My Experience on the Norwegian Epic
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Norwegian Epic

After 26 cruises, it is clear to say that my favourite holiday is onboard a ship. Every ship and passenger has their own personality and passengers who have had a great experience tend not to venture elsewhere.

For cruise number 27, I changed from my usual cruise holiday style of small and intimate or mid-size. After avoiding the now popular ultra megaships, I finally took the plunge to spend a holiday with 4000 others.

Wouldn’t it take hours to obtain breakfast with the hoards and masses? It is one thing going on a ships tour but to actually be with all these people whilst at sea was a concern.

The opportunity was available at the right price and a much needed break was in order. The choice was confirmed to give the Norwegian Epic a try on a 7 night Western Mediterranean itinerary. The ports of call I had been to before on three previous occasions but there is always something different and new to visit even in the same port of call.

My husband, son and I discussed what we thought would be the pros and cons. As for breakfast, I rationalised that we could always dine for breakfast in our cabin if it was a mad house at the buffet.

The Epic came into service in 2010 and carries over 4,000 passengers; so she has had a few years and experience under her belt. The ship has a good range of staterooms including family cabins, spa cabins and for solo cruisers, studio cabins, a first in the industry.

The ship was huge but easy enough to get around. We discovered that despite its massive size, this ultra modern vessel still supplied a cosy feel that was just right for our family.

Our cabin was a mini-suite no. 8175. All cabins have what is known as a ‘new wave’ design with curved walls rather than being boxy. It creates the illusion that the cabin is larger than it is. I would imagine that my steward would have quite a job to make up the room because of the narrowness from the bed to the wall.

Norwegian Epic Mini Suite

I peeked into the ‘regular’ balcony cabin and they appear to be no bigger other than in length. The sofa pulls out to become a third bed. However, the bed portion was rather small and my son’s feet overlapped over the end. I understand that this feature is in all standard balcony cabins too. Personally, I would call this cabin a deluxe balcony and not a mini suite.

On the plus side our cabin had the largest shower I have experienced at sea with a large rain shower head. The shower has a frosted glass door and stops the tendency of flooding the floor of the cabin, which is a common problem on most ships.

We took advantage of a the alternative restaurant pre-paid dining plan, which afforded us access to the specialty restaurants such as ‘Le Bistro’ (French), ‘Teppanyaki’ (Japanese) ‘La Cucina’ (Italian) ‘Cagney’s Steakhouse’ and ‘Churrascaria’ (Brazilian grilled meats and salad bar).  All of our meals surpassed my expectations. Experiencing blasé food or cuisine that just has too much salt added has been a complaint of mine in the past.

Freestyle dining (non-surcharge venues) included in the price of the cruise are the ‘Manhattan Room’ and ‘Taste’ (both traditional cruise main venues), the ‘Garden Café’ and the ‘Great Outdoors’ (lido buffet & grill), ‘Shanghai’s’ (Chinese and noodle fare) and ‘O’Sheehan’s’ serving British and Irish pub food.

Norwegian Epic Manhattan Room

We never tried any of the Freestyle dining options other than the Garden Café and we were able to dine for breakfast each and every day without being overwhelmed by the crowds; it was very impressive to see how the Epic exceeded in the world of buffets not only with quality of the food served but with the arrangement of the stations, décor and seating. Never did the room feel crowded.

The ‘Mandara Spa’ is notable. I indulged in three different treatments and my husband had one as did my son. They were all relaxing and uplifting. Spa staterooms and mini suites come with their very own key card to give you access to a private whirlpool, heated lounges, and sauna and steam rooms. One of our appointments was lost as the therapist went ashore. To make up for the rescheduling, the manager allotted all three of us with keys to experience the private spa room.

Norwegian Epic Mandara Spa

The centre of deck 15 contains the ‘Aqua Park’. There are several slides including the only bowl slide called Epic Plunge with inner tubes provided for those seeking an adrenal rush. There two main pools and four hot tubs.

