I’m going to need more than a few hours to really get a handle on the layout of the 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic but already am getting my bearings, at least around inside spaces (I’ll tackle top deck spots, from the pools to spa to restaurants, in another post and on another day). Basically, decks five, six and seven are a hub for restaurants, nightclubs, bars and shops. There are two mini-atriums, one relatively forward, the other reasonably aft. Much of the liveliest bits of activity are wrapped around one or the other of the atriums.
The ship’s a mishmash of decorating styles and themes — it’s a blend of contemporary, retro, kitschy and elegant. Tastes, a fee-free restaurant venue, is sleek and sophisticated while O’Sheehans, a pub and bowling venue, is kitschy and Victorian in ambience. In an era in which cruise lines are often decorating ships based on one specific ambience (Oceania’s country house hotel influences and Celebrity’s contemporary boutique hotel-like schemes come immediately to mind) the mishmash on Norwegian Epic is refreshing. It’s fun to be able to find a venue that matches whatever mood you’re in at the moment.
Some miscellaneous observations:
*The Atrium Coffee Bar is one of the few spaces onboard that really reminds me of NCL’s other ships – it’s definitely the heart of the indoor action (especially since the weather’s been pretty iffy so far). The mood here can be raucous (this is a great spot for watching big sports competitions – as with today’s World Cup) or serene (I’m a softie for the film images of nature scenes paired with soothing tunes).
*The Epic Casino on deck six is immense, it just goes on, and on, and on.
*If you like to dine in a see-and-be-seen milieu, bag an atrium table at Tastes, one of the two fee-free main dining venues. Tables are set on the ground floor of a three-deck atrium, underneath a massive LED chandelier that changes colors. Passengers on decks six and seven, above, can lean over railings to check out who’s eating what.
*Bar Central on deck seven is another concept that comes from existing NCL ships but it’s been expanded. Here, in addition to signature lounges like Shaker’s for martinis, and Maltings for beer and malt scotch, you’ll also find the Humidor cigar bar, the Ice Bar, and a sake bar.
*Teppanyaki is a fantastic concept that exists on other NCL ships but venues there are small and the restaurant concept is popular so reservations can be tough to bag. Here’s hoping that a huge expansion on Norwegian Epic will mean there’s more room for everybody. And don’t miss the adjacent Wasabi sushi bar – and a sake bar.
*Deck five is pretty much the place to go for services – the photo gallery, art auction space, Internet café (wireless is excellent by the way so feel free to bring your own laptop), purser’s desk. Shops – none of which were terribly inspiring – are on deck 7.
*Having seen a preview of Cirque Dreams and predicted its smash appeal, it’s fun to see the crowds lining up for the dinner and show at the Spiegel Tent. Here’s a preview: http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=3771.
*Other fantastic entertainment venues include the Headliner’s Comedy Club (haven’t seen NCL’s in-house Second City troupe yet but last night’s Howl at the Moon dueling pianos performance played to a packed house) and Fat’s, for jazz and blues.
*Are the escalators that ferry passengers from deck five to deck six the first passenger escalators at sea? The first person to send a correct response (and if Epic’s are not the first – you must identify the ship with this original distinction) to Kelly@cruisecritic.co.uk will win a prize.
More to come.