Norwegian Cruise Lines’ newest and largest vessel is a magical world of fantasy come true

Reality is suspended – expectations are exceeded beyond whatever we imagined. But then, who could have imagined a holiday that combines the energy of New York, the glitz of Las Vegas, and ports-of-call where the local history includes; Michelangelo, The Roman Empire, and cathedrals that took four hundred years to build – all set against the azure-blue background of The Mediterranean Sea.

The EPIC is the newest and largest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet. She is the world’s third largest cruise ship with a double occupancy guest capacity of 4,100 and a staff and crew of 1,700. With this gargantuan size in mind – the company and their designers were careful to create modest-sized public areas. And it works – we never felt lost in the crowd. On the contrary, during the evenings at sea, you could feel the positive energy of 4,400 guests (600 children on board during our week) having a fine time in one of 22 restaurants, or enjoying entertainment in one of 10 performance areas – including the 680 seat EPIC Theatre, home to The Blue Man Group and the Legends of Rock n Roll.

Norwegian has maintained its popular signature Freestyle Cruising concept on The EPIC.

The concept of Freestyle is to place the focus on the guest’s holiday experience; beginning with dining and food preparation. Without pre-set times or table assignments, guests a free to dine when and where they want. Behind the scenes in the kitchens, the orders for each person are prepared separately, as they are in any first class restaurant.

Hotel Director Richard Janicki explains the difference: “Other cruise lines have tried to copy our Freestyle dining, but we make the investment in building extra kitchens throughout the ship for our 22 restaurants on board The EPIC. Each restaurant has its own kitchen area. Even in our Garden Café buffet, we are constantly cooking and replenishing the serving platters to ensure that everything is fresh.”

We particularly enjoyed the Art Deco sophistication of The Manhattan Room, and the jazz orchestra serenading diners with selections from the American Songbook. On one occasion, five singers from the Legends cast came in for a dazzling twenty minute Salute to Motown.

Guests jumped to their feet and danced in the aisles; waiters and waitresses were jiving away and even the normally formal Maitre D’s joined in the fun.

Taste – the second “main dining room” has a spectacular three deck atrium with a skilled pianist playing the baby grand piano. Cagney’s, with polished mahogany and crisp linens is the quintessential steak and chop house.

Sample Brazilian Churrascaria cuisine with meats freshly sliced at your table in Moderno; enjoy authentic Italian cooking in the Tuscan atmosphere of La Cucina, Open 24 hours a day, the casual pub atmosphere of O’Sheehan’s was a favourite; where guests could enjoy comfort foods like delicious chicken pot pie with a pint of Guinness.

The culinary theatrics of the Teppanyaki chefs and are always popular, as are Yakitori & Sushi, and Wasabi. Le Bistro, an elegant restaurant with Continental cuisine is one of our Norwegian Cruise Line favourites. More choices than you can try in seven nights – perhaps you’ll have to come back.

The EPIC is ideal for families and multigenerational reunions; equipped with water slides, a climbing wall, 2 bowling alleys and a range of activities for kids of all ages. Entourage is an adult-free zone for teens by day, and their own alcohol-free club for by night.

There are many supervised activities for younger children organized by age groups; which means that Mom and Dad can relax – or join in the challenge on the climbing wall. Norwegian continues their long-standing relationship with Nickelodeon, and children can meet many of their favourite television characters.

Guests who want tranquility can retreat to several adult-only sun decks, or the H2O pool and deck at the aft of the ship. Adults-only, a cool beer or daily cocktail and falling asleep with a book are the main ingredients for a few hours of serious relaxation. If you’re travelling with grandchildren – let them burn energy at the Aqua Park and you can catch up on the news of their exploits at dinner.

The principle meeting area on board The EPIC is the three deck atrium, with a 45 foot Wii screen, a performance area for musicians, cooking demonstrations and a variety of activities changing on an hourly basis. On the main level (Deck 5) you’ll find the Front Desk, Shore Excursion Office, and the Future Cruise Consultant – a very busy person. Hotel Director Richard Janicki told me; “The EPIC has only been in service for a year, and we already have repeat passengers on board – some have sailed with us three times in 12 months!” It was Richard who greeted me with a hearty; “Welcome to Las Vegas on the seas!”
Originally from France, Richard gained his experience in some of the finest restaurant kitchens in Paris. An 11 year veteran officer with Norwegian Cruise Line, the company has entrusted him with the largest department on board one of the world’s largest cruise ships.

