Saturday, 18 February 2012

An Epic Adventure, Pt 1

Embarkation Day
Starting our day-by-day look at a typical voyage in the life of Norwegian Cruise Line’s wonderful Norwegian Epic by World of Cruising editor Simon Veness

OK, so it is the less-than-enticing Port of Miami on a typical Saturday, with four mega-ships all embarking passengers at once and you don’t expect too much of its limited facilities.

The colossal 150,000-ton, 4,000-passenger Epic is the biggest thing in port and, arriving at around 12.30, by car, you have to be ready for a long, slow boarding process.

So imagine our surprise when we were parked, unloaded, luggage taken off us, through security and embarked in the space of 30 minutes. Yes, there were a lot of people in the queue but, either Norwegian have a secret hold on the space-time continuum or they are uncommonly smooth at processing that number of eager Caribbean-going folks.

It is a predominantly young, family-orientated crowd, all drawn by the amazing array of facilities and entertainment aboard this ground-breaking vessel that is now two years old but still looks like it is fresh from the shipyard.

And, for all the fact it is 1,000ft long and more than 140ft wide (that’s a LOT of ship, even by today’s standards), it is surprisingly easy to navigate. Our standard balcony cabin is on Deck 10 aft; we go up 5 decks to the lido deck and all the facilities there, including the sensational Aqua Park water facilities, three outdoor bars and the excellent Garden Café buffet restaurant; and we go down 3 decks for the rest of the amenities, which include another 11 dining options, the huge casino, Epic Theater (home of the iconic Blue Man Group) and another 12 bar choices.

There’s no shortage of things to do or places to investigate, but the ease with which you can ‘do it all’ is quite remarkable.

The typical raucous Sailaway Party on deck gets things going and we are off for seven days of Caribbean sun and fun, Norwegian style. Tonight, we’re dining at the Italian-style La Cucina, as part of our bid to eat in as many different locations as possible and report back accordingly.

We are immediately fans of the Garden Café, which has a beautifully elegant forward area, looking out over the bow, surrounded by faux rose bushes and with a surprisingly relaxing vibe for a busy buffet area.

Already, the word ‘surprising’ is coming close to the top of our vocabulary. We’ll have more, soon…