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Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Epic

  • Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Epic Review

Insider Take

Overview

Excellent entertainment, great for singles. Crowded. Many dining and entertainment options, faulty stateroom design.

Onboard Experience

Norwegian Epic is the first ship built completely to F3 specifications. What does that mean? Back in 2000 NCL created a concept for a style of cruising they called "Free-style." The idea is to make the cruise experience less formalized by allowing people to dine at any time or table they want in the main dining room. They also no longer demanded that people adhere to formal dress or stay in the stateroom on certain nights of cruise.

That was Free-style version 1. As time went on they added new features to the free-style concept, less strict disembarkation procedures, a wider variety of restaurants and new styles of staterooms ranging from the most basic to elaborate suites. The first ships built with two completely separate dining rooms, one for traditional dining and the other for free-style, were called F2 ships.

Now, with F3 they have completely done away with the traditional cruise dining. You can still dine in one of two regular dining rooms with the food included in your cruise fare but it no longer involves a pre-set dining time and table. It is open seating all the time. In fact, Epic has 21 different dining venues onboard, many of them are included in the cruise fare (no extra charge) and some of them premium where you pay an additional charge for a nicer dining experience.

Epic is the biggest ship NCL has ever built by half, at 153,000 tons and 4100 berths. It has a wide variety of accommodations from the "studios" to "Deluxe Owner's suites." With some of them based on a "ship within a ship" concept meaning the denizens have special access to private areas the rest of the ship cannot enter.

Entertainment is the main feature on Epic: the ship features Blue Man Group as one of its stage shows. This is a proven hit that uses a lot of props and this will be one of the first times a cruise ship has built a showroom for a specific performance piece. There is a comedy club to house a Second City cast, the popular improve group originated in Chicago as well as a fun "dueling piano show" called Howl at the Moon. There is a space for Cirque-style performances as well as the usual nightclubs with live or recorded music for dancing, a sing along piano bar, and a jazz club. One of the better stage shows is "Legends at Sea" presented by the Las Vegas outfit "Legends in Concert." The show features tribute performers for famous artists, the first round being Tina Turner, Madonna and Elvis. This show is a full production with real backup singers and dancer and a hot band, all of them from Las Vegas. They have been working together for years and it's a very convincing show.

There is an extensive pool-bar called H20 Spice and an Ice-Bar similar to the one in Stockholm where everything inside is made of ice from the bar and chairs to the drinking glasses. The popular "Bliss Nightclub" from previous NCL ships is also present.

But here is the hitch to "F3 Freestyle" as presented on Norwegian Epic: While the ship has 21 eateries and at least 6 different stage shows worth seeing mostly open nightly, they are small and do not hold that many people. So, while NCL Freestyle has freed you from their regimentation - you are highly advised to create your own schedule by going online and making reservations for your entire cruise well in advance of your sail date. You can do this online at NCL.com beginning 45 days before your cruise sails. Thus you are still regimented, but to your own schedule. If you miss a reservation expect to have a lousy seat or miss a show entirely. The idea that you can do anything at anytime, the real Freestyle promise, didn't quite materialize.

Be sure to write your schedule down and bring it with you although you should be able to pull up your reservations on your TV system, ours was not working very well on my first cruise so I had to call and ask them to retrieve my schedule. Your keycard acts as your ticket to see what is reserved.

During the day Norwegian Epic is like any mega-ship with a few unique and special features. There are plenty of outdoor sports activities including three water slides sure to please the kids including the "Epic Plunge," dropping a total length of 200 feet before spinning you into a round vortex where centrifugal forces keep you going for several turns before dropping through the center.

There is a rock-climbing wall, a rappelling wall, dodge ball court, batting cage, and a climbing cage called the "spider's web." Inside there are seven lanes of bowling (for a small cost) and a sports bar. The ship even offers a version of "ice skating" using a lubricating liquid on top of a large plastic mat. It works - according to the skaters who tried it, it feels almost exactly like real ice.

But Nighttime is when the ship's entertainment comes alive with the shows described above. There are outdoor nightclubs such as Spice H2O by the aft pool and Posh "beach club" where during the day you can lounge on white-cushioned day beds and in private cabanas by the pool and at night enjoy exclusive bottle service, gaming tables and a DJ.

The indoor Bliss Nightclub is even more decadent with its king-size bed chaise lounges that evoke the silent question "What time does the orgy start?" Deep blue, orange and gold sateen cover every surface except the cocktail tables, dance floor and the the four bowling lanes on either side of the room.

The Svedka Ice Bar costs $20 for 45 minutes and includes two shots of vodka in "glasses" made of ice. You get a parka for the duration as the indoor temperature is 17 degrees (F).

