Oct. 2-9, 2010
by Mary & Vincent
We had booked the Epic's maiden voyage across the Atlantic for last
June, but the old adage “God willing” popped up and we had to cancel
for health reasons. So, to finally sail aboard this magnificent ship
was a distinct pleasure. As soon as we saw that Captain Hakan
Svedung was at the helm (our third cruise with him) we were content.
Also on board was our old friend Hotel Director Denis Prguda, who
made our cruise a wonderful one. This trip we made a new friend
Staff Captain Martin Tobias Akesson whose courtesy was outstanding.
He saw a need and he filled it (more on this later).
Saturday Oct. 10, 2010, I-95 was not congested: Boca
Raton to Miami was a 55 minute ride. Baggage drop off was easy, and
we were in line for check-in only 10 minutes at 1:00pm. After 15
minutes, we had assistance to Deck 12, but the rooms were not ready
until 2:00pm; however, our Steward Richard took our walker and
placed it in our room for us.
The Epic is a truly magnificent ship of epic
proportions and deserves a back to back booking in order to fully
enjoy it all. She was started in 2007 at STX Europe Shipyard in St.
Nazaire, France, and sea trials began in Feb. 2010 and were
completed in June just before delivery. This ship has 19 passenger
decks, many with balconied cabins. Her gross tonnage is 153,000;
overall length is 1,080 ft. and beam is 133 ft. Draft is only 28.5
ft. She is powered by Diesel Electric engines and cruises at 22
knots. Her guest capacity is 4,100 double occupancy; her crew
numbers 1,730--a very nice crew to passenger ratio. The Epic has a
series of Studios, inside cabins for one passenger, on Decks 11 and
Deck 12, a very innovative idea which allows solo passengers to book
at convenient prices. At boarding, we were given a compact pocket
guide to the Epic which came in very handy. The major drawback to
getting around was the exceptionally high thresholds. They created a
problem for the wheelchair and the scooter. The crew was already at
work correcting the situation.
Decks 1 through 4 are for crew only.
Deck 5 forward has the Epic Theater with wheelchair access and
reserved seating. There is an excellent view of the stage from every
seat--not a pole in the house. Midship is the Photo Gallery and
Internet Cafe` starboard. Port side is Le Bistro French cuisine,
excellent ($20 fee). Also here are the Guest Service, Shore
Excursion and Cruise Consultant Desks. At aft is Taste Restaurant
with fine dining, where even shorts are allowed at dinner.
Deck 6 forward is the balcony of the Epic theater. Midship is the
Headliners Comedy Show Bar and Spiegel Tent featuring “Cirque
Dreams” ($20/30 fee) a dinner show that is very popular--book it as
soon as possible, even before you get on board, or you'll miss it!
All the servers and the Maitre D' have entertainment skills and
contribute to the fun.
Mid ship is also O'Sheehan's Pub with great
food and informal dining (Fish and Chips, Shepherd's pie, pretzel
rolls, etc...). This is the largest Pub afloat and there is a great
view of the super size screen visible from Decks 5, 6 and 7.
Football fans covet the specific barstools where they can watch the
games, drink beer and eat the terrific pub food, simultaneously. The
atmosphere was FANtastic.
Midship is also the huge Casino. Toward
aft is Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant and Noodle Bar with lots of
stools. Next, is the “Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club”, one of the many
entertainment venues, smooth. All the way aft is the main dining
room Manhattan with a small live combo with a great singer and
dancing every night.
Deck 7 forward is Bliss Lounge with plush
seating and the Bowling Alleys. The Library is also located here
with very limited hours and books. This ship is very new and we are
sure that some of the odd placement of areas will be corrected
swiftly. Getting around in a wheelchair sometimes means going to one
floor and then going down by elevator and then going back again;
i.e. La Cucina is accessible by going to Deck 15 and taking an
elevator back to Deck 14. Awkward, but we made it. Then, there is
also an escalator midship between Decks 5 & 6, which, for
wheelchairs means going the length of the ship and back again to get
to Passenger Services. There are only forward and rear elevators,
but no central ones. All of these logistics take a bit of time to
get use to, not to mention patience.
