With so much going on, Norwegian Epic is a cruise ship with broad appeal. The ship was one of the first at sea to be referred to as Las Vegas-esque and it's no wonder. With more than a dozen restaurants, shows that range from Broadway to The Beatles, an active casino and outdoor attractions that include water slides and rock climbing walls, there's enough to keep cruisers busy from sunup to well past sundown.
Epic's passengers delight in all the choices; they're onboard to have fun and they do so in spades, though the ship does provide a handful of quiet spots for those looking for a more relaxed vacation. Either way, be prepared to rub elbows with your fellow passengers as the most popular shows, restaurants, bars and activities are always full -- no time for napping on an Epic cruise
As with a visit to any city, Epic's passengers need to plan ahead to make the most of their time onboard. Dinners and shows should be booked ahead of sailing or you may find yourself on the outside looking in. Lines are common, and much of the onboard experience, particularly dining, costs extra.
Besides the families, couples and groups of friends who make up the bulk of Norwegian Epic's passengers, you'll also find a fair number of solo cruisers on the ship. With no supplemental fees for its single studio cabins and a lounge designed to help single travellers meet other passengers, the ship is a standout for solo cruisers.
Unless you're doing something wrong, you won't leave this ship feeling hungry or bored.
Daytime: Casual is the way to go, with shorts, capri pants, jeans, collared shirts, T-shirts and swimwear the norm.
Evening: You'll see women in casual dresses, skirts, and pants and blouses, and men in slacks or "nice" shorts and collared, sports or button-down shirts. On the optional formal night, you'll spot men in jackets, button-up shirts (with or without ties) and women in cocktail dresses and elegant pantsuits.
Not permitted: Beach-style shorts and ripped jeans are not permitted in the main dining rooms.
Day & Night
During the day, cruisers have plenty of choices inside and out. Inside, you'll find everything from trivia and dance classes to an extra-fee bowling alley near O'Sheehan's. Outside are traditional cruise pastimes including shuffleboard, Ping-Pong, basketball challenges and pool games. There's also occasionally movies screened on the large screen in the atrium.
The main theatrical event on the ship is the Broadway show, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Based on the Oscar-winning movie, it's a dazzling production with fabulous costumes and a hit parade of toe-tapping dance floor favorites. Note: It contains adult themes and is not recommended for children or the easily offended.
A second show is "Burn the Floor," with dazzling dance numbers, mainly of the Latin variety; as with "Priscilla," this show may not be for children.
You'll need to book tickets (they're free) for the theatre's headline shows before sailing; any empty seats will be opened to stand-by passengers about 10 minutes before showtime.
When not enjoying main theatre entertainment, Epic's cruisers hit up the bars and lounges in large numbers. The Cavern Club, a recreation of the legendary Liverpool club made famous by The Beatles, is one of the most popular venues; its standing room only when The Beatles tribute band is playing.
For those looking for some dinner theatre action, the colourful Spiegel Tent hosts the nightly Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show for an extra fee. You'll want to go for theatrical entertainment and gravity-defying acrobatics; the food is pretty dull and forgettable.
Other nighttime activities include ballroom dancing, karaoke, comedy, live music and nightclub dancing in the later hours.
With a dozen bars and lounges onboard, you'll easily be able to find a spot to suit your needs. There's even an ice bar to cool you down after a hot day in the sun.
O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill (Deck 6): The sun is always over the yardarm at this 24/7 pub.
Humidor Cigar Lounge (Deck 7): This cosy dark-red lounge has the feel of a gentlemen's club and has a humidor stocked with premium-brand and hand-rolled cigars. It tends to be used in the evening, and the cigar-lovers don't like it if cigarette smokers slip in for a sneaky puff.
Maltings Whiskey Bar (Deck 7): Next to the cigar lounge, this intimate bar has an old-fashioned feel and offers dozens of varieties of Canadian, Irish, American, Welsh or Scotch single malts and blends.
Wasabi Sake Bar (Deck 7): To work up an appetite for dinner at the adjoining sushi restaurant, sip some hot sake or go kamikaze with an Ichi, Ni, San (one, two, three) sake "bomb" downed in one swallow.
