Norwegian Epic review: It's all about freestyle cruising
While other cruise lines focus on set itineraries while on board, Norwegian Cruise Line takes the view that everyone has different needs and interests and aims to provide as much choice and as many options as possible. They embrace the concept of choice and build it into every aspect of the onboard offering.
On Norwegian Epic, for example, there are more than 20 dining options and no set dining times. They have at least two restaurants that are included in your fare along with supplement charged restaurants covering an array of popular global cuisines including French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and even a traditional New York steakhouse. You'll also find more than 20 bars — martini bars, Irish pubs, beer and whiskey focused bars and even an Ice Bar. There are also no strict dress codes. No matter how informal or formal you like to dress, there is a place on board to do that.
The ship underwent a refit in 2015 where the restaurants' decor was refreshed, shows updated and "The Cavern Club" (inspired by the Liverpool venue where the Beatles became popular) was added. There's also a new interactive SplashGolf experience that combines mini-golf and water features; look for it in the popular Aqua Park.
Who will like sailing on Norwegian Epic
If you are the sort of traveller who likes to tailor and personalize your travel experience, or wants to be spontaneous day by day as the mood suits you, then Norwegian Epic is likely to appeal to you. You don't have to follow a set pattern of dining times or dress codes dinner.
While you can find quiet spots, cruising with Norwegian is best suited for families, people who do not mind children and people who like to be on the go and doing things — even if that is sitting in a bar chatting to people and listening to music. If you like being active instead of attending more sedate programs, then Norwegian will be a good match.
Where Norwegian Epic sails
Winter: The home port of the Norwegian Epic is Port Canaveral (near Orlando) in winter. During this time, Norwegian Epic sails in and around the Caribbean, often with stops in Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., and Great Stirrup Cay .
Summer: Summer cruises start in either Rome or Barcelona and visit ports such as Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy, Cannes in France, Palma/Majorca in Spain. There are also transitional cruises available as the ship moves between her home port and Europe.
Top dining choices
Le Bistro French Restaurant
This contemporary restaurant reflecting all things French is one of Norwegian Cruise Line's signature dining venues. Available for dinner only, this restaurant offers up exquisite dishes in spectacular surroundings. Just make sure to get your reservation early — this is one of the hardest restaurants to book on the ship.
As the succulent skewers of a variety of barbecued meats are carved table side, you control how much you want with the Moderno Green and Red Chip. Green means go and the carving continues, and red means stop. Also enjoy a wide selection of nicely prepared salads, sliced meats and traditional accompanying dishes from the salad bar.
Look for sizzling shrimp and veggies at this authentic Japanese hibachi restaurant. Sit around a shared table as a skilled chef chops, dices and grills steak, seafood and chicken on a large steel grill as you watch.
O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill
One of the most popular places on the the ship, you can dine on American classics, pub cuisine and your favorite comfort foods, served 24 hours a day. There's even a three-lane bowling alley if you want to strike down some pins between courses.
The Haven Restaurant
The Haven Restaurant offers exclusive private dining for guests staying in the Haven Suites. The haute design is highlighted with pearl drapes, glass sculptures, silk chandeliers and leather. It's the perfect place for privacy with high-end meals and wine selections.
La Cucina Italian Restaurant
A colorful piazza-style restaurant, this place serves Tuscanesque Italian food, with pastas, pizzas and more. It's not the fanciest offering on the ship, but the subtle lighting, good food and romantic atmosphere is sure to impress.
Serving traditional and contemporary cuisine, Taste's high-energy atmosphere and dramatic design are something to behold. This fee-free option offers a nice atmosphere and some satisfying delights — try the fish and chips.
The other free main dining room on Epic, the Manhattan Room (on deck 6) offers a pretty setting with art deco decor. Created in the style of a New York supper club and sporting a polished dance floor where dancers perform, the Manhattan Room provides a wide-ranging dinner menu, from sirloin steak and roast chicken to more inventive choices.
- Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club: At this blues club, you'll find a silky smooth blend of soul and blues to relax you on the sea. BB King, Otis Redding, and original music by the house band will keep you entertained six nights a week.
- Bliss/Spice H2O: Dance like nobody's watching, even though everybody is. With a DJ spinning tunes till the early hours, dance the night away inside at Bliss or under the stars at Spice H2O. The best part? Here you don't have a curfew.
- Cirque Dreams & Dinner: This one-of-a-kind theatrical dining experience is an entertainment extravaganza that includes world-class acrobats and aerialists, musicians, a touch of whimsy and a dash of audience participation. There is a slightly higher charge for Premium seating, but you'll be able to get closer to the action at this theatrical dining experience. Be prepared to make new friends, as you may sit with other people at your table.
- Rebellion In The Ballroom: Watch as an international championship cast show off their best ballroom dance moves. From Grand Viennese waltzes to the sensual Tango and provocative Rumba, you'll see plenty of passionate moves on the stage.
- The Cavern Club: Step into the legendary Liverpool club where the Beatles performed. Experience a vibrant rock-and-roll scene, featuring live music and even a Beatles cover band.
- Howl at the Moon: Step into what is often referred to as the World's Greatest Rock N' Roll Dueling Piano Bar. It won't take long before you're belting out favorites from the '70s or rock and hip-hop classics right along with the ivory-ticking pianists.
