Traveled on: 06/24/2010
Reviewed on: 10/29/2010
Review: Norwegian Epic seems to have caused a bit of a stir recently, so let me throw in my $0.02 worth. I was aboard for the seven-day
maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The random jottings below
reflect one person's opinion about the ship on one particular voyage.
Much of what I have read has been quite negative, mostly
about the ship's appearance, and I have to agree that externally she is
no great beauty.
Let me back up for a moment. A couple of months ago I dropped in on John
Lang of The Cruise People here
in Toronto to make arrangements for a visit to Scotland. On seeing the
dates for my proposed visit, he advised going over by plane and
returning on Norwegian Epic's maiden voyage, Southampton to New York. As
I would be travelling alone, he suggested a studio cabin in the ship and
obtained one for me at a very advantageous rate. Even though I tend to
travel in smaller and often obscure ships (e.g. Nordik Express, Le
Vacancier), I thought that seven days on the Atlantic would be
preferable to seven hours in a chartered aircraft.
And so it was that I found myself at Southampton on the morning of June
24, ready to board. Lining up for security took about 45 minutes, then
check-in and waiting to board took about another 30 minutes. I found my
studio cabin (12552) readily enough and before long my suitcase arrived.
Now for a few words about the studio cabin.
It measured about 100 square feet and had an extremely large (and very
comfortable) bed, described by someone as queen size. Originally, the
cabin was meant for two occupants but wiser heads prevailed and the
roughly 120 identical cabins were re-assigned as singles. Just as well,
in my opinion; two people in this cabin would be one too many. The bed
dominated the cabin. One side was flush with the corridor wall and the
other side had only about 12 to 15 inches clearance between the bed and
the furniture unit on the opposite wall. The shower, the toilet and the
wash basin were in three separate locations but very close to each
other. The shower unit was somewhat small, and people of largish
dimensions could have difficulty fitting themselves in. Soap and
shampoo came in gel form from wall-mounted containers. The fittings were
modern, the water was hot and the towels were thick. There was
sufficient space to hang clothing but space for other articles of
clothing was very limited and the shelving was not particularly deep. In
fact, there were no actual drawers but simply shelves--but not enough of
them. When I tried to stow my suitcase under the bed, I came across two
largish wicker baskets which could, I suppose, be used to hold clothing.
The wall unit contained the two clothes closets, the flat-screen
television, the safe, shelves for towels alongside the wash-basin, a
tiny table (with a tray that contained an ice bucket and two glasses and
took up most of its space) and a small stool. The ship offered a
continental breakfast in the cabin, but I wondered about the
practicality of removing the tray, bucket and glasses and placing them
on the floor in order to leave space on the table for breakfast.
Besides, the table and stool would have to be removed to a more central
area in the cabin for breakfast to be eaten. The 12 to 14 inches between
bed and table would have made it impossible to consume breakfast at the
table's original position.
Surrounding the wall unit were strips of semi-concealed lighting that
changed from green to red to pink to blue and to yellow for no
discernible reason. Someone informed me that certain buttons could be
pushed to alter the colours, but my thought was, who really needs these
colours to begin with? That reminds me, the reading lights were
insufficient for anyone who likes to read in bed.
The television set was in the wall unit but the only practical place to
watch it was when in bed.
In spite of the above comments, I like the concept of a single cabin. I
got down on my knees to inspect the huge bed and found that it consisted
of two actual bed frames. If the bed could be reconfigured as a single,
it would leave considerable space in the cabin and make it more suitable
for single occupancy.
The single cabins, all inside, are spread over Decks 11 and 12, and
there is a two-deck high lounge for the occupants. During my voyage, the
lounge was staffed on most occasions by a stewardess or bar tender.
Coffee and pastries were always available. Cabin occupants appeared to
make good use of the lounge for socializing. A flip-over chart on an
easel contained messages each day (for example, Does anyone want to dine
with me this evening at Taste Restaurant? Anyone for Scrabble?)
Knowing that on a maiden voyage I would likely encounter some problems
in service or elsewhere, I have to state that those that affected me
were few, of a minor nature and were solved in short order. For example,
the lock of my cabin door did not function properly. I notified the
stewardess and within three minutes (I timed it) someone showed up and
adjusted it right away.
Norwegian Epic has numerous dining venues, some included in the fare,
others with an additional charge. Occasionally for breakfast and usually
for dinner I visited The Manhattan Room, which looked like a traditional
cruise-ship dining room, large and with windows on three sides. It is
certainly a handsome room, one of the most attractive I have seen on any
ship, and I was always able to get a table to myself (which was also
true of the other dining areas I used). I did not count the tables for
two in the various rooms, but at a guess, there were more than could be
found on other large cruise ships. I should point on that on her maiden
voyage Norwegian Epic carried 3,300 passengers, well below her full
capacity of around 4,200.