The beautiful Epic Club Lounge is for the exclusive use of the Courtyard Villa guests and showcases premium liquors, LED screens make framed video displays showing montages of the world's best artwork, music videos, films, celebrities, fashion and more.

The regular bars onboard include O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill where you can dine on American classics and comfort foods served 24 hours a day. Sporting events are shown on multiple flat screen televisions and you'll find three lanes of bowling, dart boards, pool tables, foosball and air hockey.

Shaker's Martini Bar lives up to its name as a classic martini bar. Maltings Whiskey Bar offers whiskies from around the world; Canadian, Irish, American, Welsh or Scotch.

Cascades Bar is next to the Epic Casino. Cagney's Bar is located inside Cagney's Steakhouse & Churrascaria. Waves Bar is poolside for relaxing in a lounge chair, frozen drink in hand. The Humidor Cigar Lounge is a fully stocked humidor of premium-brand and hand-rolled cigars with comfortable seating, signature cocktails, and an extensive drink menu.

The Sake Bar at Wasabi offers hot sake, saketinis or the infamous "ichi ni san" sake bomb.

Courtyard Grill Bar is a come-as-you-are casual bar perched high above the sea in the exclusive Villas Courtyard Grill.

Restaurants

Norwegian Cruise Lines' new megaship Epic will have more restaurants than any cruise ship ever - a total of 21. Half of them are "alternative dining" venues, a term the industry uses for restaurants that assess a surcharge.

Cagney's Steak House; fois gras to filet mignon; $25. This most expensive restaurant on the ship is worth the extra cost. For an extra $10 you can get a full lobster in a succulent creamy sauce or a 32-ounce (!) porterhouse steak. The steak is perfect for sharing between two or even three people. They will carve it tableside and can give the end portions to those who like medium rare and the center to those who like rare.

Teppanyaki: This is a Japanese restaurant with a performing chef cooking your entire meal on a hot grill surrounded by counter seating for a dozen patrons. The food and the jokes keep coming. Does the chef's ability to flip a full bowl of rice into his hat without dropping a single grain make the food taste better? Go for the fun, it's worth the price, but not the food.

Le Bistro French restaurant; $20. Truffled scallops over risotto, lobster in a delicious beurre blanc and flourless chocolate cake This restaurant is a staple on all NCL ships and the food is delectable. In fact, the lobster and 32-ounce porterhouse are also available here (also an extra $10 - but you save $5 over Cagney's).

Moderno; traditional Brazilian Charascurria; freshly roasted chorizo, lamb chops or catana; $18. This is the best restaurant on the ship at any price in my opinion. The meat is roasted on rotating spits under a hot broiler. Now, traditionally the fire is below the meat, but open-flames are dangerous on any ship so the heat is electrically generated. Still, the very slow roasting process allows the juices to steep the meat from the outside in - slowly and succulently. Catana is a top sirloin where the best cut is the first one. The crispy on the outside and liquid on the inside layer of beefy fat melts in your mouth - a carnivore's delight.

Cagney's and Moderno share a salad bar with gourmet offerings.

Shanghai; traditional Chinese food; $15. I have not tried this one and it is not well attended. The food appears to be typical American-Chinese fare from Kung pow to honey chicken. The decor is more American than Chinese with bright lights and wooden chairs.

La Cucina; Italian fare from pizza to seafood fettuccine; $10. Italian restaurants are very popular alternative dining on most cruise ships, but this one seems more of an afterthought for Epic. As my fellow cruise ship "critic" Doug Ward said, "any Italian restaurant with spaghetti on the menu is not authentic." I have to agree. Now, it is only $10 and my risotto was cooked just right, but the mozzarella was too "cheesy" to be authentic. This restaurant is right priced, but does not compare to the Italian fare on most cruise ships. Also - be sure to leave for your reservation early or carry a ship's map. The only access is by walking down a staircase hidden in the forward section of the Garden Cafe (buffet area).

Wasabi; the Japanese sushi bar, a la carte pricing with sushi rolls starting at just $3 is a bargain. A complete sushi combination plate with three different rolls and an appetizer is just $8.00.

Noodles; Chinese fast food with noodle and rice bowls starting at $2.50 a la carte. Once again, a very popular spot for a fast and filling meal at a very reasonable price.

Main Dining Room Restaurants:

Meals at Taste and the Manhattan Club are included in the cruise fare, since they are the main dining rooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both of them serve the same menus every night, but the Manhattan Club, seating 600, is aft with nice views of the sea on three sides. There is also a large stage for a live band and a big dance floor. This room is also used for showtime on certain nights. Taste seats 540. It is near the ground floor of the atrium and there is no charge to dine there.

