Tuesday, 21 February 2012

An Epic Adventure Pt 4

The Cabin

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

Starting a cruise with a full sea day is always a good idea. Starting it with TWO sea days is even better, especially when you have a ship of the size and complexity of Norwegian Epic.

This modern colossus boasts an extraordinary variety of options, facilities and amenities for just about everything, and having plenty of time to explore and discover early on is ideal for ensuring you get the best out of your cruise.

We completed our first full day at sea with dinner at Cagney’s, Norwegian Cruise Line’s signature steakhouse, which offered another high-quality take on modern maritime dining. The elegant surroundings, smooth service and truly succulent cuts of Filet Mignon ensured a second successive memorable evening meal in this ship that specialises in a myriad of choices.

It culminated a lazy day of sunbathing, browsing the six onboard shops and taking in a video show on ‘Before they were famous,’ the early days of the likes of Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Bill Murray with the Second City comedy troupe from Chicago, one of the two alternating entertainment options at the Headliners Club with Howl At The Moon Saloon.

Dinner was followed by the live music of Manhattan Motown Cabaret, another imaginative use of the main Manhattan Dining Room with its bandstand and stage area, and a great chance to see some of the ship’s many talented performers in a smaller-scale setting.

From Motown to Chi-town – we were back at Fat Cats Jazz Club for another session of Charlie Love & The Silky Smooth Band, who have quickly become a minor addiction. The quality of the band – guitar, bass, drums and keyboards – allied to Charlie’s evocative blues delivery makes for a compelling musical interlude.

And, to be able to enjoy this quality of musicianship up close and personal is a real triumph of Epic’s entertainment offerings.

Another good night’s sleep in our standard balcony cabin promptly followed, which probably is a good point at which to introduce our accommodation (I’m afraid I can’t use the modern affectation of ‘stateroom,’ not unless it is some kind of penthouse suite. Sea-going accommodations are primarily cabins and should always be known as such).

Anyway, our cabin is pretty much the identikit blueprint for the majority, decent-sized without being especially roomy; well provided with storage space, equipped with a stocked mini-fridge (just in case you need a drink in your own company or, interestingly, a pack of gummy bears), coffee-maker, interactive flatscreen TV, hair-dryer, room safe and the all-important balcony – a near- vital requisite for being able to enjoy the Caribbean air (or any cruise location that has a strong outdoor lure).

When Norwegian was designing Epic, they gave their architects free rein to come up with a different approach to cabin essentials, i.e. the overall layout and functional elements. Put simply, they attempted to reinvent the wheel in bathroom terms.

True, they did give the traditional (and ultra-dull) boxy format a tweak with a sinuous, curvy-linear overlay that makes one side of the cabin feel softer and more organic, a cosy touch that works especially well with the built-in beds and headboards.

But the same approach with the dressing-table area makes things slightly awkward for one person to be sat in front of the mirror and the other to move around the cabin. Like, 10 out of 10 for style, but minus-five for practicality.

Likewise the ‘bathroom.’ Instead of one small self-contained unit within the cabin, Norwegian’s designers decided on a more ‘open’, deconstructed approach. Hence the W/C forms its own closet (with a frosted glass door), the fully-enclosed shower stall is another separate element on the opposite side, and the handbasin and bathroom cabinet have their own corner, in the main cabin area.

It is an unusual arrangement; still easy to use and with everything you need close at hand, but oddly awkward for two (or more) people to use with any real sense of privacy. There is a curtain that closes off the two main bathroom elements from the rest of the cabin but it still feels slightly awkward not to have a fully separate unit for one’s, ahem, ablutions.

However, for all the fact we are surrounded, top and bottom, with other cabin decks, this is an amazingly quiet retreat. The level of sound-proofing is remarkably high and we have yet to be disturbed by any sound at night.

Would we like a bit more space (and a different bathroom arrangement)? Probably. Do we NEED more space. Probably not.

And, with our efficient cabin steward, Winzyl, we are more than adequately cared for in real creature-comfort terms. The towels are always fresh and fluffy; the shower blasts out hot water whenever needed; and the ice bucket is constantly refreshed. We have room to work in and the balcony to relax on. And the siren lure of the Caribbean air – not to mention the sight of the occasional flying fish and hungry sea-birds trying to snag an unsuspecting fish – from our own private deck space is just too precious not to savour over and over again.