Midship are the Trade Winds Shops on
board. Also located here are “Teppanyaki” and the Sushi Bar
“Wasabi.” Next are two more bars ”Shakers,” a martini bar, and “Maltings,”
a whiskey bar. There are over twenty bars on board so “bar hopping”
can be very possible. There is a Barber Shop and the Humidor for
fine cigars. Aft are two more alternative restaurants: Cagney's
Steakhouse ($25 fee) and Moderno, a South American Churrascaria ($18
fee). Both are excellent dining options among more than 20 venues.
Deck 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 13 are mostly
staterooms and studios.
Deck 14 has La Cucina Italian Restaurant ($10 fee); midship is
“Recess” for kids and toward aft is “Pulse,” the fitness center, and
all the way aft is “Mandara,” the spa and salon.
Deck 15 forward has the Garden Cafe` with buffet dining, then the
kids “Aqua Park” with the “Epic Plunge” water slide--HUGE. Aft are
the “Video Arcade” and “Spice H2O” with a small pool, bar and two
Deck 16 forward has the Suites, “Epic Club and Courtyard Grill” for
fine dining, the “Courtyards Pool and Spa.” Midship there is the
“Climbing Wall.” Toward aft is “Entourage,” the teen club, and all
the way aft are the Spice H2O “Pool Grill” and “Pool Bar.”
Deck 17 forward are more suites and aft is the sports complex.
Deck 18 has the Courtyard Sundeck, “Posh Beach Club,” and the
Deck 19 has the upper levels of the Posh and Freestyle Sundecks.
This is a huge beautiful ship with a sparkling central atrium
chandelier three decks high in the configuration of six rings of
various sizes of lighted crystals. Very unique and lovely.
FOOD & SERVICE
The food is much improved over our last Norwegian
cruise, and there are so many more venues to choose from in
Freestyle. First night on we went to “Taste” on Deck 5: Vincent
didn't even have to change out of his shorts in order to have a sit
down meal! Although the menu is sparse, there are enough selections
and variety to have a good meal.
We ate at Le Bistro and thoroughly enjoyed the escargot, the patè
fois gras terrine with apples and the frisee salad with duck breast
confit. Mary had a delicious coq au vin and Vincent a perfectly
broiled filet mignon. French roast coffee, made at the table in a
French press, was excellent with the profiteroles. The
Bistro is decorated with millions of dollars of 20th century artwork
by famous artists.
Our first day on board we discovered that getting around the Epic
was difficult. Mary's foot rest on the wheelchair was jammed and
bent at the exit to the Garden Cafe. Maitre D' Boris Kojic was very
concerned and he and his staff were extremely helpful as were all
the crew members we encountered. We met Staff Captain Akesson and he
sent ship's mechanic Herme Tenestrante to our cabin; he took the
wheel chair overnight, fixed the foot pedal and returned it the next
morning at 9:00am. He and his assistant Bernardo Bautista were a
Godsend. Many thanks to Staff Captain Akesson, who made our cruise
We also met Captain Hakan Svedung and know why service is so great:
it is common knowledge that excellent service filters down from the
top. He and H.D. Denis Prguda met with us and assured us the the
door jambs are a high priority with NCL, since they are already
being replaced as fast as possible. Denis' assistant Rashida
Faustino took us on a private tour of the “Ice Bar”. It was
fantastic, like being in an igloo (-17 degrees Fahrenheit)! We met
Chief Engineer Tore Johansson who showed us the compressed ice
blocks, made in the U.S.A. The pressurized ice is so crystal clear
that the designs inside are perfectly visible. There are two larger
than life sculptures: a polar bear and a Viking warrior with a
horned helmet. We now know why people don't freeze stuck to the
seats; they are covered with woolly sheepskin pelts! Very Cool!
There is a $20 fee for about a twenty minute stay and two Vodka
shots are included.
We dined in “La Cucina” and the Italian food was much improved, but
alas the pizza dough tasted like cardboard. The pastas were
excellent and so was the osso buco. Dessert was a creamy ricotta
cheese pie and panna cotta. We recommend it, the décor is lovely,
and the view at the prow of the ship is wonderful.