Poolside, there's a very good hamburger, hot dog and pizza station. No charge.

Free room service is available 24 hours with the usual hamburgers, soup and cheesecake. You can have a fresh pizza delivered anytime, anywhere on the ship, for $5.

The Garden Cafe offers Lido-style casual dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rather than traditional buffet-style service, the room features separate action stations. The decor is bright, modern and functional. There are plenty of serving stations for very little waiting. Breakfast offers eight omelette stations, pre-made yet still hot eggs Benedict and fresh crispy bacon. There is ice cream, soft and scooped available all day from noon to dinner. One of the better buffet breakfasts we have seen.

The only drawback is not enough seating for a full ship, expect to have to ask if you can join someone or you will find your nice hot food going cold. The problem is not a shortage of staff to bus the tables, they are very efficient, it is a shortage of tables.

Tipping

$10 per adult per day and $5 per child are added to your folio automatically. Fifteen percent is automatically added to bar bills and spa services. NCL suggests that concierges and butlers be tipped separately in accordance with the services they provide.

Cabins

The new staterooms on Norwegian Epic are one of the ship's most unusual features. Dubbed "F3 Staterooms" for free-style 3, the rooms have a completely different style from most cruise ships with rounded walls, dome ceilings, mood lighting, and separate rooms for the shower and toilet.

For the entirely new style of balcony cabin, the most common type onboard. NCL says it has "thrown away the rule book with the design of F3. Gone are the regimented typical designs and in place are sleek staterooms that are totally outside the box, designed for the needs of tomorrow's guests." The color scheme involves a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with a splash of color and rich, dark wood. Concealed contour LED lighting and back-lit domed ceilings set off the decor.

The most distinctive design element of the new staterooms, aside from the curved walls and lines creating a modern, inviting look, is that the bathrooms feature a separate shower stall, separate water closet and a modern vanity top sink in the room area. This was a problem for a lot of people who said the bathroom facilities are not private enough. In fact, the translucent glass will reveal what a person is doing inside if the lights are on inside, although the outline is vague. They are not soundproof either.

In addition, there are two categories that come with private common areas only available to the denizens of those staterooms, for a "ship within a ship" effect.

The Courtyard Suites occupy the front of the ships definitely have the most beautiful public areas of the entire ship. The private pool, hot tubs, indoor and al fresco dining rooms and the private bar are all exquisite.

The other ship within a ship area is the set of 128 "Studio Staterooms" a semi-private enclave of small (100 sq. ft.) cabins sold to single cruisers with no single's supplement fee. This is the best arrangements for single cruisers I have ever seen on a cruise ship. All studios share a common corridor which leads to a shared "studio lounge" where denizens can hang out and meet one another. There is free espresso, sandwiches, salads and desserts, and best of all a hostess to keep people talking and a bulletin board to extend messages to everyone like "let's all meet for dinner in 'Tastes' as 7:00."

As with NCL's Freestyle 2.0 enhancements; the F3 staterooms include upgraded bedding, linens and towels, Euro pillows, Elemis bathroom products and MP3 connectivity upon request. Balcony and deluxe staterooms have bathrobes, a customized fruit menu, a fresh-baked cookie at turn down on the last night of cruise, an escort to the stateroom on embarkation day, priority restaurant reservation and reception hotlines and special color keycard for ship-wide recognition.

Further design details of the New Wave staterooms include:

New Wave Deluxe:

Unique curved walls

Concealed contour LED lighting

Back-lit domed ceiling

Comfortable seating area

Flat Screen TV

Mini-Bar

Balcony

Expanded living space

A bathroom that's "outside the box," including:

Separate water closet

Separate vanity top sink within the room

Separate bathtub and shower or luxurious shower

New Wave Balcony:

Unique curved walls

Concealed contour LED lighting

Back-lit domed ceiling

Comfortable seating area

Flat Screen TV

Mini-Bar

Balcony

A bathroom that's "outside the box," including:

Separate water closet

Separate vanity top sink within the room

Separate shower stall

New Wave Standard:

Concealed contour LED lighting

Most inside staterooms feature the back-lit domed ceiling

Flat Screen TV

Mini-Bar

A bathroom that's "outside the box," including:

Separate water closet

Separate vanity top sink within the room

Separate shower stall

Children's Facilities

Norwegian Epic is wild about them, as witness: interconnecting cabins, a kids-only pool and water slide, and the Splashdown Kid's Club, featuring a kid cinema and video arcade. Where most at-sea children's programs turn their backs on the under-threes, NCL welcomes even those in their terrible twos.

NCL recently signed an agreement with Nickelodeon to feature the characters onboard the ships for special events for kids as well as just having the characters onboard often to brighten the day of your young one.

