We have just returned from CruiseOne’s National Conference, which was held onboard NCL’s newest ship, the Epic. I have to start off by saying this ship was absolutely amazing! It far exceeded any of my expectations in all venues.
The Epic made its debut in July 2010. She is an impressive 153,000 tons, carries approximately 4,228 passengers and is 1,080 feet long (that is about the length of 4 football fields!). The ship is made up of inside staterooms and balcony staterooms. You won’t find any staterooms with simply a window. The categories range from interior studio staterooms (which are the first in the industry to accommodate a single passenger without a single supplement) interior staterooms, balconies, family balconies, spa balconies, deluxe balconies in different categories, suites, courtyard penthouses, courtyard villas and of course an owner’s suite. So many to choose from! We stayed in a balcony stateroom, and I have to admit, after all the press over the Epic’s staterooms, I was a little bit nervous! However, I was pleasantly surprised upon entering our stateroom. Yes, they are a bit tight and yes, the bathroom layout is quite different and privacy is reduced. But, the rooms are beautiful. And to be honest, with a ship that is packed with fabulous entertainment options, there really isn’t a lot of time spent in the room at all.
So, here is a rundown of our week (I will leave out the details of our conference simply because that was “work”).
We boarded Saturday, October 16th, and the embarkation process was a breeze. I expected major lines and delays since this was the largest ship I had ever sailed on. No lines, no wait. We went right through the process. This day, we had to go register for our events, so we headed straight to the Epic Theater. This is where they hold venues such as The Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert. After registration we spent some time walking around, but had some things to get ready for. For dinner, we ate in one of the main dining rooms (at NO cost) Taste. We just showed up when convenient for us, got seated and ate. The food was wonderful. We headed off to the stateroom early as the next day was quite busy for us.
Sunday, October 17th was a day at sea for us and we had plenty of work during the morning and early afternoon. I have to say that for a group of 800 travel agents, NCL sure did make it seem easy to accommodate us with our meetings and breakout sessions. In the evening, we had our Awards Ceremony in Spice H2O, which is at the rear of the ship. It is a beautiful outdoor area with a huge TV screen (if anyone saw the 4th of July special from New York on board the Epic it was held in the same area). NCL was a wonderful host, and I will not be able to reiterate that enough. After our work packed day, we had dinner at Manhattans (one of two restaurants that do not let you wear shorts, and yes, it is FREE). Again, dinner was fabulous. The menu here is the same as in Taste. After that … off to bed!
Monday, October 18th, we were in Costa Maya Mexico. We chose to do an excursion visiting the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins, which was fabulous. We had a great time and our tour operator was great. Upon returning to the ship, we got cleaned up, and headed out for some exploration. First stop … we went bowling. Yes, bowling! Quite a concept for a cruise ship. There are 6 lanes onboard (3 in two different locations). We were in Bliss Ultra Lounge, which is a nice night club. For dinner, we had reservations at Teppanyaki ($20 per person). This restaurant was amazing and well worth the cost! Japanese Hibachi at sea! The food was outstanding and our chef was quite entertaining! After this we headed off to Blue Man Group. We have seen this show before in New York and Vegas. As I was sitting there watching the show, I completely forgot that I was on a cruise ship. It was wonderful. And now, it’s off to bed!
Tuesday, October 19th, we were in Roatan Honduras. We did another excursion, Jolly Roger Catamaran (snorkeling) and Gumbalimba Park. We started off at the Park, which was really nice. We learned a bit about the history of Roatan, toured the park, which felt like a rain forest. We crossed a long bridge where on the other side we found beautiful parrots. They were flying free, which was quite the sight. There was also a trainer that would place a parrot on your shoulder for photo opportunities. It was a nice experience. Then we were off to “monkey island” where there were monkeys climbing trees and roaming free. Another trainer was there for photo opportunities. After the park, we hopped on a bus to head towards the catamaran where we boarded and off we went to the reef. We learned that this reef is the second largest in the world. It was by far my favorite snorkeling experience. We saw so many tropical fish and corals. It was beautiful. I could have stayed for hours. But, of course, it had to end. Back on board the catamaran and back to the ship. Tonight we have dinner reservations at Cirque Dreams in the Spiegel Tent. This was quite the show. The actors were wonderful and there was a fair amount of audience participation. The menu is a fixed menu, there is no choice for dinner. However, dinner was very good. We had premium seating ($30 per person) for this venue. I have to say that although we enjoyed the show, the seats were a bit uncomfortable and we did feel tight. We sat right next to the performance area. But, with that said … I would do it again! It is a two hour show, and you must stay seated through the entire performance. Next time, I think I will do the regular seating as you are in a balcony section. I think it might be easier to watch the performances. After the show, we stopped by Shakers Martini Bar for a drink, and then headed off to bed.