Shaker's Martini Bar (Deck 7): This piano bar is a sophisticated spot to unwind with a cocktail or a flute of Champagne.
Svedka and Inniskillin Ice Bar (Deck 7): Undoubtedly the coolest spot on the ship, passengers can literally grab a cold one in the bar where everything -- bar, glasses and stools – is made from ice. Bar-goers are outfitted with cold-weather capes and woollen gloves, and the cover charge gives you a choice of two vodka-based drinks.
Norwegian Epic's outdoor decks are busy and noisy, particularly on sunny sea days. Cruisers of all ages flock to the main pool, with its four whirlpools, while kids love the Splash and Play Zone, a shaded oasis of fountains, wading pools and animal sculptures tucked under the Aqua Park water slides. Note: No diapers of any kind, including those marketed as "swimmers," are permitted in the swimming pools or hot tubs.
Speaking of the Aqua Park, here you'll find the Epic Plunge, in which riders step into a giant funnel before dropping suddenly through a 200-foot-long chute into a pool below. Two other slides are just as wet -- maybe not as wild, but worth the wait.
Loungers around the main pool fill up quickly. There are more located on balconies around the pool, accessed via a staircase, but there is no shade. (Tip: Head further aft to find available seating or check out the nearly hidden -- and frequently uncrowded -- sun deck on Deck 18.)
Those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the main pool area should check out Spice H2O, a tiered stage-like adults-only space with a pool, two hot tubs and plenty of loungers at the back of the ship. The Haven suite passengers have their own private pool on Deck 16.
Other outdoor diversions include a rock climbing wall (33 feet high and 64 feet wide) and an industry-first rappelling wall. The sports complex, on Deck 17, has a full-sized basketball court, bungee trampoline and Slide Spider Mountain, a two-deck climbing cage.
And don't forget the SplashGolf attraction, located in the Splash and Play Zone. This interactive water-based game combines two age-old elements of fun -- water and mini-golf -- and is a top pick for families.
The expansive 31,000-square-foot Mandara Spa features a menu of more than 40 massages, facials, medi-spa treatments (Botox and the like), manicures and more, as well as a thermal suite. Prices are similar to what you'd pay in a large city.
The thermal spa comprises a pool with a selection of water jets and whirlpools; nearby are heated stone beds and an outside relaxation area with loungers. Passes are available by day or for your full cruise; although numbers are limited, the area does get crowded on sea days.
Changing rooms for men and women each have a sauna, which is free to use.
Separate from the spa is a men's barbershop situated at the back of Deck 7 that offers services such as a cut and style or shave with cleansing and exfoliation.
Next to the spa is the supersized Pulse gym, with panoramic windows that offer plenty of ocean and port views. The well-equipped space includes dozens of treadmills, cross trainers, static bikes, fixed and free weights, Swiss balls and kettle bells. There are dedicated studios for spinning classes and TRX suspension training, both of which are used for group sessions that cost extra. Free classes include stretching, Fab Abs and body conditioning. Yoga and Pilates classes cost extra, as does personal training and a three-session boot camp.
The gym area is also used for complimentary seminars and fitness talks, usually aimed at selling a product or additional services.
Passengers can stretch their legs on the outdoor jogging and walking track on Deck 7; 3.6 laps of the circuit measures 1 mile.
Food on Norwegian Epic is good, and you don't need to splurge on extra-fee dining options if you simply want a tasty meal. Service, on the other hand, can be a touch patchy.
Speciality food-lovers can dine out for less by purchasing the Specialty Dining Package, which can be bought online or onboard.
Taste (Deck 5) and Manhattan Room (Deck 6) Restaurants
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
Taste and the Manhattan Room are Norwegian Epic's main dining rooms. Taste is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while the Manhattan Room is only open for dinner. The Manhattan Room has more character than Taste with an Art Deco-inspired New York Supper club feel and a polished dance floor (where professional dancers, rather than passengers, perform three times a week).
