Cruises offer up the possibility for a truly unique, one of a kind vacation experience, and few if any cruises can match the excitement and endless possibilities you get aboard the gigantic NCL Epic. This 19 deck, 1,000 foot long behemoth is far and away the largest in Norwegian’s fleet and the third largest cruise ship in the world—capable of carrying more than 4,100 passengers, plus over 1,700 crew members. When it was launched back in 2010, its staggering capacity (rivalling some of the bigger RCL ships) and looks proved most controversial. Whilst love the feeling of safety of sailing on such an enormous passenger ship, others just can’t get past the ‘tower block’ styling and grand scale. Hopefully this review will point out some of the pros and cons.
When you’re talking about a cruise ship this size and with this many people, the first question most people want to know is whether it’s crowded. Well, the answer to that depends on your idea of the word crowded—as there’s always going to be a bit of elbow rubbing when you get that many people together in one place. Nonetheless, despite the high passenger numbers, most people are quite surprised by just how spacious the ship really is. That isn’t to say some areas aren’t quite busy or that you won’t ever have to wait in lines, but the size of the ship ensures that crowding on NCL Epic really isn’t any worse than on any other ship (and actually a lot better than on some cruise lines where they pack you in like sardines).
Epic Caribbean Cruises
Norwegian Epic currently spends approximately half of the year based in Miami, heading out from there for week long cruises through the sparkling blue waters of the western Caribbean. Nearly all of NCL Epic’s Caribbean cruises stop at the port of Ocho Rios in Jamaica, where you can experience outstandingly beautiful beaches and a bit of the laid back Jamaican lifestyle.
In addition to Jamaica, you’ll also usually stop somewhere in a lively Mexican coastal town such as Cozumel and maybe also the Cayman Islands or the Bahamas. All Caribbean cruises aboard NCL Epic depart and return to Miami, giving you plenty of time to explore this fascinating cosmopolitan city as well. Be sure to check out the awesome art deco buildings along the water at the famous South Beach district.
Word to the wise – if you want to experience the Caribbean on board the Epic, you need to act fast, as from 2015 it will be based in Barcelona year round.
NCL Epic European Cruises
During the warmer summer months, Norwegian Epic is based in Barcelona—offering a number of fantastic roundtrip cruises throughout the western Mediterranean, departing and returning that from either Rome or Barcelona depending on which cruise you take. Whether you want a quick whirlwind tour of some of the top sites in Spain and France or you’d prefer spending a week exploring some of the jewels of Italy, such as Venice and Florence—Epic can take you there in style.
Staying Aboard the Epic
Irrespective of the cruise you choose to take and the ports you visit, your days at sea and nights aboard Norwegian Epic are sure to be thoroughly enjoyable. The best part about cruising on a ship as large as this is that you’ll be completely spoilt for choices, and it all begins with the cabins as this ship truly has something for everyone and any budget.
One innovation that has helped to put Norwegian on the map are the cool, funky studio cabins on the Epic—a cruise industry first. Unlike other cruise ships where single passengers often have to pay extra fees, these studios allow single travelers to cruise in comfort without having to overpay. Plus, there’s a communal living room for all the solo cruisers to hang out.
The Epic also features a huge number of other styles of rooms, from standard inside cabins to deluxe suites and more—most of which are decorated in Epic’s signature new wave style. These rooms are pretty stylish by typical cruise ship standards, with curved walls and other original touches. There have been mixed reviews of the decor onboard Epic, but it’s safe to say that the interiors are modern and refreshing – if not quite everyone’s taste.
Although the new wave design definitely turns some heads, it’s the bathrooms on NCL Epic that have really gained the attention. All cabins on the Epic feature split bathroom facilities, with the toilet on one side of the room and the shower and sink on the other that makes everything seem a lot more spacious. On the other hand, both the toilet and shower feature frosted glass doors, allowing anyone in the room to see an outline of whatever is going on within. In other words, the glass bathrooms can leave you a little exposed! Still, if you can get past this, the rooms themselves are among the best and biggest (not to mention well thought-out) you’ll find on any cruise ship.
Onboard Dining, Entertainment and Activities
As you’d expect on such a huge ship, there are almost limitless things to do on board. In fact, NCL Epic has been rated as having the best entertainment options in the industry. For starters, where else can you check out a performance of the famous Blue Man Group while at sea? This fun, lively show has transferred from Broadway and plays eight times per cruise and chimes well with NCL’s main audience – families.
Still, the entertainment doesn’t end there, as Epic also features a number of smaller theatres which play host to comedy shows, Broadway musicals, children’s entertainment and a whole lot more. What’s more, although you do need advance tickets for many of the shows, they’re not hard to come by—despite the large number of passengers. Norwegian Cruise Line have won awards for on-board entertainment and NCL Epic has stood out particularly, gaining the 2011 ‘Best Entertainment’ award
In addition to the outstanding shows, there are a huge number of other activities available, including one of the largest spa facilities in the industry, pools, hot tubs, a casino, game rooms video arcades and more. Of course, all of that non-stop activity is sure to work up an appetite, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to more than get your fill in any of Epic’s complimentary restaurants, buffets, grills, or speciality restaurants. In fact, the dining options aboard this ship are by far the best and most varied of any of Norwegian’s fleet, and surely among the best in the entire cruise industry. Check out our guide to dining on board NCL.
As far as the speciality restaurants go, the star has to be Le Bistro—a modern French bistro with a lovely, romantic atmosphere. Although all specialty restaurants come with an extra charge (usually between $10-25 per person), the exceptional 3 course meal at Le Bistro feels like a great bargain at only $20 per person (excluding wine).
Considering the vast array of options, it’s not hard to see why so many people have been raving about Norwegian Epic. This isn’t to say that some people won’t definitely be happier on a smaller, cozier cruise, but for those looking for a ship that’s fully decked out with all the bells and whistles—sailing aboard this ship is sure to truly be epic.