Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic!

March 19, 2010

A number of cruise lines have new vessels that have either debuted, or will make their debut in 2010.  Each offers something new and innovative to the cruise industry and, Norwegian Epic, which is set for its transatlantic crossing to New York and then to Miami in June, has more than its share of industry firsts.  The Epic will call Miami home and offer an Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary.  Here are just a few of the many features that make the Epic unique.

 Studio Stateroom/Lounge

 Calling all singles!  In additional to the “new wave” designed staterooms with curved walls geared toward families and couples, NCL’s Epic has a special category of staterooms with the single traveler in mind – Studios.  The Studios, with its contemporary décor and urban feel, were designed and priced specifically for the single traveler.  The 100 square feet studios are equipped with a full size bed and private bathroom, have soft dome lit ceilings and interior, one-way windows.  In addition, Studio staterooms have access to their own private two-level lounge that can only be accessed with the Studio room key.  The lounge has a full bar, two large TV screens, a jukebox, WiFi and comfy seating for all the single travelers to meet up.  Gone are the days when singles had to go looking for other singles on a big ship.  Now they have their very own area to socialize.  Kudos to NCL for addressing the needs of the single traveler!


The Epic offers 21 dining options to its guests so there is definitely something for everyone.  And out of the 21 options, a whopping 11 of them are complimentary!  To mention a few, The Manhattan Room is an elegant supper club with music, dancing and entertainment; Spice H20, serves Latin and Asian style cuisine in the adults-only area; and, O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill serves pub fare.  A number of other options are available as well.

Of the restaurants with cover charges, I am looking forward to trying Cirque Dreams & Dinner which offers two Circus Soleil type shows each evening while guests dine on a three-course meal.  Cover charge is $15 – $20 per person.  Moderno Churrascaria is another one on my list.  It’s an upscale steakhouse with an Argentinean flare.  Cover charge is $18 per person.  Wasabi’s Sushi and Sake Bar, Shanghai’s Noodle Bar and LeBistro are just a few of the many other choices available to suit your palate.

Entertainment and Nightlife

For entertainment, the Epic offers the Blue Man Group, which has entertained audiences in Las Vegas for years, the Second City Comedy Troupe at the Headliners Comedy Club, jazz and blues at Fat Cats, and headliners in the Manhattan Room.

Looking for unique nightlife?  Try the Ice Bar.  NCL will provide you with faux fur coats, gloves and hats to enjoy a drink in its 17 F bar made of ice – the only one at sea!  Or head to SpiceH20 where the pool turns into a dance floor at night and dance away to live music.

As for daylight entertainment, in addition to their many pools and hot tubs, try the Epic Plunge – a huge tube and bowl slide, the climbing wall, bungee trampoline, or bowling.

The Epic is sure to please.  With its many lodging, dining and entertainment options there is definitely something for everyone – young and old, families and singles.  This cruise specialist is truly looking forward to sailing on the Epic.


 Submitted by Heijin McIntire

See the finishing touches!  Click on the link below to see the last touches before the Epic sets sail!

Updated on May 27, 2010.


The Oasis of the Seas

January 28, 2010

As our driver drove toward the pier, the 12 of us aboard the van asked in disbelief, “Is that a building blocking our view or the ship?”  It was Royal Caribbean’s newest, biggest, and most expensive ($1.5 BILLION) passenger ship in the world – the Oasis of the Seas!  And while we all knew it was going to be big, none us thought it would be quite THAT big!  I immediately thought to myself, it’s going to take forever to check-in.  With 18 decks, 5400 guests, and 2165 crew, I was prepared for an overwhelming experience.  It never happened.  It was a painless, stress free process from start to finish.  To be sure, embarkation day is always hectic, but Royal Caribbean had the check-in process moving smoothly.

 Walking onboard, it felt as if we had walked on to a side street filled with cafes, bars and shops.  We were in the Royal Promenade which was bustling with passengers trying to figure out what to do and where to go.  Since our stateroom was not ready, Lee, a member of the Oasis staff who had assisted us getting onboard (my husband was in a wheelchair and Lee pushed the wheelchair up the ramp) told us they had staff assisting passengers plan the week on Deck 4 in Studio B.  Since I had not been able to get reservations for the comedy show online, off we went and when I was finished, we had seats reserved for a show each night of our cruise, and I was booked for the zip-line (yes, you read right).  They also had staff on hand to book spa treatments, shore excursions and more, but I didn’t want to overdo it my first hour.  Then, it was off to get something to eat – of course.  Well, it had been a good two hours since breakfast!

 The buffet was packed (which is pretty normal as that is where everyone heads when your stateroom isn’t ready), but we managed to get through it and to even find a table.  After lunch, we explored the ship, went to our stateroom, and crashed. 


Despite it’s size, the Oasis does not overpower.  This is due to the Oasis’ use of “neighborhoods,” so while the ship itself is massive, the neighborhoods and venues feel quite intimate.  The Oasis is divided into 8 “neighborhoods,” each with its own unique character and appeal.  I’ll only touch on a few.