Wednesday, October 20th was a day at sea which meant we had to go to work again! After work, we toured the ship some more, stopped at Shakers again and we had reservations for The Second City comedy show (no charge). Had a great time. Wish the show was longer (ran about an hour). Second City does a lot of improv and they involve the audience members quite a bit. There were children in the audience and the show was not offensive at all.
Thursday, October 21st we were in Cozumel Mexico. Being that the weather did not cooperate and we had just visited Cozumel a few weeks prior, we decided to stay on board the ship. This gave us an opportunity to walk around while the ship was fairly empty and see what the Epic was all about. We literally walked deck to deck. The options are endless on this ship! We took lots of photos, enjoyed lunch in O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill (which we had lunch in often at no charge) and just soaked it all in. Tonight it is off to dinner in La Cucina, which is an Italian Venue ($10 per person). Again, the food was wonderful and the atmosphere was great. This restaurant is at the front of the ship so your view is the same as the Capitan! I wish it wasn’t night time, we could see more. But the moon was spectacular. After dinner we finally got in to the Ice Bar. Yes, an actual bar where everything is made of ice. This is a small venue, and does fill up fast. We tried each night to get in, but until tonight could not find a time where it fit with our schedule. We were given gloves and a coat with a hood and headed in. It is 17 degrees in this bar. You can stand next to a Polar Bear ice sculpture or sit on a bench made of ice. This venue is $20 per person, and included in that is 2 drinks. Your drinks also come in an ice glass. Quite the experience. I have to say, we only stayed long enough to have the first drink. It was cold!! Off to bed again as tomorrow is another work day.
Friday, October 22nd, our last night on board the ship. We had meetings and workshops during the morning and early afternoon. We also had our farewell cocktail reception which again reminded us that we would have to leave soon. We had not made any dinner reservations, and wanted to try Cagney’s steakhouse ($25 per person). I called the reservations line and was told there was no availability. Well, we decided to walk down there anyway and ask. Sure enough, we were seated. I’m sure there are people that make reservations and for whatever reason cannot make their scheduled time. Lucky for us. I decided on the Surf & Turf (filet and lobster) and my husband had the filet. Both were awesome. Great environment as well. As we wrapped up dinner, the realization hit us again that we had to finish packing and our trip was soon ending.
Saturday, October 23rd, we opted for the walk off disembarkation, where we carried our own luggage. We were off the ship at around 7:30 am, which was nice. Got in our car and headed home.
This ship was totally amazing. The food, the entertainment, the service. All far exceeded our expectations. Also, I didn’t even come close to telling you about the entertainment (the pool, the water slides, the Epic Plunge, the rock climbing and rappelling wall, the sports complex, the spa, the fitness center). I didn’t get to experience it all! There was simply not enough time. I guess I will just have to go again!
Norwegian Cruise Lines as absolutely changed the idea of cruising. With all that the ship has to offer along with its Freestyle Cruising it truly is the perfect vacation! You have so many options, you can eat in so many venues when you want. You don’t have to get dressed up to eat. It was wonderful. Kudos to NCL for this one!
The Epic currently sails the Eastern and Western Caribbean, and will head over to Europe on May 7, 2011, and will begin doing a 7 night Western Mediterranean sailing round trip from Barcelona Spain on May 22, 2011. She will return to Miami late October 2011 and resume the Caribbean sailings.
We would love to help you plan your vacation on the Norwegian Epic. Give CruiseOne Freer & Associates a call at 888-882-5793 and we would be more than happy to provide you with rates and options for you. You can also visit us on the web at www.kfreer.cruiseone.com.
Take a look at our slide show to see other pictures of our trip!
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