- Legends In Concert: This long-running tribute show now brings top-notch celebrity impersonators to the high seas at the Epic Theater. Legends in Concert is a live musical celebration featuring the world's greatest celebrity tribute artists impersonating Lady Gaga, Steven Tyler and Elvis Presley, among many others.
- White Hot Party: Don your white attire and get to the pool deck for the most invigorating, blacklight glowing, electrifying party beneath the stars. Dance with the white-winged angels and be sure to get a souvenir T-shirt.
Bars & lounges
- Atrium Cafe: Whether you're in the mood for a glass of chardonnay or a vanilla latte, this is a great place for people watching.
- Bliss Ultra Lounge: With high-energy tunes and custom loungers, this is the perfect spot to cap off the evening with a cocktail. There's also a bowling alley.
- Cascades Bar: Stay close to the action at the Epic Casino's friendly, full-service bar.
- Humidor Cigar Lounge: Comfortable seating, a fully stocked humidor, signature cocktails and an extensive drink menu helps to make this the perfect environment to enjoy a good smoke.
- SVEDKA Ice Bar: As cool as it gets. Inspired by the original ice hotels in Scandinavia, the SVEDKA Ice Bar is one of only 14 in the world and the only true ice bar at sea.
- Maltings Whiskey Bar: Be it Canadian, Irish, American, Welsh or Scotch, this whiskey bar offers dozens of varieties to enjoy.
- Posh Beach Club: A first of its kind beach club at sea.
- Sake Bar: The Sake Bar at Wasabi restaurant allows you to experience the simple joys of hot or cold sake.
- Shaker's Martini Bar: Unwind after a long day and join the martini crowd for a sophisticated cosmopolitan or something more adventurous.
- The Haven Lounge: Guests of The Haven have exclusive access to this private bar, showcasing premium liquors.
- Epic Theater Bar: It's bottoms up before or after the curtain goes up at this bar inside the Epic Theater.
- Waves Pool Bar: Relax in a lounge chair, work on your tan and sip on a frozen drink at this poolside bar.
Spa & Fitness
Soothe your body and soul with a hot stone massage, a rejuvenating facial, mani/pedi, acupuncture, Botox, teeth whitening and lots more. At the Thermal Spa Suite, you can soak up serenity in the multi-treatment pool or relax on the thermal benches.
Pulse Fitness Center
Stay in shape with a wider range of workout equipment including treadmills, ellipticals and free weights or even yoga, Pilates and spinning. Enjoy the jogging/walking track as well.
The Sports Complex has not one but two decks to play on with a full-sized basketball court, batting cage, rock climbing wall, the first-ever rappelling wall at sea and a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage.
- Aqua Park: Suit up and splash down at our first ever Aqua Park. Choose from two pools, five hot tubs, kids pool, three multi-story water slides including the the 200-foot Epic Plunge, the only tube slide at sea. If with little ones, head over to the kids pool.
- Bliss Ultra Lounge/Bowling Alley: During the day, all ages are welcome to bowl. At night, guests 18 and older enjoy funky lighting that illuminates the neon-colored bowling balls and decor.
- Headliners Comedy Club: Join the Second City comedy troupe and their unique form of comedy or experience authentic European entertainment with a variety of world-class acts.
- Spice H20: Soak up the sun around the pool and dine on the delicious fare of outdoor buffet at the adults-only beach club at the back of the ship before it turns into a club at night.
- Epic Casino: A large casino offers poker, black jack, roulette, craps and hundreds of slot machines.
- The Marketplace: Whether you live to shop or shop to live, the Marketplace provides excellent retail therapy for passengers. From simple sundries to elegant designer clothes.
- Collection Art Gallery: The on-board art gallery, where works of well-known and emerging artists are on display, and on sale in the lively art auctions.
Norwegian Epic creates different experiences for different types of travelers. Driven by the philosophy of choice, and probably by the need to appeal to a wide demographic of travelers to fill the large 4,000 plus passenger ship, it offers a number of separate and exclusive ship-within-ship areas. In addition to family friendly facilities, like large kids clubs that are arranged by age, they have also created distinctive and exclusive areas with different designs. These have restricted access for those traveling in them. They are:
- Solo travelers. There are over 100 solo studio cabins in a distinct section on the Norwegian Epic and the other large ships in the fleet. These inside cabins have no solo supplements, have their own lounge, bar, meeting area and events to help facilitate solo passengers meet each other. Some of the studios have connecting doors for those traveling with a friend.
- The Haven. This is a premium ship within ship. In addition to larger suites with butler service, there is a large exclusive bar, restaurant with stunning views across the deck and ocean, lounge, concierge and a pool deck which also has hot tubs and spa facilities.
Gary Bembridge sailed on Norwegian Epic on a press/blogger trip as a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line. See Cruiseable's Ethics & disclosure policy.
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Top highlights on this ship
- Water parks with three thrill rides are available for all ages, and there is now a SplashGolf experience in the Kids Aqua Park.
- For solo travelers, there is a dedicated area with private access and a lounge.
- The Haven offers a premium suites area with their own deck, concierge and spa access.
- Brand name entertainment shows include the “Burn the Floor” dance show and the Broadway show "Priscilla Queen of the Desert."
- In 2015 a new venue called The Cavern Club was added, inspired by the famous Liverpool haunt where the Beatles were discovered.