4 things you need to know before deciding to cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic
Some of the best vacations I have had is when I got the courage to try something new. With time off work and money being so precious I, like most travellers, am averse to taking risks with either. The real “cost” of getting it wrong is bigger than wasted time and hard earned money – especially when cruising. A key piece of advice I give to anyone considering cruising is to ensure the cruise line matches their specific interests and needs. If you cruise with the wrong line your underwhelming experience will be magnified as you spend at least half your holiday on board ship . Get it right and your cruise vacation can be truly memorable.
So what did I learn about Norwegian Cruise Line when I travelled with them in the Mediterranean on the Norwegian Epic to help you decide if this is the line to choose over others?
(1) Norwegian pioneered and offers “freestyle cruising” with lots of choices.
What do you need to know? While other cruise lines focus on set formats and regimes on board, Norwegian take the view that everyone has different needs and interests and aims to provide as much choice and as many options as viable to let people create their ideal vacation. They embrace the concept of choice and build it into every aspect of the on board offering. For example on the Norwegian Epic:
- They have over 20 dining options and no set dining times. They have at at least two restaurants that are included in your fare along with supplement charged restaurants covering an array of popular global cuisines including French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and even traditional New York steakhouse.
- Over 20 bars that range from martini bars, Irish pubs, beer and whiskey focused bars and even an Ice Bar.
- They have no strict dress codes and no matter how informal or formal you like to dress there is a place on board to do that.
Who does it best suit? If you are the sort of traveller that likes to tailor and personalise your travel experience, or want to be able to be spontaneous day-by-day as the mood takes you, then Norwegian is likely to appeal to you. You do not have to follow a set pattern of dining times, dress codes or approach of the type of food to eat. In my view, Norwegian Epic is best suited for people that want to be able to chop and change as the mood takes them and so need lots of options to be able to do that.
(2) Norwegian has created distinct ship-within-ship experiences – including those for solo and premium travellers.
What do you need to know? Norwegian create different experiences for different types of travellers. Driven by the philosophy of choice – and probably by the need to appeal to a wide demographic of travellers to fill the large 4,000 plus passenger ships – Norwegian Epic offer a number of separate and exclusive ship-within-ship areas. In addition to family friendly facilities like large kid’s clubs that are arranged by age, they have also created distinctive and exclusive areas with different designs and looks to the rest of the cabin decks. These have restricted access for those travelling in them. They are :
- Solo Travellers. There are over 100 solo studio cabins in a distinct section on the Norwegian Epic and the other large ships in the fleet. These inside cabins have no solo supplements, have their own lounge, bar, meeting area and events to help facilitate solo passengers meet each other. Some of the studios have connecting doors for those travelling with a friend.
- The Haven. This is a premium ship within ship. In addition to larger suites with butler service, there is a large exclusive bar, restaurant with stunning views across the deck and ocean, lounge, concierge and a pool deck which also has hot tubs and spa facilities.
You can even see signs of them targeting and accommodating other groups in a more subtle way. For example they have special interest activities like the “Friends of Dorothy : LGBT” meet-ups each day around 7pm for gay and lesbian travellers.
Who does it best suit? If your priority is to have a cruise experience that caters and will be tailored for your specific travel habits, like solo, luxury or meeting specific types of people, then cruising Norwegian on a ship like Norwegian Epic is likely to suit you. Their approach also means that you do not have to compromise on other aspects of your vacation to achieve it. You will still have access to the resources of a large resort style ship like the wide range of culinary choices, gambling in a vast casino, attending big production shows, doing lots of shopping or riding water slides (my particular weakness!). You have your specific enclave arranged around your core needs to retreat back into – knowing that the busy and vibrant choices are accessible whenever you need them.
(3) The average age of cruisers on Norwegian is younger (or youthful in attitude and lifestyle).
What do you need to know? The average age of cruisers on a Norwegian Cruise will usually be in their forties. The age of cruisers will of course vary a bit by region and time of the year, such as when school holidays are on. However, the profile of passengers on board is likely to be youthful minded couples and families travelling with children.
Families are important to the cruise line and they are attracted by the wide range of dining options, large kid’s clubs, family friendly entertainment and facilities like water slides and the aqua park. As many as 1,500 of the 5,000 passengers at peak times in the school holiday and holiday seasons are under eighteen years old.
Norwegian Epic is not a “party ship” but is active, vibrant and busy. It is not a boisterous experience, but there is a lot going on throughout the day and night. The daily program consists of several pages and it lists more activities across every moment of the day than I have ever seen in any other cruise line I have sailed on to date. This is driven by the passion to provide choice, but also represents the style of cruiser that they attract: travellers that seem to thrive on having lots to do.
Who does it best suit? Norwegian Epic suits passengers who have a youthful approach to life and want to be busy taking part in activities or watching up-beat entertainment. While you can find quiet spots, cruising with Norwegian is best suited for families, people who do not mind children being children and people who like to be on-the-go and doing things – even if that is sitting in a bar chatting to people and listening to music. If you like being active instead of attending enrichment lectures and more sedate programs, then Norwegian will be a good match.
(4) Norwegian provides familiar and proven brand name entertainment and established dining concepts.
What do you need to know? Unlike many other cruise lines I have travelled on, Norwegian use proven and “brand name” entertainment and well-known concepts that people will be familiar with – rather than their own creations. For example:
- On the Norwegian Epic they have “The Blue Man Group” and “Legends in Concert” (one of the longest running shows in Las Vegas featuring impersonations of famous singers) while on other ships they even have Broadway shows like “Rock of Ages” and “Legally Blond” as their theatre production shows.
- They run game shows like “Deal or No Deal” in the atrium and have Nikelodeon characters for the children.
- To supplement the brand name entertainment offerings they use familiar and popular concepts like the “Cirque Dreams & Dinner” show and have bars like “Headliners” comedy club, Svedka/ Inniskillin Ice bar, O’Sheehan’s bar and Maltings Beer & Whiskey bar.
As the passenger mix is a diverse nationality group, for example there were over 70 different nations represented on my cruise, the entertainment, bar and dining concepts are chosen to be easily understood and appreciated across multiple languages and backgrounds with little need for explanation and translation.
Who does it best suit? Norwegian Epic suits travellers of any nationality wanting to watch established family friendly entertainment with some cache that they would be able to see if they visited land based resorts like Las Vegas, rather than the more usual cruise fare of music medley showcases used by most cruise lines. It also suits travellers who may not be able to afford the time or money to see these shows on land. Norwegian suits travellers wanting to experience different cuisines and bars every night, as they could do if visiting similar resorts or cities – again within a more manageable budget. The entertainment, styles of restaurants and bars is not for people looking to experience to unusual or exotic as they are all well proven and mainstream.
Conclusion… Norwegian Cruise lines, in my opinion, is clearly suited to a wide range of passenger types and budgets based on the range of offerings of cabin types, ships-within-ships and interest groups they address. Based on my experiences, no matter what type of traveller “configuration” you are I believe that if your attitude to life and enjoying yourself is reflected above then you should take the risk with your vacation time and money and try Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Norwegian Epic. It will be truly memorable.
If you decide to cruise with them, visit the Tips for Travellers on Norwegian Epic page for video tours, audio content and more articles.
Declaration: I travelled as a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line UK on the Norwegian Epic on a 3-night cruise from Barcelona to Naples and Rome. The opinions expressed are my own.