At 153,000-tons Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic, formerly known as "F3", is their first ever third-generation Freestyle Cruising ship. This massive "city at sea" became the largest ship ever in NCL's fleet when she debuted in June of 2010. In fact, she's about 60% larger than NCL's already quite large ships. Originally, NCL planned on building two F3 ships; however, that plan has changed for now.
Among the exciting never-before-at-sea features that are available on board Norwegian Epic are a repelling wall, a real ice bar, performances by the popular Blue Man Group, and an exclusive Courtyard just for guests staying in suites and villas. Other exciting news is that this ship features an extensive Aqua Park with three water slides (yes, three!), and all of the non-interior accommodations have a private balcony!
The following is a summary of the destinations that Norwegian Epic will feature cruises in (subject to change):
2012: Eastern Caribbean 2013: Eastern Caribbean, Cruise to Nowhere, Western Mediterranean
Norwegian Epic is the first NCL ship to feature New Wave staterooms. These innovative accommodations feature contemporary curved architecture and open living spaces. Also among the NCL firsts that this ship has are spa balconies. All of the outside staterooms onboard Norwegian Epic have a private balcony, so there aren't typical "outside staterooms" with just windows (and no balconies) onboard this ship.
Interior Staterooms: There are 560 interior staterooms onboard Norwegian Epic. These accommodations feature contemporary décor, and include a bathroom with a separate shower stall, water closet and a modern vanity top sink. Interior staterooms are located on Decks 8 through 14.
Among the innovative accommodations onboard Norwegian Epic are her 128 Studios, which are located on decks 11 and 12. Each of these staterooms are meant to accommodate a single passenger (altough they can fit up to 2 people in each room) and will have a large round window looking into the corridor (with customizable color changing light effects that mirror different stages of the day). Inside the Studios, a control panel allows guests to select their own light effect depending on their mood, including a love setting for romantic nights at sea. The Studio Lounge is a shared social space exclusively for the use of Studio guests. It's a two-floor lounge with a bar, room service, two large TV screens, and comfy seating for hanging out. A concierge is available in the Studio Lounge to book dinner reservations and shore excursions.
Balcony Staterooms: There are two main types of balconies onboard Norwegian Epic: 851 New Wave Balcony Staterooms and 98 Deluxe Balcony Staterooms. All of these staterooms feature NCL's signature New Wave design and are located on decks 8 to 14. The balcony staterooms feature all of the amenities that the interior staterooms have.
225 Family Deluxe Balcony and 146 Family Balcony staterooms, with triple and quad occupancies, are located on two decks (13 and 14) within close proximity to the expanded Kids Crew. Many of the family staterooms are able to connect, a great feature for families and groups.
Suites: Norwegian Epic has a "ship-within-a-ship suite complex," which consists of 60 suites and villas on two private decks on the ship (decks 16 and 17). Guests staying in one of these suites benefit from exclusive access to the Courtyard Villa complex, which houses a pool, two whirlpools, gym, saunas, sundeck, indoor/outdoor dining, bar/nightclub and concierge lounge.
46 of Norwegian Epic's suites are NCL's signature Courtyard Villas, featuring two bedrooms and two bathrooms of ultimate luxury. There are also 6 Courtyard Penthouses onboard, which include a bedroom with a separate living and dining area. Norwegian Epic also has 8 Deluxe Owner's Suites, which have all-around floor to ceiling windows, a bedroom and a separate living and dining area. There also are 7 Penthouse Suites onboard this ship.
Located on Deck 14, a total of 39 spa suites, Deluxe Balcony and Balcony staterooms have private key-card entry to the enclave surrounding Norwegian Epic's ultra-luxurious thermal suite and fitness center. For an added indulgence, 8 of the spa suites have an in-room whirlpool.
All Norwegian Cruise Line ships have an open dining setup (which is one of the main aspects of their Freestyle Cruising format). Open dining means that you can eat where you want, when you want. Norwegian Epic is sure to have many dining venues from which you can choose from, besides the 24-hour room service (with a limited menu) that is available to everyone.