In addition to selections from their own menu, young passengers can eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets in the Kid's Corner buffet, with mini stools and low tables. The complimentary Kid's Crew program is organized by age group: Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates (6 - 9), Navigators (10 - 12) and Teens (13 - 17). Families can gather in the Card Room for a game of Monopoly or Clue, sing together during family karaoke night, or compete in a "Family Feud" game show.

Attire

Determinedly casual, though T-shirts, shorts, and tank tops are forbidden in the dining rooms after 5 p.m., except for the Garden Cafe/Great Outdoors. Very few people dress up for the one "formal optional" night.

Fellow Passengers

NCL attracts a lot of families, first-time cruisers and people who enjoy a more "free-form" cruise experience. The nightlife is fun and interactive, especially good for gen-X music buffs.

Best For People Who Want

A fun mega-ship with lots of nightlife, great entertainment, romantic staterooms and a large variety of alternative restaurants. This is the best ship for Solo Cruisers ever due to 128 "Studio Staterooms" available with no singles supplement.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Quiet settings, uncrowded ships, no kids, all-inclusive cruises where all dinners are taken at pre-set times in the dining room with the same table and waiters every night.

Decor

When one walks around the Epic, especially in the nightclubs, the one word that comes to mind is "decadent."

The public areas are far less impressive, however. This ship does not have the decorative "wow" of a new Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Celebrity ship. Epic has a bit of an "old Las Vegas" feel with burgundy carpet with creme colored accents. With no soaring atriums (the tallest open vertical area on the entire ship is a mere three decks) the ship tends to feel small and crowded. The views from deck seven looks down on penny slot machines one deck below just reinforces the "Reno Casino" look. On deck seven the décor and finishes are more modern, but not with the sublime decorative dignity of Celebrity or Holland America ships. NCL ships are light-hearted and welcoming, modern but not necessarily high-tech. There is very little nautical sense onboard at all, nothing to remind that you are on a ship.

Public Rooms

The nightclubs all feature comfortable but flashy colors and fabrics, except the Ice Bar which only features ice. The more high-energy places have colored LED lights that look something like neon. Many of the restaurants are themed in decor to match the style of cuisine.

The main lobby area is dominated by a large "TV Screen" two decks tall. Surrounding it is O'Sheehan's Pub - a great place to unwind and drink, if only the entertainment was better. This is the only "public" area - the rest is restaurants and entertainment venues.

Service

The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant. Expect a number of Asian room stewards and restaurant staff, Filipino and Chinese.

Entertainment

As stated, Epic has the Blue Man Group, the hit show that started wowwing New York in early 90s and became the main shows at the venetian in Las Vegas. This is a fantastic show which the Cruisemates' editor, Paul Motter, started recommending to cruise lines back in 1993. He is just happy one of them finally took his advice. Early reviews of the ship generally raved about the show.

Another entertainment staple is the Comedy showroom, "Headliner's Lounge" where the Second City comedy troupe and the dueling pianos show "Howl at the Moon" does their thing on alternate nights. The largest theater onboard for production shows only seat 680 people and is used for Blue Man Group four nights per week and Legends at Sea the other three nights (both do two shows each night). These are the "must see shows on the ship". Other entertainment options include the rock jazz music club "Fat Cats" on the first cruises featuring the "Slam Allen Blues Band” - a hot blues band that please audiences nightly.

With an exclusive agreement with Gibson, NCL has guitar and "rockman" amplified headsets for rent onboard for $10 per day to anyone who wants to keep their chops up in the privacy of their staterooms during the cruise. These are offered during the day in the Fat Cats nightclub.

Finally there is the Speigel Tent, a dining and show venue seating just 200 people. This is where you can see Second City's Mystery Lunch "Presumed Dead," (written in collaboration with author Scott Turow) or where you take your kids for the Nickelodeon Breakfast.

Nighttimes are reserved for the special "Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show" featuring a cast of almost 30 people (10 of them waiters) doing a full two hour "circus-like" show featuring juggling, balancing acts, aerial acrobatics and tightrope walkers. The problem is that this venue is far smaller than it appears in many ship renderings and the actual performer working space is a circle only about 12-feet across. This show is too long and the convoluted script is hard to follow. While it has some redeeming features the show "needs work" and will likely be shortened before too long.

The Casino is one of the biggest at sea with hundreds video slot machines including nickel and penny slots. To the delight of serious players, the craps tables offers Las Vegas betting odds.

Shore excursions run the gamut from canopy zipline tours for thrill-seekers to sedate sightseeing trips.

