Sunday, 19 February 2012

An Epic Adventure, Pt 2

At Sea

Continuing 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

Our first full day is a day at sea – the perfect way to start any cruise. It is a chance to slow down, get in rhythm with the ship and really explore your maritime home for the next 6/7 days. Last night was also a great introduction to what Epic does, fairly epically. Entertainment. And food. Great food.

Let’s start with the former. It is pretty clear when you have headline acts like Blue Man Group and Legends Live In Concert (in place of the usual variety and musical song-and-dance shows in the main theatre) that you have moved into a different area of cruise entertainment. This is not your usual feather-and-furs variety of middling acts – it is an all-out attempt to be big, bold and, above-all, quality conscious.

Just one quick tour of the ship at night is perfect testament to that. Even the main dining room, The Manhattan Room, has live music, and you can hardly go a few steps without encountering something new. Our choice last night was Fat Cats Jazz Club – a Chicago style live music nightspot, on this cruise featuring Charlie Love and the Silky Smooth Band, an impressive five-piece who belted out classic Motown, blues and soul hits from the 1960s and 70s with enormous gusto and style.

It grabs you immediately and won’t let go – you WILL be entertained, and probably seriously impressed along the way.

Dinner was also a fabulous introduction to the ship’s multi-faceted dining options. True, there is a supplemental charge for many of them (although there are still four free-to-eat, dine-anytime-you-like options, including the two main dining rooms) and it is advisable to book at least a few hours in advance. With Norwegian’s excellent online system, you can even book up as soon as your cruise is confirmed and, for the likes of the six five-star restaurants, that is highly advisable.

This is, of course, the home of Freestyle cruising, the modern cruise ethos of do what you want, when you want, with whom you want. Set dining times with the same dinner companions are a thing of the past here, which obviously takes away from cruise tradition but is an undoubted hit with the majority of cruise newcomers.
We opted for the Italian charms of La Cucina, tucked away in a forward eyrie (and accessible only from the Garden Café on Deck 15) and with a truly beautiful aspect at sunset. The faux library styling is vaguely reminiscent of being aboard the Captain’s quarters of a 19th century galleon and sitting down with a glass of wine to watch the sun slowly dapple the rear horizon in pale pink and orange was one of those timeless moments that all good holidays should produce.

The meal itself was wonderful – a plate of anti-pasti, fagioli and pasta soup, tomato and mozzarella salad, classic osso buco and a succulent pork saltimbocca, followed by a panna cotta sampler plate of lemon, chocolate and amaretto delights.

At a cost of $10 per person, we felt we ate like royalty and were wonderfully served by our Nicaraguan waitress Odesa and her team. Nicaragua? Yes, absolutely. Our cabin steward is also from that Central American country and their happy-but-efficient disposition is infectious to be around.

Yes, our first full evening aboard was a resounding success. And now we get to chill out for the day…