En-route to an Epic experience

Come along with us as we sail the Eastern Caribbean aboard Norwegian Epic! Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line holds a special place in my heart. It was in 1998, aboard the Norwegian Wind that I took my first cruise, a weeklong voyage from Vancouver to Alaska. I was hooked the second I saw that immense ship, its white hull glistening in the sunshine, tied up at Vancouver’s Ballantyne Pier. Perhaps that’s why I’m excited to begin my voyage aboard the brand-new Norwegian Epic tomorrow and kick off this Live Voyage Report here on From the Deck Chair, along with my friends at Cruise Experts Travel.

Norwegian Wind daily program for July 7, 1998 along with a postcard of the ship and NCL stationery. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

Of course, a lot has changed since that voyage in July, 1998. At that time, there was no such thing as onboard internet. Gratuities had to be paid in cash at the end of the voyage, tucked safely into little white envelopes. Breakfast was served buffet-style in one of the ship’s main restaurants, and lunch and dinner were served in two separate seating times, to say nothing of the fact that the 1993-built Norwegian Wind would resemble a bathtub toy next to the immensity of the Norwegian Epic.

Alaska-bound aboard the Norwegian Sun in 2005. Photo © Aaron Saunders

In 2005, I sailed with Norwegian – then known largely as NCL – aboard the Norwegian Sun to Alaska once again. The ship was beautiful, and the itinerary was fantastic, with a port call in off-the-beaten-path Wrangell, Alaska. But the line was still grappling with how to best implement Freestyle Cruising, Norwegian’s new dine-when-you-want, with who-you-want onboard program that sought to tip the more regimented structures of “classic” cruising on their head. When it worked, it was a masterstroke. When it didn’t, the cruise experience fell apart badly.  It was still an immensely enjoyable voyage, but I was left with the impression there were still a few kinks to work out.

Entertainment aboard the Norwegian Pearl plays on into the wee hours. Photo © Aaron Saunders

In 2009, I cruised aboard the Norwegian Pearl on a quick two-day getaway from Vancouver and noticed a marked difference in the onboard product. Besides the beauty and clever design of the ship, there had been a marked improvement in both food quality and service. The name of the game might still be Freestyle, but the quality was back to what I remembered so fondly from 1998.

Norwegian Cruise Line has never shied away from experimentation, like launching the only inter-island Hawaiian cruises on the market aboard the US-flagged Pride of America. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

I like to say I’ve sailed with three different NCL’s, because each time, the experience has changed and morphed based on the line’s continually evolving onboard product.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Norwegian Cruise Line I sailed aboard in 1998 exists now only in name, but a few key elements survived, most notably the line’s dedication to onboard entertainment. It was stellar then, and I have no doubts it will be equally fantastic this time around. And while many cruise lines prefer to stick with a “tried-and-true” approach to their onboard product, you have to give Norwegian kudos for not being afraid to try something new.

Take the plunge aboard one of the most hypnotic waterslides ever devised at sea! Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

But most of all, I’m looking forward to sailing aboard the Norwegian Epic. Norwegian really took a leap of faith designing this massive, 4,100 passenger vessel that offers over twenty different dining options, twenty different bars and lounges, and more onboard entertainment than you can shake a stick at. In fact, I did a calculation: over the course of the week, there’s no conceivable way I’ll be able to experience everything this one-of-a-kind ship has to offer. But I can do my best to take it all in, thanks to an itinerary that features three days at sea and three days of basking in the warm glow of the Eastern Caribbean.

Over twenty different dining options are available aboard Norwegian Epic, including the elegant Manhattan Main Dining Room. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Besides being able to take in any number of dining options onboard, the onboard entertainment is a huge draw.  Norwegian Epic is the only ship at sea to feature performances by the Blue Man Group, a must-see show that can be reserved online before your voyage.  Best of all, it’s complimentary.  But there’s also The Second City comedy troupe; the look-and-sound-alike song stylings of Legends At Sea; a Murder Mystery Luncheon based on the works of novelist Scott Turturrow; the Nickelodeon Character Brunch where kids can have breakfast with the likes of SpongeBob Squarepants…the list just goes on and on.

What's this, you ask? Why, the actual Ice Bar aboard Norwegian Epic, of course! Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

If the Caribbean sun is getting to you, why not pop into the SVEDKA Ice Bar, the only true ice bar at sea?  Kept at a chilly 17 degrees Fahrenheit, you can don a parka and gloves as you indulge in two included drinks over a period of 45 minutes – if you can last that long.  Being Canadian, I’m headed to the Caribbean to escape the cold so I’ll probably take a pass on that one.

Staterooms aboard Norwegian Epic feature a unique "wave"-style arrangement. Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

We still haven’t scratched the surface of this ship, though, which features accommodations designed to suit every taste and budget. These range from cozy, European-inspired Studio Staterooms designed for the solo traveller to the massive Deluxe Owner’s Suites that can sleep up to four and include floor-to-ceiling windows, glass enclosed balconies, and plenty of living space.  For myself, I plan to enjoy the voyage from the comfort of my Category BA Balcony Stateroom, where I’ll be reporting live throughout the week.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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So come along with us as we cruise the Eastern Caribbean aboard the Norwegian Epic, and discover what it’s like to Cruise Like a Norwegian!

Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Norwegian Epic continues tomorrow, as we embark our ship in the Port of Miami and set sail for the Caribbean.  Looking to book your very own Norwegian Epic cruise? Get all the details from our friends at Cruise Experts Travel!

 

2 Responses to Norwegian Epic Live Voyage Report – Day 0

  1. Kim says:

    Great Article looking forward to following along!

  2. Nan says:

    We are waiting to see the ship as it will be our first cruise

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