If it were possible for Norwegian Epic to dock right on the Las Vegas strip, it would fit right in. With its vast array of dining and drinking locations, entertainment and activity choices, the ship is the closest the industry has come to emulating a Sin City resort.
It all begins with the sprawling three deck expanse on decks five, six and seven; wherever you walk there are dining, drinking, and entertainment options. The casino is situated in the middle of the three decks, a hub from which entertainment, dining, drinking and shopping options radiate out.
Most of the other public facilities are on decks 14 and 15. The pool area on deck 15 is crowded with three great waterslides and the Aqua Park. Deck 15 is also home to the Spice H2O pool, bar, and grill area for adults only. For some, this will be an important part of the equation as it’s really the only even semi-quiet spot on the ship. At the opposite end is Garden Café/Great Outdoors offering buffet-style indoor and al fresco dining. Deck 14 houses the huge gym and Mandara Spa; as well as most of the children’s facilities known as Recess.
The line-up of restaurants on Norwegian Epic is more extensive than on NCL’s earlier Freestyle ships in two ways: there are more of them and some of the previous ones have been enlarged. While there is no longer one main dining room, attractive smaller rooms like the Manhattan Room and Taste have separate menus and do not come with a surcharge. Eleven of the 21 restaurants are included in the cruise fare.
Much has been written about the entertainment on Epic, and it’s as good as everyone says, including the amazing Cirque Dream and Dinner and Blue Man Group. The Cirque show is nearly two hours, with a reasonable surcharge of $15/$20 per person for the dinner version. For those who do not want dinner, seats on the circular balcony actually may provide a slightly better perspective. Add in other evening options such as the Second City comedy troupe, the Legends in Concert performance, jazz club, comedy club and more, and Epic’s entertainment really does stand out.
The private enclave Courtyard Villa complex occupies the forward section of Decks 16, 17 and 18. Sixty suites and villas make up the courtyard along with extensive private facilities: lounge, restaurant, bars, gym, pool, whirlpools, concierge and sunning areas. It’s as if the penthouse area of a Vegas hotel has gone to sea. This is the place for clients who want the best of accommodations and pampering.
The Courtyard complex on these upper decks is what creates the boxy-looking forward portion of the ship. NCL may not have created a sleek, traditional ship design, but to make this area happen, something had to give.
The rest of the accommodations take up all of decks 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 as well as part of deck 14- with spa suites adjacent to the Mandara Spa. All outside rooms have private balconies. Most of the rooms have the much discussed “wave” design and unusual bathroom set-up. The walls of most of the rooms have a curved approach with the bed tucked into the wall, and the sofa extending out into the room.
There have been a lot of negative comments about the separation of the shower, toilet and sink. The first two have frosted, sliding glass doors and a curtain that can be pulled in front of them to create a bit of a private space. The sink is small and set between the toilet/shower area and the bed. It’s got a large faucet that makes using the sink a bit awkward – word is a new design is already on the way.
There is some truth to the line’s position that having separate facilities makes it possible for more than one person to use them at a time. It’s innovative to be sure and clients just need to be informed of this in advance so they are not surprised.
Perhaps the best rooms on the ship are the aft-facing New Wave Balcony Staterooms and Penthouses. But the 100 Studios on Decks 11 and 12 now being sold as single cabins are earning plenty of attention. While they are essentially inside rooms, the design of these 100 square foot cabins is exceptionally efficient, with clever sliding doors over the wardrobe, TV and shelf areas. The beds are actually doubles instead of twins; the latter would have made for a more spacious appearance.
Norwegian Epic advances the concept of what a ship can be in that it really is a floating Vegas-style hotel. Agents need to explain this to first-timers, as well as offering advice on how they can go about making restaurant reservations, book some of the shows in advance and decide just how much of everything they want to do.