Norwegian Epic, the newest (and largest) cruise ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, also known as the “freestyle” icon (no rules, no regimentation), was delivered today by STX Europe’s shipyard in France’s St. Nazaire.
At Cruise Critic we call it the “it” ship because it’s the rare vessel in 2010 that’s completely and utterly unique. There are a lot of nice new ships launching this year, such as P&O’s Azura, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Celebrity’s Eclipse, but they’re pretty much copies of an earlier original. Norwegian Epic IS an original.
By and large, the ship seems at first to be geared to a huge, sprawling, mostly U.S.-centric audience. In its own way, though, the line is trying to court UK and European cruisers too (with the former, it’s bringing the ship, pre-inaugural era anyway, to Southampton for some festivities and with the latter, it’s planning to deploy Epic to the Mediterranean during summertime starting next year).
Frankly I don’t think the ship is either American or European. It’s a mishmash of styles that have more to do with age demos than cultural ones. If you regularly read the celebrity-oriented tabloids, you’ll fit in just fine (which if we’re all going to be brutally honest, includes most of us!). Clearly, this is a ship that’s courting the hip and trendy young set (if in cruising we classify the “young set” as the under 50s, well, bear that in mind).
So there’s the solo studios for single travelers, the Spice H20 beach club for South Beach wannabes, and the Blue Man Group, essentially a mime act, that started in the U.S. but is now spreading worldwide.
We’re not the first to express the opinion that the ship’s exterior is the ugliest we’ve ever seen (and I’ll tell you that a few NCL folks have admitted as much to us) though if you’re already onboard, I’ll say it probably doesn’t matter what the outside looks like. I’ll confess that when writing a poll this week that asked “what one aspect of Epic intrigues you?” [Poll is here, please feel free to weigh in: http://bit.ly/aFTUuh], I did slip in a reference to the ship’s unwieldy outward design (somewhat surprisingly, a mere 5 percent so far have voted for this option).
Shockingly, even less enthusiasm was accorded to such choices as Shanghai’s Noodle Bar (an industry first), which so far has engendered just 1.5 percent-worth-of-excitement, the Spice H20/Posh Beach Club (which weighs in at a measly 2 percent) and, sadly, the Argentinean steak house restaurant, which clearly is not ringing bells but does deserve a bit of credit for a daring effort (it gets less than 1 percent).