Fitness/Spa

The Health Spa and Salon has two dozen treatment rooms for such exotic treatments as algae detox, lime and ginger salt glows, coconut rubs, and milk ritual wraps, including three for couples. Men's and women's sides are set up with stream and sauna rooms, whirlpool, indoor lap pool, jet-current exercise pool, hydrotherapy pool, and Jacuzzis.

The Center, open 24/7, has 25 treadmills with their own TVs, more than 25 other pieces of fitness equipment, abundant free weights, and a large workout area with lots of aerobic equipment, such as steps and balls.




Ship Overview

Norwegian Epic offers weekly round-trip Western Mediterranean cruises departing from Barcelona in summer months and weeklong Eastern or Western Caribbean itineraries—depending on the date—from Miami during the winter season. Transatlantic crossings are available when the ship repositions seasonally.

NCL's newest and largest ship is all about the entertainment. While Norwegian Epichas a unique new cabin design and more than 20 places to dine, entertainment options include Blue Man Group, Howl at the Moon (a dueling-pianos show), the Second City comedy ensemble, Legends in Concert, and a theatrical dining experience with Cirque du Soleil–style performers. For the kids, there are Nickelodeon characters on board and a character breakfast. The only extra entertainment charges are for the Cirque dinner show and the character breakfast.

Also epic are the numerous bars and lounges. For the coolest drinks at sea, Norwegian Epic has an ice bar (for an extra charge). Expansive areas are reserved for children and teens and the aft pool is exclusively for adults during the day. The other pool area has three waterslides and a plethora of lounge chairs. For the best view of the sea, there is a rock-climbing wall.

Norwegian Cruise Line set sail in 1966 with an entirely new concept—regularly scheduled Caribbean cruises from the then-obscure port of Miami. Good food and friendly service combined with value fares established the line as a winner for active adults and families. Innovative and forward-looking, Norwegian has been a cruise-industry leader for decades, and its fleet is as much at home worldwide as in the Caribbean. Several of the line's ships cruise Alaska's Inside Passage, including one of its newest, Norwegian Bliss.

Noted for top-quality entertainment, Norwegian combines action and high-energy activities as well as a variety of dining options in a casual, free-flowing atmosphere. Norwegian's freestyle cruising signaled an end to rigid dining schedules and dress codes. Norwegian ships now offer a host of flexible dining options that allow passengers to eat in the main dining rooms or any of a number of à la carte and specialty restaurants at any time and with whom they please. The ships' accommodations include some of the largest suites at sea, studio cabins for solo travelers, and a private ship-within-a-ship complex called The Haven, a more luxurious area with personalized service.

From a distance, most cruise ships look so similar that it's often difficult to tell them apart, but Norwegian's largest, modern ships stand out with their distinctive use of hull art. Each new ship is distinguished by murals extending from bow to midship.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Restaurant and show reservations can be made prior to sailing
  • The ice bar is unique
  • Norwegian Epic’s The Haven of luxury suites features more private amenities than older fleetmates

Cons

  • With their frosted shower and toilet compartments, privacy can be an issue in standard bathrooms
  • The necessity of reservations for dining and headline shows eliminates spontaneity
  • Pools are great for cooling off but not adequate for swimming laps
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 1,708
  • Entered Service 2010
  • Gross Tons 153,000
  • Length 1,081 feet
  • Number of Cabins 2,114
  • Passenger Capacity 4,100
  • Width 133 feet
  • New

Oct 21, 2016

Western Mediterranean

My wife and I just disembarked the Norwegian Epic, I wish I could give a good recommendation, but I can't. Airline Accommodations: Very good, our trip started in San Francisco, minimal layover in Atlanta, both ways. Grade "A+" Pre cruise accommodation: We paid for the 3 day pre cruise visit of Rome. Stayed at the Crowne Plaza St. Peter's. 4 Star hotel. Transfers were included. Grade "A" Stateroom: Well designed, except for the TV.