Norwegian Epic's dining establishments include:
• Taste: Located in the ship's atrium on Deck 5, Taste's décor blends off-white, free-form plastered walls with European retro-chic mixed with brick details and floor to ceiling velvet curtains. Taste serves a selection of traditional and contemporary cuisine.
• The Manhattan Room: Reminiscent of an elegant art deco supper club, The Manhattan Room features a dance floor as its focal point and will offer live music and dancing in the evening. The two-story high restaurant on Deck 6 features floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows looking aft. The cuisine reflects the elegant and romantic nature of the room.
• Café Jardin & The Great Outdoors: Café Jardin's décor is modeled after a traditional English country garden conservatory. This is Norwegian's signature action station casual restaurant where chefs cook fresh, prepared-to-order food as guests watch, featuring seafood, pizza, fruit, soups, pasta, ethnic specialties, burgers and desserts; offering extensive and varied selections. The Café includes a Kid's Café with child-friendly seats and tables. At the Great Outdoors, guests can enjoy fresh air and a view of the Aqua Park with their meal.
• Cagney's Steakhouse & Churrascaria: Norwegian's traditional American steakhouse takes on a new twist onboard Norwegian Epic, with the addition of Argentinean churrasco. In addition to mouth-watering steaks, guests can sample a variety of skewered meats presented by tableside passadors. Another new addition is a large, centrally located salad bar.
• La Cucina: This Tuscan-style eatery will serve regional Italian specialties including pizza, pasta and steak, chicken and fish dishes. The traditional Italian décor reflects two distinct areas: a Tuscan farm home and an Italian courtyard, where a large olive tree with hanging lanterns is the centerpiece, open to Café Jardin above.
• Le Bistro: Norwegian Epic's upscale bistro serves classic French cuisine with an American flair. This elegant dining establishment surrounds guests with contemporary and traditional paintings and sculptures, making guests feel as if they were dining in an art museum.
• Shanghai's: This new addition to Norwegian's specialty dining options will serve a delicious mix of Chinese dishes and noodle bar specialties. The décor reflects Old Shanghai in the 1930s and is reminiscent of the China Club in Hong Kong. There is an open kitchen preparing traditional Chinese cuisine, noodles, wok fried dishes and dim sum.
• Wasabi: This expansive sushi and sake bar serves the freshest sushi, sashimi and Japanese Yakitori dishes. Featuring modern décor and clean lines, Wasabi is located outside the Teppanyaki restaurant.
• Teppanyaki: As the largest Teppanyaki restaurant at sea with 115 seats, this expanded restaurant features up to 24 knife-wielding chefs cooking exhibition-style Japanese cuisine on flat top grills. Guests should be amazed by the masterful chefs who demonstrate their skills slicing and dicing while creating an appetizing meal.
• O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill: This classic neighborhood sports bar and restaurant serves American favorites and comfort food and is open 24 hours. The atrium's two-story high screen is be visible from inside the restaurant and additional flat screen televisions will show sporting events, while guests enjoy their own activities, including three lanes of bowling, dart boards, pool tables, foosball and arcade games.
• The Epic Club and Courtyard Grill: Located high atop the ship in The Villas complex, this modern and elegant restaurant is reserved exclusively for Norwegian Epic's suite and villa guests. The décor reflects a private club ambiance with contemporary and modern furnishings, and a large wine display, dotted with glass sculptures and pearl drapes. The Courtyard Grill is the more casual, outdoor area of the restaurant serving Villas guests for breakfast and lunch.
Norwegian Epic takes Freestyle Family Fun to the extreme with an expansive Aqua Park that includes three water slides of varying thrill factors, including one specifically designed for children that zips straight through the rock climbing wall; a more adventurous slide twisting and turning down three stories; and The Epic Plunge, the only tube slide at sea that puts the blast of inner-tubing into the core of a bowl slide with a thrilling drop through a 200-foot long tube. Riders are then launched into the vortex of The Epic Plunge where centrifugal forces keep them high on the wall for several turns, ending in an exciting transition into a splashdown lane. The Aqua Park also includes two main pools with arching water effects which illuminate at night; five whirlpools; a wading pool and a kid's pool in the children's Splash and Play Zone which features whimsical sculptures, water sprays and effects, along with a kiddy slide.
