cruises

Norwegian Epic Cruise Review

Norwegian Epic is a huge ship that is great for families and does a particularly good job catering to the solo traveler.

July 30, 2011
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Introduction

Unveiled in 2010, the Norwegian Epic is Norwegian Cruise Line's newest and by far largest cruise ship (it's more than 60% larger than any other Norwegian vessel). Bigger than all but a handful of Royal Caribbean ships, it offers an extensive array of restaurants, bars, showrooms and other activity areas, including a massive water play area with some of the largest water slides at sea, a rappelling wall (the first at sea), a large rock climbing wall and several bowling alleys.

Taking a page from the playbook of Las Vegas' top resorts, Norwegian also has loaded the Norwegian Epic with big-name entertainment, including such well-known icons of Las Vegas as the Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert. Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe also has a permanent show on the ship, and the vessel offers an elaborate circus show created by theatrical impresario Neil Goldberg's Cirque Productions in what's billed as the first "big top" at sea.

Built with a squarish block of cabins at the forward part of its top, Epic has an unusual appearance, not at all like an old-fashioned cruise ship. This area contains The Haven, a private enclave that has its own pool area, restaurant, bar and concierge. Epic also has an unusual complex of 128 single-occupancy cabins called the Studios that includes a private lounge where singles can meet and mingle. All told, the ship accommodates 4,100 passengers at double occupancy (with room for more if every pull-down bunk and pull-out sofa in every cabin is occupied).

Gene Sloan's Opinion on the Norwegian Epic

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Norwegian Epic is a big, lively ship that will appeal to a wide range of vacationers. Families, in particular, will appreciate the vessel’s large deck-top water slides, extensive children’s play areas and family-friendly shows (my own kids howled with delight at the slapstick Blue Man Group production in the ship’s main theater). Nightlife-seeking vacationers will love its wide array of clubs and bars that stay open late (music lovers shouldn’t miss Fat Cats jazz and blues lounge, particularly if the crowd-pleasing Slam Allen is in the house). And cruising newcomers who are fearful of an overly structured experience — the kind where passengers are assigned to a particular restaurant table at a particular time each night for dinner — will enjoy Norwegian’s industry-changing focus on eat-when-you-want, where-you-want “freestyle” dining. This is taken to an extreme on the ship with more than a dozen restaurants (while diverse, the cuisines offered, alas, are sometimes spotty in their execution, as the reviewer we had on the ship has noted within this review).

If Epic has a major flaw, it’s in the design of its standard ocean-view and balcony cabins, which have been widely criticized for poor lighting, oddly broken-up bathrooms and other deficiencies. That said, Epic also boasts rare and wonderfully designed single-occupancy cabins, perfect for solo travelers looking for a big, mass-market ship. And Epic’s exclusive “ship-within-a-ship” complex of suites called The Haven is perfectly tailored for someone who can afford luxury but, for whatever reason (traveling with kids; prefers lively vessels), wants to be on a mega-ship.

Gene Sloan writes about cruising for USA TODAY, the nation’s top-selling newspaper, and oversees USA TODAY’s online cruise site, The Cruise Log. Sloan’s stories also are distributed by the Gannett News Service to more than 80 other U.S. newspapers with a combined circulation of more than five million, including the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Detroit Free Press, and The Arizona Republic.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Cabins
  3. Studio
  4. Haven Deluxe Owner's Suite w/Balcony
  5. Haven 2-Bedroom Family Villa with Balcony
  6. Haven Courtyard Penthouse with Balcony
  7. Haven Spa Suite with Balcony
  8. Mini-Suite with Balcony
  9. Spa Balcony
  10. Family Balcony
  11. Inside Room
  12. Cabin Amenities
  13. Dining
  14. Manhattan Room
  15. Taste
  16. Garden Cafe
  17. Great Outdoors
  18. Shanghai
  19. Noodle Bar
  20. La Cucina
  21. Le Bistro
  22. Teppanyaki
  23. Moderno
  24. Spiegel Tent
  25. Wasabi
  26. Cagney's
  27. In-Room Dining
  28. Drinks
  29. Pools & Decks
  30. Pool Areas
  31. Sun Decks & Open Areas
  32. Deck Plans
  33. Recreation
  34. Lounges & Public Spaces
  35. Mandara Spa
  36. Fitness
  37. Retail
  38. Other Activities
  39. Nightlife & Shows
  40. O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill
  41. Spice H2O
  42. Waves
  43. Bliss
  44. Casino
  45. Shows & Other Entertainment
  46. Service & Staff
  47. Staff & Ship Policies
  48. Health & Safety
  49. vs Carnival Magic
  50. vs Freedom of the Seas
  51. Conclusion
  52. vs Norwegian Dawn
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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