With Reba McEntire christening the Norwegian Epic in New York on July 2nd and the ship playing host to a nationally televised Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show, there will be no shortage of visibility for Epic’s inaugural U.S. activities. But industry observers report the ship is not creating the same buzz as Oasis of the Seas, which received blanket coverage of its debut last year.
Cruise Week asked CruiseCritic.com editor-in-chief Carolyn Spencer Brown about the level of interest in Epic on the website’s message boards and stories. “Epic’s design is so innovative and exciting, but it doesn’t seem to be resonating in quite the same fashion as Oasis of the Seas,” Brown replied. She says Oasis not only generated unprecedented advance interest, but it continues to do so. “All Oasis has to do is breathe and people want to hear about it.”
Another perspective on consumer buzz comes from Gene Sloan, editor of USA Today’s Cruise Log: “(Epic) is definitely the ship of the year, and there’s a fair amount of chatter about it at Cruise Log, but I don’t see the buzz as being nearly as hot as with last year’s debut of Oasis of the Seas. Our traffic leading up to and during the unveiling of Oasis was through the roof, and even now Oasis stories continue to draw a heavy amount of clicks and comments from readers.”
Sloan adds that Epic is proving a bit harder to hype than Oasis, which had the easy-to-grasp “biggest ship ever” tagline. “Epic is revolutionary for NCL and has elements that are truly unique for the industry, but….it’s not so revolutionary for the industry as a whole, and that means less buzz among our
While perhaps not quite achieving the media ubiquity of Oasis, national retailers report Epic is attracting above average yields for NCL, and expectations are that will continue. “The June 24th transatlantic is sold out, and we have not discounted the ship at all,” reports NCL Executive V.P. Andy Stuart. “Prices have only gone up, and we expect that to continue.”
Several departures feature a lead price of $659 (lead balcony rates $949) with higher rates on the more popular dates. The new stateroom concept — studios for singles — is running $979 or higher and already sold out on several dates. That’s less than the price for two in an inside stateroom, which pulls in about $1,300, but the per person rate is much higher. CruiseCritic’s Brown notes, “The studio cabins were made for Easy Cruise hipsters with backpacks – but that didn’t sell. Turning them into solo cabins makes lemonades out of lemons.”
NCL has heavily promoted Epic’s big-name entertainment, but some wonder how influential on-board entertainment will be to sales when Epic moves from the Caribbean to Europe effective next May. In Europe the ports of call tend to be more of a draw than the ship itself.
“You’re not going to Europe simply for the ship,” says NCL’s Stuart. “But you can be in the Vatican in the day and see Blue Man Group in the evening. It’s a perfect combination. I doubt anyone is going to pick Epic in Europe because of Blue Man Group, but when looking at the choices, it’s, ‘I get Rome, the Vatican, and Florence, Naples, and Pompeii and the Amalfi coast. In addition to that, I have kids. I can excite them with Fun with Nickelodeon and an expansive water park onboard. And for a couple of evenings in this fantastic environment, I can have choices of seeing Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams, and Legends in Concert.'”