ship in a number of areas, especially for single cruisers and in the entertainment realm. When the ship has aged a few years and the fares drop it will possibly become a popular ship with a certain set of cruisers - much like the old Norway.
In the end, NCL is basically a good company that most people just believe "can't seem to catch a break." Let's hope the future NCL ships return to what has made the rest of the fleet more popular in recent years. There are "indications" that they will.
I have a few comments on some of what was presented. The Epic is already sailing for a relatively cheap fare as it is. Secondly, the Norway was one of the best ships of her era. I would argue that Epic is one of, if not thee, worst ships of the current era. Most of the comments I have read and past NCL passengers I have met, have no intension of returning to the Epic. The Epic seems to be a "onetime experience" type of vessel; which may explain: why no other cruise line was interested in having her.
You know Paul, the Epic has an 2011, 11 night transatlantic; (with only one stop, in the Azores) would you want to return for a second go around? Being that we both have done what there is to do, what would keep us from being board out of our mind, for 11 days???
I'm glad that NCL may get back into the newbuild market. I am excited to sail on the Epic in October. The dining and entertainment options sound like the best of any ship of almost any fleet.
It is also nice to know what issues I may encounter before I sail and that I can pre-plan around them and will not be blindsided by some of its cabins shortcomings.
I do believe that NCL made some pretty big mistakes in the design of Epic but the concepts are groundbreaking and innovative. A chance at incorporating the positives of Epic and eliminating the negatives in a newbuild will give NCL one heck of a ship.
I'd do the 11 night trans-Atlantic in a heartbeat. I know for a fact there would be no-way I could be bored in that amount of time. Even if I had just sailed her in October. My greatest concern is that I will not truly be able to appreciate the dining and entertainment options in just seven days.
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The Epic will be for me, really a new experience, between leaving my much loved, traditional dining behind, as well as my much loved, traditional bathroom design as well.
I will agree with Mike, if they weed out the bad[bathroom] for one,and repeat the good, as well as implementing some more great designs and dining and entertianment options, they will be great ships...
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I have to agree with Mike and stand by my point - I realize that many experienced cruisers would not enjoy Epic, especially more than once. But I am personally glad that I saw the ship and I still think it has the best entertainment of any cruise ever built.
Would I want to repeat it? not yet. Obviously I have that chance with our upcoming CruiseMates Cruise but I was just on it two months ago.
However, I still think it will find a market with certain perople who enjoy penny-slots, really fun rock-oriented stage shows (like Legends, Fat Cats and Howl at the Moon) and comedy (Second City) and of course Blue Man - those are ALL good shows that I would like to see on other ships.
The ship appeals to a 30 y.o. crowd far more than most, I think. Especially singles.
I still think the fares will drop lower - you can cruise on Carnival starting at $399/week now. When Epic is in that range, with Studios going for $599 I think the ship will sell well.
They might have to do some things to make the ship better. Ironically, they would be better off DROPPING some of the entertainment - say "Legends at Seas" to give everyone a chance to see BMG (but they would have to do the show 5 nights instead of 4). But in Vegas they do the show 6 nights/week, so it can be done.
I think Epic will find a niche someday, as I said - younger people who want discos, water slides, interactive rock & roll shows, etc.
Plus I do think it is worth seeing once at the right price. Like you may not want to live in NY City (crowded & costly), but it is fun to visit.
What I mean, is that the average person will want to see the Blue Man Group once, as well as the other shows. If one has seen them before on land, that what is the point? Personally I was board over my 7 nights, however I was never board on my 13 night Adventure transatlantic. What can I say, once you have seen the shows what more is there to do?
At the prices you are thinking of, the Epic would be a good deal, however for a little bit more, you can experience RCCL's Voyager/Freedom Class. That's where I would spend my own money.
It is sort of sad for NCL, that it's Flagship will need to be so fully discounted; while it's main competitor RCCL is, shall we say "Making Bank" with Oasis. So in a little while NCL Epic flagship will command (basic inside double occupancy)around $57 per person/night: on a ship that cost over a Billion Dollars. Te cost of this ship is all on debt right? How can NCL even hope to break even??
It's a great saying (thinking of both SFO & JFK) "it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there".