Both have open seating -- there are no fixed early or late seatings for dinner.
Breakfast features everything you'd expect in the morning; if you're heading off on a shore excursion, or time is at a premium, opt for the handy express breakfast. Lunch features a variety of dishes, from soups and salads to burgers and sandwiches.
At night, tables are set up for two, four, six or eight people (with larger tables available on request). As there are few two-tops, couples are likely to end up dining with other passengers. The main dinner menu, which is the same in both venues, always features a wide choice of American and international standards, served with a dash of contemporary flair. There is always a vegetarian option.
Garden Cafe (Deck 15)
Meals: B, L, D
Epic's casual dining buffet is a bright area with great views, a logical layout and plenty of made-to-order food stations. Although the ship was pretty full during our cruise, we never had a problem finding a seat, even if it took a bit of looking around. It's worth the walk to find a quieter spot, particularly in the attractive section that stretches across the front of the vessel.
You'll find a full breakfast spread and a lunch that features all manner of options, including excellent Asian and Indian food sections. Food is clearly marked for vegetarians. Dinner is similarly expansive, and there's always a different culinary theme each night at one of the buffet stations, such as "Taste of Asia" or a Mediterranean extravaganza.
O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill (Deck 6)
Meals: B, L, D
O'Sheehan's is always popular and features an emphasis on American favourites and comfort food. It's a nice breakfast alternative to the buffet and dining room but can get busy at lunch and dinner.
Shanghai's Noodle Bar (Deck 6)
Meals: L, D
This bar is the casual sidekick of the adjoining Chinese restaurant of the same name. Seating 15, the venue makes it easy to order: Simply tick the boxes of your choice on the order form, hand it over and wait for the chefs to prepare fresh and tasty noodles, dim sum and stir-fried dishes.
Shanghai (Deck 6):
This dinner-only restaurant serves a selection of pan-Asian fare.
Great Outdoors (Deck 15)
Meals: B, L, Snacks
Steps from the Garden Cafe, and almost poolside, is the Great Outdoors. This extension of the main buffet offers easy access to well-spaced tables, tucked under attractive tent-like canopies.
Spice H2O (Deck 15)
Meals: L, D
On certain days, this adults-only complex offers a lunchtime buffet and from 6 p.m. daily it serves light appetizers.
Pricing was accurate at time of review, but may have changed since.
Le Bistro (Deck 5); a la carte
Savour a taste of France in Le Bistro, a high-end formal and intimate dining venue. The large menu lists the dishes in French, with the English translation beneath. Good luck getting to dessert; the appetizers and entrees are rich and filling.
Cagney's (Deck 7); a la carte
Norwegian's signature restaurant is Cagney's Steakhouse, which shares space with Moderno Churrascaria at the back of the ship. There are some fish dishes, but it's not the place for vegetarians. Two words: Go hungry.
Moderno Churrascaria (Deck 7); $29.95
Across from Cagney's, passadors hauling towering skewers of beef and other carnivore cravings make the rounds at Moderno, an all-you-can-eat meat-fest. Diners are handed a green (for go) chip to put on the table to signal they want more, along with a red chip when they want to halt the feast, perhaps to rustle up some greenery from the large salad buffet.
Teppanyaki (Deck 7); $29.95
Culinary art is the name of the game at Japanese hibachi eatery Teppanyaki. Cruisers sit around a cooking station while the chef serves up equal amounts of food and theatrical effects, including juggling, jokes, singing and other antics.
Yakitori & Sushi (Deck 7); a la carte
If Teppanyaki is not your style, then stop off at the 20-seat a la carte sushi and sashimi bar at the entrance and enjoy Japanese delights in more serene surrounds.
La Cucina (Deck 14); a la carte
Accessed via stairs from the Garden Cafe or an elevator close to the aft cabins on Deck 14, this Italian restaurant is tucked out of the way, and a lovely surprise (once you find it). More casual than Le Bistro and Cagney's it, nevertheless, makes for a nice date-night venue.
