As we only had one night on board to sample this new ship from NCL I can only give my impressions on what we managed to see and do in the limited time available to us. So very hard to choose which things to go and do but in the end this is the review of our encounter with the not quite finished Norwegian Epic.
I will start with the check in as this seems to have caused a bit of stir amongst many people. Our e-doc suggested that embarkation would start at 10.00 a.m. We arrived just after this and initially everything seemed to be running smoothly. We were given a colour coded card (orange) at the initial reception desk outside the terminal and then passed through security in all under about 10 minutes. It was then upstairs to wait for our colour to be called for the actual check in.
We waited for near on an hour before the first colour was called and check in started. We were about the fourth group to be called forward. It was only then that the announcements started, initially asking people who had already checked in to take a seat and await their colour to be called again for embarkation. We checked in without problem and moved back to the area we had first waited only to find that now there were no longer any seats available, meaning we had to stand to wait. All the time the girl on the PA was asking people to sit down await the next stage. Quite where she expected us to sit, “God only knows!
Anyway not long after that they announced that they were closing the check in desks, we assumed that this was because of the bottle neck that we were now caught up in. Possibly another hour passed before the big announcement was made about the new arrival time at Southampton. Full refunds were offered to those who had arrangements which meant they could not cruise along with an offer of up to €100 per person for any addition costs incurred. All this was conveyed by means of a typed letter which was handed out by NCL personnel. Not a problem for us and more of a bonus as it meant we had an extra 7 hours on board.
Eventually embarkation did start but only after another long wait. All in all it took us over 4 hours to go through the embarkation process and when you consider what was going on behind the scenes then I don’t see this as a big deal. I have read other stories of people who turned up later and didn’t even get into the terminal building until after 1.00 so can only consider our selves lucky by comparison.
Given the unprecedented circumstances, I am in the opinion the NCL handled it well enough, sadly though not well enough for many others.
After we got on board it was a case of finding our cabin. We found moving round the ship very easy. The main through fares on the lower decks have ample room for all to get around and they also feel spacious too. There are one or two pinch points but none that will hold you up at all. Very interesting to see a pair of escalators between decks 6 & 5. The lifts at the aft don’t stop at 5 but you can take the stairs down one flight in that area.
The main elevators we used were at the aft and opened directly onto the main central area on decks 6 and 7. I thought this worked well and again gave the impression of space. The decks which contained accommodation had the usual set up for lifts and stairs. Surprised to see the buttons on only one side, not like the new Celebrity Solstice class ship where they are on both sides of the lift door.
We found our cabin (9257) but unfortunately the seapass would not open the door. It was a case of going back down to customer relations and getting new cards issued. We were not the only ones that this had happened to either.
First thoughts upon gaining entry to the cabin were “Wow”. The wave balcony cabin certainly does look fantastic. A mixture of dark wood and mirrors with buff colour upholstery and worktops intermingled. There is loads of storage and hanging. 2 full height mirrors. The one nearest the balcony giving the impression that the balcony is even bigger than it is. Every little area seems to have a space to store something, even the back of the sofa has doors which house life jackets and extra bedding. There are coffee/tea making facilities in the cabin and the sockets are cleverly hidden under the worktop behind a door with a cable port to allow you to stand items on the top. A mini bar and safe are also incorporated into the wall of units which I personally think looks really impressive. I would give the cabin10 out of 10 for design and layout of this area.
Now the bad bit, the washing and toilet area has been totally cocked up in my opinion. I will start with the layout of this particular area of the cabin that we stayed in. As you walk into the cabin from the corridor there are opaque glass doors and panels either side of you, one housing the toilet and the other the shower. Both cubicles are accessed by sliding doors and there is a non carpeted wet area between the two. Closing the area off from the main cabin there is a curtain which pulls across to obscure the goings on behind. Unfortunately, this does not cut down any sound especially from the toilet cubicle, either when flushing or conducting any other business. There is a small gap at the top of the doors by the sliding door track which seems to allow all the noises going on behind the panel to transmit to the rest of the cabin. The toilet flush seemed particularly loud even with the door closed.
In order to then wash your hands you need to pull the sliding door open to get to the sink. You could argue that you need to wash your hands every time you go into the cubicle but it still seems an odd configuration.
The sink is very small and when washing your hands, water goes everywhere including the bed!
I feel this set up will not be very popular with many people staying in these cabins. A solid hinged door panel to the toilet in the style of the rest of the cabin would have been more appropriate. The shower I can live with but the toilet is a different matter. Indian shadow puppets spring to mind. I could tolerate this set up on a cruise but would have to say it not ideal and considering it is a brand new ship and design then some questions need to be asked especially WHO likes to been seen sitting on the toilet?
Due to the short amount of time on board we elected to eat within all the free areas. The food in “The Garden Café” was on par with our experience on Celebrity Equinox and the layout enabled easy access with little or no queuing and the food was of excellent quality. Our only grumble was with the free drinks, the drinking water had a very strong taste of chlorine and the tea selection was short of other ships as there were some favourites missing.
The other area we ate in was O’ Sheehan’s bar and grill (open 24 hours) which we found the fare to be very tasty albeit a bit slow on service. All the other eateries were only viewed and looked to be nicely laid out; maybe we will sample these in the future.
The evening entertainment we booked was the Blue Man Group and we can only say is, what a fantastic spectacle. Not to be missed and thoroughly entertaining. The theatre is compact and the stage can be viewed well from all areas. Whether it was because of miss management or under staffing but no body had their booking checked on entering so we could have on this night just turned up and gone in.
We were not able to view the Spiegel Tent and were turned away a couple of times when we asked to see inside, one can only assume they want your money before they let you see inside.
The pool area has some really cool looking water slides which will give many folk hours of fun. Slightly confused by the amount of shaded sun loungers, there seem to me to be more shaded ones the ones in the sun but having said that we never got to see the area on Deck 19 as it was closed because the area had not been finished. I think that the kids will love this ship; the areas dedicated to them appear to be well thought out and look very appealing even to an adult like me. I am not quite sure what to make of H²O area, nothing happened here while we were on board and can only assume that it will be more of an evening venue with a big screen under the stars.
To summarise, the Norwegian Epic will undoubtedly be talked about for some time to come and sadly not everything will be positive. The bathrooms in the cabins will cause much debate and can only be a negative thing for what I consider a really great ship in other areas. I would consider her for another cruise but the price would need to reflect the negative.