In an industry first, Norwegian Epic will scale new heights with the first ever repelling wall at sea and a 33-foot high extreme rock climbing wall, accessible on two levels with varying degrees of difficulty, rated according to official U.S. climbing grades. Expanding its innovative concept of bowling at sea, Norwegian Epic offers the most bowling lanes with a total of six located in two venues: Bliss Ultra Lounge and O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill. The multi-use sports deck will include a full size basketball court, volleyball, soccer, dodge ball, batting cage, bungee trampoline, rope adventure course and a 24-foot tall enclosed climbing cage called the spider web. Norwegian Epic also features the first squash court at sea, located in the fitness center.
Throughout the ship there is a total of 18 bars and lounges, which include: Atrium Bar; O'Sheehan's; Cascades, the casino bar; Bliss Ultra Lounge; Cagney's Bar; the Ice Bar; Sake Bar; Malting's Whiskey Bar; Shaker's Martini Bar; Humidor Cigar Lounge; The Studio Lounge, exclusively for guests staying in a Studio stateroom; Waves Bar; Spice H20; the Epic Club; and Posh Beach Club.
Norwegian Epic has multiple, specially-designed entertainment venues throughout the ship so that guests can choose from a wide variety of entertainment each evening of their cruise. No longer is entertainment focused on two nightly shows in one large main theater. Norwegian Epic takes Freestyle Cruising to the next level by offering a number of entertainment options in specially-designed venues, some offered for the first time ever at sea, with choices to appeal to a broad audience. Among Norwegian Epic's many entertainment options is another industry first, performances by the popular Blue Man Group. Blue Man Group is best known for their wildly popular theatrical shows and concerts which combine music, comedy and multimedia theatrics to produce a totally unique form of entertainment.
On Norwegian Epic, guests will find the only “big top” at sea: Spiegel Tent. In this intimate 265-seat theater-in-the-round, famed producer/director Neil Goldberg will present Cirque Dreams® and Dinner. This one of a kind interactive theatrical dining experience is performed in the air, while juggling dinner courses, with music, mayhem and acrobatic imagination. During this two-hour show, guests will marvel in amazement and become part of a celebration of spectacle and fantasy.
Headliners Comedy Club, a 280-seat comedy club, features the hilarious improvisational comedy of The Second City, as Norwegian continues its exclusive partnership with the famed troupe. For nearly 50 years, The Second City has honed the skills of comedic legends such as Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gilda Radner and John Belushi. The ensemble performs a special customized comedy revue of satirical skits, hilarious songs and inventive improvisation. The venue’s design centers on a show lounge format with a small raised stage, concrete floors and brick walls with a full bar.
Guests on board Norwegian Epic can sit back and relax listening to the cool vibes of jazz and blues in Fat Cats, a 200-seat jazz club. Fat Cats features nightly live blues and jazz performances by world-class talent. The urban setting creates a hipster vibe complete with full bar and comfortable leather sofas and chairs.
The appropriately named Epic Casino is NCL's largest casino at sea, spanning more than 13,000 square feet. It features an elegant Monte Carlo inspired design theme and opens to Taste, the Atrium restaurant below, and to the excitement of Bar Central above. Here, guests can find many opportunities to try their luck including 340 of the latest slot machines; along with gaming tables featuring poker, black jack, roulette and craps. Cascades Bar, with a grand central crystal chandelier (the largest chandelier at sea), serves as the casino’s centerpiece.
Because of the Freestyle Cruising concept, the dress code is not very strict or formal on a Norwegian Epic cruise - it is actually quite casual, relative to other cruise lines. As far as dining goes, casual attire is preferred during the day. Examples of casual attire are: khakis, skirts, jeans, casual tops, and shorts. At the buffet and outdoor dining venues, swimwear with a cover-up is just fine.