 The Royal Promenade is the main, and perhaps the busiest, indoor neighborhood.  This is where their “dancing in the streets” festivities take place.  (Don’t miss the first one on embarkation day!)  There are several bars, including the Rising Tide bar which literally rises from the Royal Promenade deck up to Central Park on deck 8; Boleros, the Latin themed disco; a 24-hour cafe and a pizzeria which is open until 3 a.m.  (Food in the café and pizzeria are complimentary although if you request a specialty coffee, there is a fee).

 For those who want excitement and physical activity, the Pool and Sports Zone is where to be.  Here you will find the zip line, two rock climbing walls, two FlowRiders, miniature golf course, pools galore, aquapark, and hot tubs.  The Wipe Out Cafe is also here serving hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza.  Want to relax?  The adults only Solarium, my personal favorite, is for you.  And if you don’t want to travel to the Windjammer Marketplace on the other end of the ship, The Solarium Bistro serves healthful foods (complimentary for breakfast and lunch).  The active can also go to the Fitness Center or jogging track on deck 5.

 Entertainment place, on deck four, is where you will find the Opal Theatre, Comedy Live, Jazz on 4, Studio B and Casino.  I’ve described the entertainment below so won’t go into it here.  Central Park, an outdoor area with real trees and plants is on deck 8.  And the Boardwalk with its own carousel, Johnny Rockets, doughnut shop and ice cream parlor is on deck 6

 Once you’ve toured the massive ship, you will find that you like one or two areas better than the others and that is where you will spend most of your onboard time.  Because there are so many areas, no one area becomes overcrowded, with the exception of the Royal Promenade, and even there it is manageable.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are a LOT of passengers onboard.  But, it is surprisingly roomy.  On many a smaller ship, I have found it virtually impossible to find a lounge chair by the pool.  But on the Oasis, I was always able to find a spot.


Oasis’ size is not the only thing that is impressive.  The Oasis’ entertainment is phenomenal!  There are six topnotch shows to choose from.  I’m a theatre nut and found their production of Hairspray excellent.  Oasis of Dreams is breathtaking with its divers, aerialists, gymnasts and synchronized swimmers.   The headliner show had everyone dancing in their seats, Come Fly With Me was innovative, and my personal favorite, Frozen in Time, their ice show was enchanting.  There were two comedians on board as well who were truly entertaining.  One word of caution though, the comedy acts are for adults only.  Those who are easily offended should go elsewhere.  But, we enjoyed them immensely.


Meals in the main dining room were quite good as was the service.  However, food in the Windjammer marketplace got a little boring by the 5th or 6th day.  The good thing is, there are lots of choices.  Unfortunately, I was travelling with someone who ONLY wanted to go to the buffet so I wasn’t able to check out the other dining spots, but I did sneak away to the Solarium Bistro once while the other half was napping and truly enjoyed the food. 


So, are there any negatives?  I did experience a few disappointments/frustrations.  A few of these could have been eliminated with better communication and the others are just matters of personal preference.  So here are a few hints.

 Because of the number of passengers, unlike other ships where passengers just enter the theatre 20 minutes before show time for the evening’s entertainment, on the Oasis, you need to reserve your seats in advance.  About a month before sail date, I received the customary, “get ready to sail and complete your online check in” email from Royal Caribbean.  So I tried to get all reservations to all the shows at that time.  I must have spent HOURS trying to find availability for the various shows and was never able to get seats for the Comedy Show.  So I had a negative experience and view before I ever got on the ship! 

Hint:  Avoid this frustration.  Go to Studio B on deck 4 as soon as you board and one of the staff will get you all set up.  Also, 10 minutes before show time, unused seats are released to standby guests.

 Each stateroom is equipped with wifi, plus you can supposedly check emails and such using the keyboard provided (for a fee, of course).  However, I found it very user unfriendly.  So, where can you use a regular desk top computer?

Hint:  There are guest computers available in the card room on deck 14.

 Breakfast gets a little boring in the Windjammer Marketplace after a while and the main dining room feels a little formal.

Hint:  Go to Johnny Rockets for a complimentary breakfast you can order from a menu.

The Vitality at Sea Spa’s thermal suite was disappointing as well.  It consisted of only a few beds and sauna, plus no ocean views.  On the Norwegian Pearl, for the same daily rate, guests had use of the hydrotherapy pool, as well as the thermal beds, and saunas.  Plus, the thermal beds and lounges look out onto the ocean which is truly relaxing.

 Finally, I missed the rocking of the ship.  The Oasis was one of the most stable cruises I’d ever been on despite the fact we did not have the best weather.  Call me crazy, but if I’m going to go on a cruise, I want to feel I’m on a ship.  So, I missed the rocking motion of being on the ocean, especially at bedtime.


The Oasis is a floating resort that can hold its own against any Las Vegas resort:  great shows, good food, and activities galore.  In fact, it is better than a Las Vegas resort.  It has something for every age group and lifestyle.  There is the complimentary kids program for kids aged 2 to 17 with age appropriate activities for them, casinos and discos for the party hardy, shows everyone can enjoy, and Solarium and library for those who want to just relax.  On top of it all, you wake up in St. Thomas, St. Maartin or the Bahamas!  So if you don’t mind the fact the ship doesn’t sway, get onboard!