It was mounted near the ceiling, but not tilted down, so some shows and movies were in "false colors." Steward was excellent. Grade "B" Food & Restaurants: Very crowded buffet with long lines and inadequate seating. Due to the lines your food will be cold if ever find a seat. The Specialty restaurants were top notch, with good service and excellent food. Very few passengers ate there. At Moderno reservations were required, even though only 5 of maybe 60 tables were seated. Reservations are required for all but buffet. This is a marketing error by NCL management. There is a moderate charge for them, which very few of the passengers are willing to spend. We ate a 3 almost empty specialty restaurants. C- Ship Security: They confiscated my Leatherman multi tool because it had a small knife blade. I've taken it on previous Norwegian cruises. They assured me it would be returned if I went to Guest Services immediately before before disembarking, at least that's what the written instructions said, they smiled and told me Ship's Security had it at the gangway. At the gangway they said they couldn't find it. It was wasn't "logged and stowed." That's police lingo for, "One of us officers stole it." They refused to return the receipt for the knife. Very unprofessional, not even a smile or apology. Why wasn't it at the gangway? I had to catch the transfer to the airport and couldn't wait for them to "look for it." Grade "F" Casino: One of the decks was a very large casino with hundreds is top modern high quality machines. Very few of the passengers were playing, lots of gaming tables with only a dealer. Waste of ships space. Grade "F" On board shows: Very good and high quality, if you could get a reservation. Since the ship was way too crowded, reservations were required from a box office with limited hours. The ship had to few shows for the number of passengers. The Cirque show with dinner was the best, an added fee was charged. I would rate them an A if there was an adequate "show to passenger" ratio. Grade "C" In room TV shows: LOL, Star Trek Beyond-the ship is destroyed by aliens, Interstellar-the ship is destroyed by a black hole, The Finest Hours-ship breaks apart and sinks in a storm and In The Heart of the Sea-Moby Dick sinks the ship. Who's the idiot who chose those movies? Couldn't really watch The Finest Hours due to TV not being angled down. Grade "C" Passenger load: The services on board were inadequate for the number of passengers, by about 1,000. On "Day at Sea," there was no quiet place on the entire ship. Everywhere, except the specialty restaurants was way too crowded and chaotic. Grade "F" Outside deck: Mostly bars, no real swimming pool, only good for children, had 2 of the 3 water slides working. They were great. The "Hot tubs" were tepid, after 10 minutes I was chilled, temperature was about 85-90F. Grade "D" Overall grade is due to unnecessarily having my Leatherman confiscated, then stolen by ship security Grade "F" Daniel Lewis I sent this to NCL also

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  • New

Mar 7, 2016

Canary Island

“Olympus has fallen”, “London has fallen” and now “Haven has fallen”. No, it is not another blockbuster for the movie series. Is what I sense recently in our 11 days Canary Island Cruise from Barcelona on Norwegian EPIC. For more than 4 years I’ve been one of the biggest supporter of the Norwegian Cruise Line. Their concept of “ship within ship” called HAVEN never let me down and the inscription on the ship card, “Welcome to