Epic's cabin design is unique within the cruise industry. For starters, every outside cabin has a balcony; it also boasts 128 Studios, inside rooms sized and priced for solo cruisers. Most of the cabins (the exception being insides, villas and some suites) also feature a funky "wave" design that people either love or hate -- think curvy walls and rounded queen-sized beds.
The revolutionary bathrooms -- which split the toilet and shower into two separate units, and put the stand-alone wash basin in the main cabin space -- aren't particularly popular (and the line never repeated the design on any other ships). With doors that are translucent, it's a bit awkward if you're travelling with anyone who is not your partner, though couples and travelling companions of a nervous disposition can pull across a drape that effectively shuts off the bathroom area from the rest of the cabin.
One note: Cabins feature a range of lovely lighting effects, including concealed LEDs and backlights. These can appear baffling at first, so check the helpful information card placed in every cabin.
Standard amenities in all cabins include daily steward service and evening turn-down, two twin beds that convert to a queen (except in Studio rooms), a TV, good quality hair dryer, coffee maker, vanity/writing desk and stool. There is ample wardrobe and storage space, along with plenty of mirrors. All rooms have both U.S. and European electrical sockets, but note the plugs are hidden in a cupboard beneath the desk/vanity unit.
Bathrooms feature fixed dispensers filled with liquid soap and combined shampoo/conditioner. A nifty design touch in the bathroom is a concealed basket for used towels beneath the sink (so well hidden that it took us a couple of days to discover it).
Suite passengers have additional benefits, including enhanced toiletries, a bathrobe and slippers, Champagne on arrival and priority embarkation and disembarkation.
Solo: The 128 Studio cabins are each 100 square feet, have a full-sized bed, full bathroom and plenty of storage space for a solo cruiser. The Studio rooms are all located in a two-deck complex (Decks 11 and 12) that also features an exclusive lounge, all of which can only be accessed by keycard.
Interior: The inside cabins all measure 128 square feet. Family inside cabins are located on Decks 13 and 14, near the children's area, and have two pull-down beds.
Balcony: These cabins measure 188 to 251 square feet and can accommodate up to four people. They have panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows leading to balconies that range in size from 37 to 100 square feet. Particularly attractive are the aft cabins with views over the ship's wake.
Mini-suite: These cabins measure 241 to 245 square feet, with balconies measuring 52 to 56 square feet. They feature a luxury bathroom with shower or tub, and a drape can be drawn to separate the sleeping and living areas.
Spa: People staying in Epic's spa cabins get complimentary access to the ship's thermal suite, located inside the spa. Situated on Deck 14, the balcony spa cabins measure 203 to 230 square feet, with 52- to 79-square-foot balconies. Mini-suite spa staterooms are 241 to 245 square feet, with 52- to 56-square-foot balconies. Both of these cabin categories can accommodate up to three people, but it should be noted that passengers under the age of 18 are not allowed in the ship's thermal suite.
At 322 square feet, The Haven spa suites are the largest spa cabins and accommodate two passengers. They feature a queen-sized circular bed, an ensuite hot tub, butler and concierge service and access to The Haven's private pool, lounge, restaurant and bar.
The Haven: The Haven is a 60-suite "ship-within-a-ship" complex and an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the main decks. Located on Decks 16 and 17, the space also includes a private pool, two whirlpools, a gym, a sun deck and a private restaurant. All Haven passengers benefit from butler service and private amenities including a pool, a sun deck, a lounge, a restaurant, a bar and a gym.
Courtyard Penthouse: The smallest suites in The Haven, these cabins are 319 to 322 square feet, have balconies that measure 81 to 84 square feet and hold just two people.
Family Villas: These two-bedroom suites are 504 square feet, have two bathrooms, a living room and a dining area and can accommodate up to six people. The balcony measures 54 square feet.
Owner's Suite: The ultimate splurge is the Owner's Suite, which accommodates up to four people and measures 852 square feet with a balcony of 121 square feet. It features a separate bedroom with a king-sized bed, a living room, a separate dining area and a bathroom with a separate shower and a whirlpool tub.