I was invited to attend the exclusive 2-night (July 2 – 3, 2010) pre-inaugural sailing for NCL’s newest and largest ship, the Norwegian Epic. Departing from NY City, the sailing began with the ship’s naming ceremony, which was hosted by comedian Jeff Garlin and featured the ship’s godmother, Reba McEntire. Adding to the festivities was the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show which was broadcast live from the Epic on national television (WNBC). It included musical performances by Justin Bieber, Enrique Iglesias and LeeAnn Rimes. As I have experienced many times in the past, the folks at NCL really know how to throw a party! But let’s focus on their new ship, the Epic.
When discussing the physical attributes of a cruise ship (i.e., it’s layout and appearance), industry professionals often refer to the ship’s “hardware”. So, let’s start there.
At 153,000 tons with a passenger capacity of 4,100 (based on double occupancy), the Norwegian Epic is, by far, the largest ship in the NCL fleet. In fact, with the exception of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas (which was launched in December 2009), NCL’s Epic is among the largest cruise ships at sea. It is also one of the most uniquely designed cruise ships that I have ever been on (… and I’ve been on quite a few). In most cases, that “uniqueness” is a very positive attribute which reflects the thoughtfulness and attention that the Epic’s designers must have paid to maximizing the use of space to achieve a much bigger, wide-open “feel” to all of the ship’s public areas. And, the way that one area just seemed to “flow” into the next (without the “cookie-cutter” rigidity sometimes found on cruise ships) was truly remarkable. But, in a few areas, I did not perceive the unique design of the ship to be an advantage. For instance, the exterior shape of the ship seemed a bit “odd” to me. The bow is somewhat “stubby-looking” and the stern is “squared-off” so that the ship does not have a “sleek” appearance from the outside. Adding to the irregular look is a massive 3-deck appendage that was seemingly “plopped” on top of the front section as an afterthought (or, more likely, to further maximize the ship’s interior space). Obviously, the ship’s designers had to make some “trade-off’s” to accomplish everything they did inside the ship and, after all, from a passenger’s perspective, the interior design is far more important.
The decor of the Epic is modern and somewhat more “toned-down” than other NCL ships. Getting around was not quite as easy because of the ship’s unique interior design. Rather than having its public areas running at a uniform width through the center of the ship, the Epic’s interior gave the illusion of being designed that way but, in several different places, the interior width of the ship would seemingly vary and you would go to the right or to the left to enter another venue. So, just when I thought I had seen the entire ship, I would discover a new area. Having been on over 50 cruise ships, I found the layout of the Epic to be very interesting and “refreshing”.