The food during my voyage was entirely satisfactory at the six locations
where I dined, two with surcharges, four without. While the cuisine was
not, say, of the standard of Oceania Cruises, it was still completely
acceptable. There was always a good choice of dishes, some of which
appeared on the menu for that particular day only and other more or less
standard dishes that appeared on each day's menu. The tables were
attractively set and the waiters and waitresses provided smooth,
efficient and friendly service. Sometimes I had breakfast or lunch in
the self-service Garden Cafe on Deck 15 where there was always a really
wide variety of dishes, and once again the food was well prepared and
tasty. I noticed that even at breakfast time the napkins were linen and
One evening I had dinner at the Moderno Churascarria Restaurant ($18),
Brazilian-style cuisine, and another evening I dined at La Cucina ($10),
Tuscan-style food. Both were very good but not exactly memorable.
Now for a word or two about the dress code. The daily programme says
"Dress Code. Stay relaxed throughout the evening. Resort Casual is
allowed in all our dining venues. Shorts are permitted in all outlets
except The Manhattan Room, Cagney's and Le Bistro after 5:00 p.m. Shoes
and shirts must be worn, no tank tops, flip flops or baseball caps!"
A frequent comment about mainstream cruise ships is the number of
public-address system announcements. Norwegian Epic's announcements were
not excessive in my opinion. They usually consisted of reminders about
art auctions (I have heard that art auctions on some ships are on the
way out, but I cannot confirm this) and bingo. The ship had passengers
whose native tongues were French and German, so announcements were also
in these languages. The captain spoke from the bridge each day.
Norwegian Epic does not have a complete walk-around deck. However, Deck
7 on the starboard side had a jogging track, 3.8 times around being
equal to one mile. The port side of Deck 7 offered shuffleboard set-ups.
It also had some deck chairs set out, but the Atlantic weather was a bit
chilly for sitting out on an open deck, even though the seas were
Norwegian Epic has a very large casino with all the usual games of
chance. Smoking is allowed in the casino and also in the cabins. The
ship's photographers were unobtrusive. They did not, for instance, enter
the dining room and go from table to table, to photograph the diners.
Photos were priced at US$9.95 and $19.95. Images were sharp; colours
looked true. Some cruise lines no longer carry photographers, I hear.
There was no ship's newspaper but television provided news from the BBC,
Sky, CNN and MSNBC. There is no library. If it counts for anything,
there was no piece of chocolate on my turned-down bed in the evening but
my cabin stewardess unfailingly twisted towels into animal shapes night
after night after night.
Entertainment looms large in Norwegian Epic. The Blue Man Group (very
original) and the Second City troupe (moderately amusing) drew large
audiences. Reservations can be made for their performances but there is
no charge for admission. There are also several other kinds of
entertainment (jazz, pop, comedy, etc.).
I do not know how much Norwegian Epic cost but it appears that no
expense has been spared. Decor, furnishings and the like set a high
standard. There are many activities for children, particularly on the
The ship arrived punctually at New York but disembarkation took longer
than expected. It seems that Homeland Security and maybe other
government agencies caused an unanticipated delay in allowing the
passengers to go ashore.
And so ends my account. It was, all things considered, a very pleasant
voyage. I expect that NCL knows its market and that Norwegian Epic will
have a successful career.
Traveled on: 04/05/2008
Reviewed on: 05/19/2008
Review: On Jan 26, 2008 my wife and I booked a 12 night cruise on the NCL Gem
out of New York to the Eastern Caribbean with another couple. It was
great to be on a new ship to some new destinations. The cruise was great
and we had a good time. Our only complaints were minor ones, no ship
pins were available and one of our Latitude treats was never delivered
to our cabin. While on the ship we availed ourselves of the $250 deposit
special, where you could get a $100 credit on your current cruise and
use the $250 deposit for a future cruise within two years. We noticed
that the NCL Jade (a renamed Hawaii ship) would be leaving around the
same time next year from NY to the Western Caribbean, a destination that
is not really available from NY. We planned on using the deposit for
this future cruise. Upon arriving home a group of friends and relatives
asked us to join them on the NCL Gem for a 7 day cruise out of NY to FL
and Nassau. Since we had a good time on the Gem in January we decided to
book on this April 5, 2008 cruise. The deposit would have to wait to be
used next January.
Well our good time experience turned into a bad time experience. The
Saturday we left NY we booked a dinner in one of the free specialty
restaurants, La Cucina. On our January cruise we were never able to get
a reservation in this restaurant until the last night. I was happy to
see we were able to get in the first night without any problems
especially since I raved about the food, service and the fact that there
was no charge involved like the Bistro or Cagney's Steakhouse. Well
guess what happened at the end of the meal? Our waiter came over and
asked who was paying for the meals. Boy was I embarrassed to find out
that there was now a charge for the previously "free" restaurant.
