The most intriguing thing about being onboard a cruise ship’s first-ever sailing is this: for all the talk while a ship’s under construction about fab new eateries, bars and entertainment, no one – and I mean no one – really has a perfectly accurate crystal ball that’ll tell you in advance, for instance, whether the Shanghai Noodle Bar will be a big hit or big flop. The jury’s still out on that one (though frankly this gambler is betting heavily that it’ll be the former despite the fact that it was pretty empty at 8:39 p.m. on Epic’s first night) but it’s always interesting to see where people gather (already it looks like Cirque Dreams is going to be a smash; it was mobbed). You can also see which destinations are not drawing crowds.
Tonight on Epic, I was in search of a spot for a quiet cocktail. At first glance there wasn’t a lounge that quite fit the bill. Shakers, the martini bar, was packed. Maltings Whiskey Bar – packed. There was a line outside the frosty Ice Bar (which to be honest is probably not the spot in the first place for a relaxing cocktail). Headliners’ Comedy Club, designed to evoke the Second City ambience (the troupe performs later on in the cruise) was housing dueling piano players.
So when I stumbled onto the sedate cocktail lounges (very 1970s, in a good way) that front the adjacent Cagney’s Steakhouse and the South American-inspired Moderno Churrascaria, I thought I’d found the perfect, elegant hideaway. In the mirroring bars, there were café tables, wine cellars on display, and hootchy-kootchy low lights. And yet: despite the fact that the restaurants themselves were packed, the bar areas in both were empty of patrons.
The reason, it turns out, that both lounges are absolutely empty is that they are a no-man’s-land. I sat for 15 minutes, a long quarter of an hour in which not one of the passing waiters (several of whom idled, gossiping and chatting, with fellow servers for a fair amount of time at the end of the bar while they waited for their orders to be filled) even so much as noticed that I was there alone, amidst a sea of lonely café tables.
No one enjoys feeling invisible. And sure, there’s a part of me that says, hey, this ship’s in its first night with passengers, there’s a learning curve. Maybe no one’s been assigned to handle bar orders in the fairly vast lounges, and that’s simply been overlooked. But I was pretty obviously there and someone should have noticed.
Ultimately I walked out, feeling ruffled, and headed downstairs to Fat Cats, the ship’s blues and jazz bars. There, the music was fine and drinks were readily, and pleasantly, served.