An “Epic” is a word used to describe something very imposing or impressive; surpassing the ordinary (especially in size or scale). It’s a perfect name to describe the Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL’s) latest ship to ply the seas, the “Norwegian Epic.” NCL already boasts of the youngest fleet of ships afloat, including it’s wonderful, Jewel class beauties. Now they are taking freestyle cruising a step further with the Norwegian Epic, the first of NCL’s next generation of ships designed to really focus on the “Freestyle Cruising” concept.
Accommodations will be handled differently, too. The traditional, dreary, inside cabin has been transformed into modern “studios” with a “window” that looks out onto a courtyard, and there are shared Living Room/Lounge spaces just for these inner cabins. In addition, the Epic will feature family cabins well placed near the children’s recreation areas and 39 Spa suites with access to the spa complex. Along with the usual assortment of balcony cabins and suites, there are more options for those with a little more cash who wish a more exclusive “top of the ship” experience, in the form of more than 60 Courtyard Villas and Suites across a two-deck-high private courtyard. Forty-six Courtyard Villas each feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Six Courtyard Penthouses, measuring 322 square feet, include a bedroom with a separate living and dining area. The eight Deluxe Owner’s Suites, at 852 square feet, feature floor-to-ceiling windows, and separate living, dining and bedroom areas. All offer access to a small, private pool, two whirlpools, saunas, a sun deck, a fitness facility, private indoor/outdoor dining, a bar and a concierge lounge. I recently sailed on the Norwegian Gem in one of the Courtyard Villas. The experience made me feel like a rock star — if only for the week.
I love NCL’s freestyle concept. I believe that there is something for everyone on NCL, and you can pick and choose what pleases you. But the Epic will clearly depart even more from the traditional cruise concept than ever before. If you really look at the idea, the Epic is bringing back the “class” concept of cruising with a “ship within a ship” experience. It makes sense for today’s marketplace. The Epic is more Vegas Hotel than old style cruise ship, where you pay for what you want, but you don’t pay for the add-ons that don’t interest you. In the golden days of ocean liners, those with more money got a different experience than did those in tourist class. The “ship within a ship” concept brings this idea back, but with enough bells and whistles for every class of cruiser to make them all happy. Older cruisers who remember the golden days of cruising, (when only the “newly-wed and nearly-dead” took cruises), NCL’s casual and not all inclusive concept of cruising may not be to their liking. Gone are traditional touches such as big bands and formal dinners, and the idea of an all-inclusive, pay one price vacation. But younger cruisers and families, who want more flexible options and less structure, won’t mind paying extra for the experience of seeing the Blue Man Group, or perhaps, rock climbing or bowling at sea, or, perhaps, eating in an intimate restaurant (but this time) in jeans and a polo shirt.