Along with the improvement in food, the service was excellent.
Cabin #12267 has a unique design. When entering, on
the left is a single sink with wheel chair access, a quadruple
armoire with two wardrobes with hangers (one which can be lowered
easily with a pull pole) and two with shelves and a personal safe.
Next there is a refrigerator, a TV and a long shelf with four large
drawers. On the right of the cabin entry there is a circular
bathroom with a 4'x4' shower with a fold away seat and the commode
to which our excellent steward Richard Espino added a riser. There
were several hooks for clothes appropriately placed, both high and
After passing through the entryway, there is a desk/vanity with
lighted mirror and six drawers. Next, there is a high king sized,
very firm bed, with a beige leather roll and tuck head board,
flanked by reading lamps and a phone in easy reach. The carpeting
simulates sand dunes; the woodwork is dark mahogany. The draperies
and coverlet are teal blue. The walls have a series of three
plexiglas rectangles with sketched elm leaves, very interesting.
Our steward Richard was terrific, he added a table to the oversized
balcony (about 150 sq. ft.), so we could have breakfast and lunch
outside, overlooking the ocean. We ordered breakfast from room
service where Christopher always handled our order promptly. Our
steward's assistant was the excellent Sheran Stewart-Bent. Everyone
treated us wonderfully.
We were truly amazed at the many venues and
entertainment possibilities; sports, exercise programs, swimming,
trivia (with the bright Aisha from Boston), Casino games and
contests and finally the terrific Vegas style shows. We saw the
“Blue Men” and laughed ourselves silly. “Legends in Concert” was
amazing; the Michael Jackson impersonator was so spot on that the
girls next to us were screaming “Michael Lives!” He wowed the crowd
with his dancing and costumes. Rod Stewart's “Legs” was a well
choreographed production which brought the audience to its feet. The
Second City Improvisation Group was on board, and we heard good
things about them. All in all we say Four Stars for entertainment.
The children's Nickelodeon at sea program is well organized and
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Miami, FL Sail Away 4:00pm
Day 2. Sea Day
Day 3. Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 6:00pm
Day 4. Roatan, Honduras Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm
Day 5. Sea Day
Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 6:00pm
Day 7. Sea Day
Day 8. Miami, FL Arrive 6:00am Debarkation 8:00
Considering that over 4,000 passengers were
disembarking, it was a very orderly and speedy process. We had
assistance with the wheelchair off the ship, to baggage pickup and
through passport and customs, and were outside on the curb awaiting
our son Marcello in less than twenty minutes. Excellent!
This was our seventh cruise on a NCL ship, but our
87th cruise overall. There have been a lot of changes in cruising
since Vincent's first transatlantic sailing in 1956 on the Greek
Line's Olympia, a 22,000 gross tons liner carrying 1300 passengers.
And changes have occurred not only in the size of the ships, but
mainly in the activities and entertainments available to the
passengers. The Epic, at 153,000 tons, is about seven times bigger
than the Olympia and she offers so many types of activities, dining
and entertainment that makes the comparison to the old ship
mind-boggling. On the Olympia and other ships of that time, we can
recall how the days were spent: Morning walk on the promenade;
breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same dining room; during the day,
skeet shooting in the rear of the ship, shuffle board and ping-pong
on the promenade; sunning, reading a book, or relaxing on a chase
lounge on the sun deck; and ending the day listening and dancing to
the music and songs by a combo group. By now-a-day standards that
might seem boring, but in those days we were happy to enjoy the
worry-free life of relaxation and the pleasure of being pampered, as
we say in Italian the joy of “dolce far niente” (sweet do nothing)!
We can still do this on the Epic and much more: Freestyle Cruising
gives the cruisers many choices of activities, entertainments, shore
excursions and dining. There is so much to do on this ship that a
one week cruise is not enough to do all of the available
alternatives, especially in dining (15 or more dining options).
Perhaps, a two-week back-to-back cruise will be sufficient to
experience all of what this ship offers.
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