Monday, 27 February 2012

An Epic Adventure - Finale

Final Thoughts

We are now home again after a painless debarkation process and easy drive back to Orlando, with time to digest the full week's cruise and reflect on the many different features we encountered along the way. 

Norwegian Epic itself is a marvel of a ship; as big ships go, only the mighty Royal Caribbean duo Allure and Oasis of the Seas can compete for entertainment and dining choice, and it is arguable they don't have the big-name variety that Norwegian have brought on board their flagship.

With the combination of Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, Cirque Dreams, Howl at The Moon Saloon and Second City comedy group, plus Nickelodeon for kids, this is an unrivalled array of quality and choice and you need to work hard to make sure you fit it all in.

Dining-wise, there are five absolute gourmet-quality offerings and, if you have the benefit of The Haven and the additional Epic Club restaurant, you will struggle to give them all a try in the space of only a week. Nowhere did we have a bad meal, and the extra quality (albeit at a supplement) of the likes of Cagney's, La Cucina, Teppanyaki and Shanghai's really shone through.

The staff were unfailingly friendly, efficient and cheerful, making sure Norwegian's Freestyle policy of 'what you want, when you want' is carried through to the nth degree, smoothly and efficiently. That feeling was especially notable in Shanghai's, the Epic Club, La Cucina and even the Manhattan restaurant. Big kudos to Norwegian for their staff training - and delivery on such a large scale.

We are not especially thrilled by the basic cabin layout, which features a separate W/C (with frosted glass door that doesn't quite reach the top) and shower stall, and a (small) hand-basin in the cabin itself. These are not great design innovations but the comfort of the bed and the little details like coffee-maker, well-stocked fridge and the magnetic seals on the curtain (which really help to keep out all daylight and ensure a good night's sleep) just about make up for this. We know the layout is not popular with a lot of Norwegian passengers, but we honestly don't feel it is a big negative.
And then there's the entertainment - big, quality-conscious, fun and utterly magnificent. You just can't fail to enjoy your time aboard and the facilities for children are equally impressive. Both Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert cost big bucks at their Las Vegas locations but here it is just part of the cruise price. Just amazing.

Those looking for a more deluxe experience can also look to book a room in The Haven, the courtyard villa area that is completely separate from the rest of the ship and offers a true first-class, concierge feel. If you think big ships aren't for you, this will surely make you think again.

All in all, we enjoyed the week even more than we expected. We're pretty familiar with Norwegian's Freestyle approach but it really scales new heights on this ship. An Epic vessel in every sense.