you sanctuary” was always backup by the reality on both JADE and EPIC. Until now! We did in December a canary Island Cruise from Barcelona and we left the ship with an imperious need to come back as soon as possible. And here we are, less than three months after, back on board, on Norwegian EPIC, in Haven, room 17017. What a joy this cruise could be! Unfortunately the reality was far away from our December experience and I am still trying to find what and how things on board can change in such a short time. The NCL website (https://www.ncl.com/thehaven/experience/#overview) describe de experience as “a private world of luxury at sea - a ship-within-a-ship reserved exclusively for Norwegian's special guests€. And as a guest you are informed that “from the moment you choose The Haven, your VIP treatment begins€ The embarkation was the first step on a journey, which contradicts the build-up expectations. A very “can't be bothered “check-in followed by a short stop€¦a very short stop in the Haven Check-in lounge where some tired staff invited us to “enjoy “some cold coffee and some breakfast leftover cookies from breakfast. In all our previous trips the Concierge or one of assistants were welcoming the guests at check-in or in Epic Lounge. This time nobody was guiding us and the check-in experience and arrival on the ship was far from the exclusive welcome for which Haven guests pay. Finally we arrived in Haven were a very “busy “concierge ask us to wait for other arrivals to “don't repeat “the information again. Why is so difficult to treat everybody as individuals and not cabin numbers or to check the information about Latitudes members on the guest list at least to provide a polite “welcome back “to them? Dining experience was again of mixture of good and bad. The Epic Club – a private restaurant dedicated to Haven guests exceeded our expectation. Justin and his staff were perfect. The new menu and China are very close to a high-class restaurant. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are now indeed an amazing experience in Epic Club and for sure when the crew will be more comfortable with the product the service will polish at the same level as the food (food knowledge, peace of service, wine knowledge, and recommendation system). But we come back again and again to enjoy the new menu and the service standards. Same story in Cagney's. The Maître D manager superbly his team and food match perfectly the service. Not too much waiting, a waiter always ready to serve or to recommend, new China, glassware and cutlery and an ambiance which made us to go for at least 6 times for dinner. The other side of the coin was two specialty restaurants were the disappointment was part of the menu. MODERNO – the Brazilian restaurant used to be our favourite spot with excellent food and great service. Now the service flow changed, the meat arrived in a chaotic order and if you are a first timer you have the chance to eat ONLY chicken and sausages and miss the excellent Fillet Minion or Picana. The salad bar changes and now NCL seems to give Brazilian passports for Sushi (Japan) or queso manchego (Spain), question of taste! The most annoying thing about Moderno was that the excellent quality meat was always cold. Even after we sent back twice some dishes the rest was still cold and as we didn't get any reaction from the Maître D or staff we ended abusing the salad bar. Not a good idea if you pay for the restaurant. BISTRO was another favourite of mine in old days. The French restaurant used to be an oasis of taste and style. Now only the escargots survived! Slow service, lack of customer service and cold food made us cutting the diner after the starter and save our figure in one night. Such a pity for old good days! The room (17017) was what we expected: lots of space, elegant, Elemis amenities, clean and welcoming. Great first impression but when you start looking around you realise that the maintenance of the ship needs to be reconsidered big time. First the toilets; the revolutionary bathrooms -- which split the toilet and shower into two separate units -- got most tongues wagging with much talk about the "see through" doors. In reality, the doors are translucent and couples and traveling companions of a nervous disposition can pull across a drape that effectively shuts off the bathroom area from the rest of the cabin. Never had any problems with the design or functionality and in the photos the bathroom area looks nice & trendy. In reality the translucent glass door was broken in a previous cruise and even the guests in a 2 bedroom villa pays a lot of money nobody at NCL found a proper door as a replacement and the result was a piece of plastic very bad cut which resembles a little bit with the original. And was there THE SMELL. Due to the bad design or bad maintenance the main toilet smell continuously no matter how many times was cleaned or how many air freshener were placed in the room. The Haven offers guests another touch of luxury: a cell phone contactable around the ship. Great idea even if a little bit exaggerated. But in previous cruises we used it proving to be an useful tool on a ship where free style cruise includes a lot of choices for everybody. This time the phone didn't work and any feedback give to the concierge ended with a lot of excuses and the blame place on the shoulder of “maintenance guy. So the posh cell phone on board was never functional. As a Haven guest you have free access to a TV system, which allow you to have free movies 24h. Excellent idea and the selection was impressive and, what a surprise changed since December, including now Oscars’ nominated productions. But again the bad maintenance (again a Concierge opinion) made necessary to spend 9 hours (indeed NINE hours) to watch the last James Bond. The system crashed every 5 minutes and I never spend in my entire life so much time with Daniel Craig and his funny running style! Right from the get go, we needed to have the clogged toilet fixed, later it was a ceiling tile with a light came down, the door needed to be fixed (and avoid to spend an extra 2 h in case of emergency to get out). The list goes on. So we got to know the electrician, carpenter, and plumber pretty well (all very nice people) The Haven supposed to be a quiet place, “announcement free “But once again the reality was different. A malfunction of the system brought the too many and in too many languages announcements every day in our cabin. Was funny but we wren€™t able to listen to the entire announcement€¦only the DING-DONG and the first half because after that the sound stopped. Don't say it, we spoke with the Concierge about that but I bet you can guess already the answer and the outcome. So Ding-Dong and Pedro's ½ sentence 5 times/day for us! Fortunately for us the only thing that made this Haven experience memorable, in a good way, was the excellent service of our butler and cabin steward. Polite, excellent manners, smooth service and very strong consistency made the room team an excellent asset for EPIC's Haven. Richard, the steward, was funny and chatty and Sahmed the butler was always there without being too much in to your face ready to assist with whatever you need: from laundry to organising a private party in our cabin. Haven has it’s own gym, sauna and steam room but, again, somebody miss the point of having such facilities on board. The changing room was always full with stuff for cleaning or sunbed cushions, the gym was not very clean and if you wanted to use the sauna or steam room you needed to wake up 1h earlier and switch on the facilities if you want to use them around 9AM. Reading again the NCL website I am still surprised by the Concierges€™s role description: “Once on board, a concierge will help plan your day whether it's hosting a private party or reserving a private tour ashore€. In our previous cruise was exactly like that with a Concierge having lots of genuine smiles and polite conversation even if the guests in Haven are not all the time “Premium Guests “and the feeling of “new money-bad manners “is quite common on NCL. This time was different. Both Concierge and a gentleman who was the Assistant Concierge were the perfect example for “Concierge Don’ts “I will need another review to write down everything so lets try some examples looking at main Concierge skills: - Active Listening : both of them all the time when we approach their desk were busy “doing something “on the computer. No eye contact, no interest in the conversation, having phone chats or conversation with others in the middle of our request and so on. One moment we decided to skip the Concierge desk and started to organise and sort our issues ourselves. - Service Orientation at the skill of being pro-active didn't find a space in their CV. When my partner was ill and we ask the concierge about medical emergency procedures and costs on board, her assistance was limited to a “put you through the medical centre” like a hotel operator. No follow up call, at least as a courtesy if “duty of care “was not in her language. - Social Perceptiveness & discrimination awareness : as gay market is a massive source of income for any cruise lines and NCL was brilliant from this point of view until now, I didn't expect such an aggressive and rude homophobic behaviour from both Concierge and Assistant Concierge. I was thinking that one can make a lot of money from complaining about gay discrimination and taking in the account all the rolled eyes, ironic smiles and close to the end of the cruise the constant “ignored “applied to us. Nothing to do apart of smiling when we didn't get any answers to our “hello “or “how are you? - Judgment and Decision Makin : or in simple words “The answer is NO, what's your question? That was a constant attitude at the Concierge desk. One of my friends wanted to change a booking for a show and the answer was NO. When we check later, directly in the theatre and with the help of an excellent Cruise Director they were plenty of seats and no problem with re-booking. We missed so much our previous concierges Adrian, Monica and all the others who really understand why and how they can make somebody experience in Haven an “experience truly first class”(https://www.ncl.com/thehaven/experience/#service). Maybe some training or a temporary demotion will do well to both Concierge and Assistant Concierge. More&Photos at leonardmiron.com

