Norwegian Epic’s first two-night cruise ended this morning in Rotterdam, and I really don’t think we still know what’s going to be hot and what’s not. The ship is designed with enough options to keep things — dining and entertainment especially — fresh for seven full nights and days, and a mini-cruise like this one is by nature more compressed. Everybody’s trying to eat everywhere and see every show in a two-day period, which lends a frenetic nature that I trust won’t be felt on Epic’s regular schedule.
Tonight’s a one-nighter between Rotterdam and Southampton (we arrive there early in the morning), and with just half the time onboard, I suspect the atmosphere will be even more caffeinated.
Even if the rhythm is not what it will be, I was curious: If we’re really going to do the “freestyle” thing — which at NCL means do what you want when you want to — what restaurants and shows were available to me? At 4 p.m. I went to the restaurant reservations desk and inquired. You don’t need reservations for Tastes and the Manhattan Room as they are the fee-free eateries (and the Garden Cafe is one of the nicest buffets in cruising, no need to book there either). But I wanted to try one of the specialty restaurants.
Guess what? Basically I was out of luck. Of all the alternative restaurants, the only venue with pretty open opportunity was Shanghai (not a good sign?). Oh and yes, I could slip into LeBistro, the ship’s French restaurant, at 10:15 p.m. Every thing else, Teppanyaki, Charrascuria, Cagney’s, La Cucina, etc. was fully and completely booked. So be prepared to be a bit — un-freestyle — if you really have your heart set on a particular dining venue. Book ahead. Still, having dined in all three of the fee-free places, they’re quite lovely as well.
I was curious also about entertainment venues and their availability. Now mind you, some shows, like Blue Man Group, were extremely limited (it only played one night) on our abbreviated cruise. Cirque Dreams is small venue so by nature it’s tough to get into (though the fact that it does two shows a night alleviates some of the congestion). The Ice Bar was waitlist only. Space was available at Second City’s only show — a 7 p.m. performance, and not a bad time. In fact, going to Second City and then dinner afterwards, at LeBistro, would have been a great option (and if I were on my own schedule, I’d opt for that happily).
Other performances, like Howl at the Moon’s dueling pianos, Legends Unplugged in the Manhattan Room, and Fat Cats’ house band (again, second night in a row, seriously standing room only — do not miss this!), neither require nor accept a reservation.
By the way, there’s a desk on deck six, between the main theater and Cirque Dream’s Spiegel Tent, where passengers can make entertainment reservations for Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams, Murder Mystery (not available on our short cruise, but I’d love to try it!), Nickelodeon’s character breakfast, Slime Time Live, and Legends in Concert (the Legends Unplugged folks in a longer, more theatrical format). The first day onboard the reservations desk was mobbed; since you can make advance bookings via the Internet before you leave home (and that goes for restaurants too), I’d suggest that you do so for anything for which your heart’s really set.
An interesting question at a press conference yesterday: Would the fact that passengers could pre-reserve restaurants and shows mean that those who waited until they got onboard be locked out? We were told that the advance reservations system will only offer so many spots for pre-reservations so that people can be flexible once on their cruise.