There were fears that Norwegian's Epic, a groundbreaking ship in its own right, would be overshadowed by the blizzard of publicity that welcomed Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. But NCL Executive V.P. Andy Stuart says the success of Oasis is not only helping to float the Epic boat, it's allowing the whole industry to ride a little higher.
“Oasis has clearly had an excellent introduction with very positive feedback about most aspects of the ship,” he says. “I think the timing of Epic relative to Oasis is positive, as there is tremendous buzz around new ships at the moment, buzz which had quieted down a little in recent years as so many new ships were introduced. Oasis and Epic have reignited that buzz.”
One important aspect, as Stuart and others point out, is that issues associated with boarding and disembarking a ship the size of Oasis have faded away since RCI has demonstrated a very competent system. “Questions around size have been well answered by Oasis,” he says.
Epic doesn't have the luxury of a brand-new terminal like Oasis, but NCL officials assure that the embark/disembark process has been customized to Epic needs. “For some time, we have been developing our online check-in capabilities to minimize the need to line up at the pier,” says Stuart.
NCL is working with the Port of Miami to convert two existing piers to support check-in for Epic. Passengers are directed to one of the two piers based on their fore or aft cabin location. “Essentially, we’re using two facilities that are currently being used simultaneously for two ships and 5,000 passengers into one facility for Norwegian Epic,” says Stuart.
Another enhancement is coming: passengers will soon no longer need to provide their credit card details on arrival at the pier. “We have invested in technology that will allow us to pre-authorize the credit card during the online check-in process,” says Stuart. “This eliminates what is probably the most time-consuming remaining step that takes place at the pier today.”
Agents tell Cruise Week that Epic appears to be attracting a premium over other NCL ships. Stuart confirms the impression.