During dinner on board Norwegian Epic, a collared shirt and pants (or nice jeans) is fine for men. For women slacks, jeans, dresses, skirts, and tops are fine. If you'd like to dress up for dinner and wear something more formal or glamorous that is OK too, as on most NCL cruises there is usually at least one night were many people will do so (known as the "Captain's Night" or "Formal Night"). For kids 12 and under, shorts are OK in all of the restaurants.
NCL's children's program is called the Kids Crew. The Kids Crew program is run by Norwegian Epic's Youth Staff and is free of charge (of course, gratuities are appreciated by the staff). Each staff member is CPR and First Aid certified. The Kids Crew program features complimentary activities that are scheduled throughout each day of your cruise. Examples of these activities are painting, pajama parties, pizza making, and shows. A parent or guardian is required to initially register 2-17 year olds for this program. Children are assigned to groups, based on age (Juniors = 2-5 years old, First Mates = 6-9 years old, Navigators = 10-12 years old, and Teens = 13-17 years old). Kids under 13 may not sign themselves out. There is not a one-on-one care program available in the Youth Program.
There is group-sitting available for kids. The "Late Night Party Zone" and "Port Play" are both programs for kids 2-12 years of age. The "Port Play" program is run from 9 am to 5 pm and is for parents that want to go on shore excursions alone, leaving their kids in the hands of qualified professionals. The "Late Night Party Zone" is available from 10 pm to 1 am. The cost of these two programs is $5 per hour, per child, and $3 per hour for each additional sibling in the same family. These charges are applied to your onboard expense account.
Recess is Norwegian Epic's Kid's Crew facility that is centrally located on Deck 14 adjacent and easily accessible to the family-friendly staterooms. Two separate areas are specifically designed for kids ages two through nine and tweens, ages 10 through 12. The Kid's area includes a space-themed play area, air hockey table, an interactive light up dance floor; Wii" gaming areas; an arts and crafts area; along with a state-of-the-art surround sound cinema. The Tween Zone has a futuristic feel that includes multiple WiiTM and PlayStation® areas; along with a private karaoke performance stage which doubles as a cinema.
Entourage is Norwegian Epic's high energy, exclusive teen zone for ages 13 through 17, located at the top of the ship on Deck 16. This funky space includes air hockey; pinball; foosball; a video jukebox; and nine large flat screen televisions, five of which are located around a central video game console featuring PlayStation® 3. In the evening, Entourage transitions into a hip nightclub with a space for dancing or just hanging out on comfy couches. Directly below is the video arcade which features number of the most challenging and interactive video games.
NCL charges a fixed fee for what they call service charges on all Norwegian Epic cruises. This fee is $12 per person, per day and is charged to your onboard expense account. There is no such charge for children under 3 years of age. If while on your cruise you find that these fees are more than you'd like to pay (or if you are very unhappy with the service you've been provided with by the staff), you can adjust the service charge fees to the level you prefer (as long as you do so before you leave the ship). NCL does not consider this service charge to be the same thing as a gratuity or tip. NCL states that they do not auto-charge you for gratuities (even though the service charge does seem to be a similar fee).
If you find a few staff members that really stand out and make your vacation more enjoyable, NCL's staff is allowed to accept cash gratuities. The recommended gratuity for guests purchasing bar beverages is 15%. For those purchasing spa and salon services, please be aware that NCL automatically adds a gratuity of 18% (called a service charge on certain ships).
The official legal drinking age on a Norwegian Epic cruise is 21 years of age. However, guests that are 18 to 20 years old with written consent from their parents or guardian are allowed to purchase beer and wine when the ship is sailing in international waters (except in Alaska & Hawaii, where you must be 21 years old to do so).
The minimum gambling age on all Norwegian Epic cruises is 18 years of age. A valid photo ID may be required, so be sure to have one with you while in the casino. Please be aware that onboard casinos are closed on NCL ships while sailing in Hawaii.