The launch of the dazzling, 153,000-ton, 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic is but a memory of fireworks, England vs. Slovenia and Blue Men, and the hype is cooling down. Now, NCL has to get down to the serious business of filling the new, 4,100-passenger ship. But how does Epic stack up against the competition?
Epic’s arrival is sandwiched between those of two other mega-ships, Royal Caribbean’s 225,282-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas (last November) and its twin, Allure of the Seas (coming this autumn). Fans of each line will already have their favourite. But to the first-time cruiser, is the proposition for any of the three particularly different? To the uninitiated, they’re all huge, floating resorts, with multiple bars and restaurants, spectacular entertainment, loads going on during the day and similar, seven-night Caribbean itineraries out of Florida.
Norwegian Epic, although newer, is consistently cheaper than Oasis of the Seas, or the yet-to-launch Allure of the Seas.
We’ve done our own research and have found that it’s much the same for UK cruisers. For example, an inside cabin on Oasis costs £599 per person for a week, cruise-only, in September, while an inside on Epic is only £429 for the same week. Over Christmas, an outside on Oasis is £801 per person for a week, or £114.42 per night, while a balcony cabin on Epic (on which all the outside cabins have a balcony), is £654, or £93.42 per night.
Moving onto peak Caribbean season, January, and adding Allure to the picture, you’ll pay £899 for an outside, cruise-only, on Oasis; £803 on Allure (a newer ship, but remember Oasis may by now have a loyal following and command higher prices); and £674 for a balcony cabin on Epic.
There are big differences in the Easter school holidays, too. An inside on Oasis costs £1,031 for a week in April; Allure comes in at £998; and Epic at just £609.
Of course, individual cruise specialist travel agents have their own deals and their own buying power when it comes to flights; we priced out two fly-cruises with Iglu, and Epic actually came out more expensive, at £1,099 for a week departing September 17, versus £1,012 on Oasis. But the Epic package includes a hotel in Miami for one night pre-cruise, which explains the differential.
We haven’t factored in any additional expenses on board; let’s not forget that both lines charge for eating in some of the speciality restaurants, shore excursions, spa treatments, drinks and gratuities.
If price doesn’t swing it for you, what about the onboard lifestyle? Royal Caribbean’s style is busy and action-packed, with elements of traditional cruising like fixed dinner sittings (if you choose), whereas NCL’s Freestyle cruising is equally action-packed but unstructured – you eat when and where you like.
Oasis comes with its own leafy park, boardwalk and high-diving displays – but Epic has three waterslides, an ice bar and a big top.
Evening entertainment is world-class on both lines and deserves more space in a future blog post, but meanwhile, which would you choose! Epic or Oasis? Or neither? Vote here in our poll!