Needless to say I paid the bill, which according to the NCL daily
newsletter should have been half price, but wasn't. At our second
Latitudes party (for silver, gold, & platinum repeat customers) I
managed to corner the Hotel Director, Prem. He remembered me from our
January cruise since I had requested the use of a spa massage table for
a Reiki session for a relative who has cancer. He was very accommodating
then, this time however when I mentioned how embarrassed I was to find
out that both of the "free" restaurants, ie the Italian and Mexican, now
charged a fee, his answer was "since the other ships do it we have to
do it". Wrong answer. If he was in Atlantic City or Vegas he would have
been fired for such an insensitive comment. He didn't even apologize or
indicate he was sorry to see us put on the spot in front of our guests.
I don't expect a free cruise or some other miracle, but it would have
been thoughtful if he had offered a bottle of wine or a free drink at
dinner. We also talked to Captain Frank and asked why the ship had
changed its itinerary by dropping the port of Key West and replacing it
with Freeport? His answer was just as bad, saying "that when the trip
was first advertised they thought they could make it back to NY on time,
but then realized that they could not" This sounds like more BS. The
more likely reason was that the increase in fuel prices would cause them to burn more fuel to increase the speed of the ship on it's return trip.
The Captain also indicated .."that there were more changes that would
take place in the future." Since he was unable to elaborate, I can only
gather that these changes will not be for the better.
Other little points to ponder about the NCL Gem were obtained from past
cruisers at the Latitudes Party and include: There are still no NCL Gem
pins available for guests who have been on other NCL ships and like to
collect them. There were a good number of complaints about there being
charges for dining in the all of the specialty restaurants especially
the ones that had been "free" in the past. The fees at the Bistro and
Cagney's were also increased by another $5 on this cruise. Another interesting complaint was that the free movie channel is gone. You were able to watch a first run movie in your cabin and a schedule was provided in your welcome aboard literature. The "free" movies are now gone, replaced by a pay per view channel. I heard several parents complaint that the "Cartoon" channel was taken off the air once we were at sea. This forced them to buy a pay per view movie in the evening for their children to watch. It wouldn't be so bad they said if the price of the movie was $3.99 that you pay to rent a movie at Blockbusters, or from your cable or satellite company, but the price on the ship was $12.99 per movie.
What a rip off was the overall feeling. Probably the most sensible
comment was made concerning the food on NCL's private island, Great
Stirrup Cay. Every person who went to the food pavilion on the island
was appalled by the number of fly's that landed and walked on the food
as soon as it was placed in the serving trays. You couldn't get back to
your beach chair to eat anything without being surrounded by a swarm of
fly's. They should rename the private island Fly Island, it was truly
disgusting. It looked like there was more food thrown out than was
The last comment concerns the "Quest", an adult treasure hunt that took
place on the last night of the cruise. We told my daughter and her
husband that they should see it, since some pretty funny things happen
during the Quest. At the end of the Quest the cruise staff totaled up
the score and announced the top three teams. When they got to the first
place team they made a big joke that their prize was absolutely nothing.
There was nothing to give out. Now I have seen the Quest before and on
other ships. The winning team and even the 2nd and 3rd place teams had
always received something small, whether is was a pen, cup, keychain or
even a tee shirt. In this case the there were no prizes, not even for
the first place team. The cruise staff just about called the customers
jerks for playing the game and they weren't giving any prizes out to the
jerks who played. They really had a good laugh about this.
My opinion of NCL has changed dramatically to that of a company that
wants to squeeze the last cent out of the customer and isn't there to
provide anything unless they can charge for it. What about my cruise
next January on the NCL Jade. Forgetaboutit! The Jade has been
transferred to the Med, the Gem will be back in NY making a one night
cruise to nowhere and then an 11 night cruise back to the same old tired
ports in the Eastern Caribbean. Why didn't they just leave the 12 night
cruise that they had originally advertised?
Do you know how I can get my $250 deposit back? NCL can keep the $100
credit they gave me and refund the $150 difference. A letter to the
President has gone unanswered. I don't think I'll be sailing with NCL in
the future. They may call their cruise experience "Freestyle", but
believe me, nothing aboard their ships are free.
Traveled on: 09/14/2003
Reviewed on: 10/15/2003
Review: The NCL cruise on Star was the best ever! We did the Hawaii cruise and we love freestyle cruising. We ate at different times and in different resturants, we never had a bad experience. Our balcony room was awesome and the service was great. It would have been nice to spend more time in ports but we really like Fanning Island. We have been on several cruises but we would definitely cruise on NCL again. Also, kudos to Danny from Nationwide Cruises, he was a lifesaver on many occasions during the planning of this cruise.