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  • New

Sep 15, 2014

med

If you like crowds and hidden charges then this is the ship for you. Prices shown on drinks menus do not include VAT and service charge. Total price for two beers nearly $16. The food was good as on most ships. The staff very nice but an incident when laundry steward came into our cabin at 12:20am when told not to but carried on to tell us how to fill bag told him to leave. Our cabin was called a mini suite but was no better than a standard cabin

with lumpy short (feet hanging out the bottom) bed. The bathroom you had to draw a curtain across. The food was good. We didn't like our cabin. We didn't avail ourselves on the onboard activities.

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By Nir _CR

  • New

Sep 1, 2014

Mediterranean

Overall, a pretty disappointing cruise. The entertainment was not great, the staff were not very helpful. When we went to the concierge desk, there was a long line since there were two dedicated staff for spanish speaking people. The tour director was not very interesting or seemed to care about our experiences. Very bland food, and in the Brazilian specialty restaurant, which cost extra, the food was spoiled. Small, but usable cabin.

The large balcony was a good idea to pay extra for. Boring activities. Not much there. We booked an excursion through a private operator, CruisingExcursions.com instead of with the cruise line. We were looking forward to this family trip that we have been planning for a year and were trusting that this company would meet our expectations that we had. Unfortunately, our August 2014 excursion with them to Monaco, Montecarlo and Eze made for a horrible experience and ruined the whole rest of the vacation for us. Our tour guide, who had such a thick accent that we missed most of her commentary and who failed to provide us with a local number, abandoned us in Montecarlo. She told us at 11:30 AM, to spend time on our own and meet at a certain point at 2:30 PM and we confirmed this time with her twice because it sounded like 3 hours was a long time to spend on our own. All three times she confirmed that she meant 2:30. At 2:00 PM we arrived at the meeting point and over the next hour were surprised that no one was there to meet us. We became desperate and made several attempts to find her. We asked several other tour guides there from the cruise line whether or not they knew where this guide was and they said they did not. We tried to get the cruise guides from our ship to take us back with them, but they refused since they weren't insured for us. We ended up having to take a taxi back to the port in Cannes and spent 180 euros to get back to the ship since we didn't want to miss the departure time. We later spoke to other people from the excursion and they said that she did say 2:30 but then changed her mind and gathered other people at 12:30 and left. She did not make any accommodations to make sure we were taken care of when it was her fault that we, a family of two adults and two children, were abandoned. We never completed the tour and my wife left her new jacket and my daughter her sunglasses on the bus since they were promised they would be safe. We have contacted this company several times only asking for reimbursement of the tour cost and the taxi ride, but they have made excuse after excuse to not reimburse what is owed us. Again, do not use this company. If you already booked with them, do yourselves a favor and cancel and use the ships excursion company, it is safer and they are more responsible. We learned our lesson. Don't make the same mistake we made just to save a few dollars. Overall, not as good as we hoped. Mostly, it was the cruise excursion that ruined it for us, however, we will also most likely not use Norwegian Cruise Lines, again. I would offer a tip to use the cruise excursion.

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Jul 14, 2014

Mediteranean

Crowds, crowds and more crowds. Absolutely ridiculous how many people were on that ship. You can't get a table to eat breakfast, heck, you can't even get into the line to get the breakfast. Kids running and screaming everywhere unfettered. This is Carnival for sure. We complained about it but they didn't seem to want to intervene. I paid for the ultimate dining package, without it I would have waited in more lines and fought more crowds.

My cabin was billed as a mini-suite but for NCL's latitudes program you aren't credited for a suite, go figure. Boring entertainment. All excursions were great.

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