“I’m very proud that we have officers and crew from 59 different countries on board this ship. The fact that we already have repeat customers after just twelve months in operation shows that guests are enjoying their EPIC experience.”

The EPIC has 75 Villa Suites where guests enjoy a penthouse world of luxury and privacy; a private pool and courtyard, a secluded sundeck, fitness centre, spa services and even a private dining room where floor-to-ceiling windows afford spectacular views. We had the pleasure of dining in the EPIC Grill, which has its own kitchen to service the Courtyard Suites guests for all meals. The food was delicious and service was unhurried, courteous, and we felt quite special.

The 2 bedroom Villa Suites are ideal for families; with a separate bedroom and bathroom for the children, a living room and dining area with balcony, and a separate master bedroom and bathroom ensuite. The spectacular two bedroom Owners Suites are also located in the same area.

Luxurious Penthouse Suites for two feature circular beds, and access to the private Villa Courtyard. The three decks of Villa Suites, Courtyard and sun deck create a wonderful world of comfort, superb amenities and indulgence.

Solo travelers will be interested to know that The EPIC has Studio staterooms for without a single supplement for single travelers. These unique accommodations provide Studio guests with a private lounge for their exclusive use. Staterooms have a one-way window looking out into the corridor.

We’ve been sailing with Norwegian Cruise Lines since the mid-nineties, and they have always been a leader in on-board entertainment.

Given the size of The EPIC and the many entertainment venues, Norwegian has employed Karen Maybury-Webb as on-board Entertainment Director to assist in the co-ordination of the many performers and clubs, ranging from the 680 seat EPIC Theatre to the intimate New Orleans-style Fat Cats Lounge.

“We have so much going on in our nine performance areas that it’s necessary to have someone onboard dedicated to the entertainment function. I’m responsible for everything from the poolside parties to the EPIC Theatre. I started out in the entertainment business as a stand-up comedienne, came to Norwegian 18 years ago for 6 months – and I’ve been here ever since!”

We saw a Spanish Flamenco dance troupe in Headliners, a mutli-purpose club that features comedians and other performers such as Howl at the Moon. a hugely successful modern version of Stump the Band where audience members request songs from the 70s though to today. My personal favourites were the New Orleans blues music of the Slam Allen Band at Fat Cats Lounge and the Beatles Tribute Band outdoor evening concert at H2O.

The orange and yellow striped Spiegel Tent spans two decks and is home to the wonderful Cirque Dreams dinner show. The show is a combination of Moulin Rouge theatrics and Cirque acrobatics performed by trapeze artists, jugglers and skilled acrobats in a zany presentation that also includes clowns and wandering minstrels in fantastic costumes. Sometimes you feel like you’ve followed Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit-hole. It’s a must see show!
The Mandara Spa offers a complete range of spa treatments and services; including a thermal pool, hydrotherapy lounge (daily and weekly passes available) and all of the equipment that you’d expect in a state-of-the-art spa facility. Similarly, the Pulse fitness centre has all the equipment necessary for training at all levels.

Classes and individual fitness programs are available with qualified instructors who will design a personalized fitness program for you to continue with back home. The outdoor sports complex has a full-sized basketball court, and baseball batting cage, and the increasing popular rock climbing walls – supervised by trained monitors.

As big as a small town, The EPIC offers a unique cruise experience, an ideal holiday for families, reunions, or couples. There’s room for everyone and activities for all. Bon Voyage!


The EPIC sails in The Mediterranean from Barcelona until October 16 before returning to the ever-popular 7 day Eastern Caribbean itinerary from Miami beginning November 5, 2011. Beginning May 2, 2012 her summer Western Mediterranean itinerary will originate from Rome, with pre and post cruise packages in Rome.

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