Nearby is a children’s paddling pool and water fun centre that features, water sprays and a small slide and colourful decor with sculptured animals tailored for the youngsters. Within this area there are also two rock climbing walls.

Another area called H2O has a pool for adults only and is located in the aft of the ship. Although smaller in size, there are two hot tubs available. You can lounge in the area and be entertained by the outdoor giant TV screen with mood-enhancing visuals. In the evenings, movies are shown.

At night, the Epic really rocks!. Norwegian Cruise Line has always been known for great entertainment every since the Norway sailed transatlantic. We opted for the show ‘Legends’ based on the musical legends. Instead of the ones that appear everywhere (Michael Jackson, Madonna and Elvis), the Epic chose slightly more unusual singers to honour such as Gloria Estefan, Rod Stewart and Sting.

The show was in the main theatre and reservations (cost-free) were needed. Reserving a performance does alleviate the crowds and you are assured of a seat. However, the drawback was the same show played in this venue the entire week.

Other performances took place in smaller lounges and during our cruise consisted of Dreamgirls (homage to Motown), a ventriloquist and magician from Madrid, a Beatles tribute band, 70’s dancing music and nightly jazz. The “Cirque Dreams” (with or without dinner) is performed nightly at the ‘Spiegel Tent’ for an additional fee

Another appealing aspect of the Epic is its huge assortment of lounges. The ‘Bliss Ultra Lounge’ is dark, opulent and has a sparkling floor, velvet drapes and high leather seats and day beds.

If the weather has been too warm for your liking, cool off after a long day at the ‘Svedka Ice Bar’. It is a must one-time experience to enter into the 17 degrees Fahrenheit pub filled with ice furniture, ice artwork, and ice goblets. There is a cover charge that includes a drink and use of a parka with hood and gloves as you enter to chill out but stay warm.

Norwegian Epic Ice Bar

Other watering holes, clubs and hideaways just pop up as you meander on deck 5, 6 or 7.

The ship contains an expansive Las Vegas-style ‘Casino’ with more penny slots than I have ever seen before on a ship. However, you can lose just as much on a penny machine as playing blackjack or roulette. Just ask my husband!

If you’re an avid cruiser looking to test out any of these big-ship amenities just to see what they are like, the Norwegian Epic would be a good place to start. As a family who prefers a smaller ship, more pros than cons are apparent. Another mega-ship experience is on the horizon to compare it to the Epic in the near future.

Images courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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Get Lucky on your Cruise Holiday!
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Gambling is a popular activity for a lot of holidaymakers. However, for those that can’t make it to Las Vegas, Macao or the other big casino towns, a good alternative is to take a cruise holiday. The ship’s casino is literally the only place in town and who knows, ‘lady luck’ may shine its eyes upon you.

Some cruise line’s offer more gambling facilities than others; however, most ships should generally have the basics of blackjack, poker, roulette, and slot machines. A notable exception to this is Silversea Cruises, which does not offer poker.

Many cruise companies have increased their gambling offerings in terms of size and gameplay to reflect the “high roller” Las Vegas style atmosphere.

A current development is the idea of Player Programs, offering perks and prizes for those that gamble with large stakes.

If a casino is an important part of your cruise experience then take a look at these five cruise line clubs for a well rounded gaming experience.

CELEBRITY CRUISES BLUE CHIP CLUB

Feel like a VIP when you step into a Celebrity Cruises’ casino. The Fortune Casinos are reminiscent of Caesar’s Palace with marble statues and Roman columns. If it wasn’t for the gentle waves, you’d swear you were in Vegas.

Celebrity ships offer some of the largest casinos at sea, with some containing six blackjack tables and over 270 different slot machines. All this variety will keep you busy for a while!  Regional games such as Caribbean Stud Poker or American Roulette give a unique twist to the casino.

Celebrity Eclipse Casino

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CASINO ROYAL

Royal Caribbean’s megaships differ from the norm in many ways and are sure to appeal to even the most casual gambler. Before stepping foot in their casinos, the Hall of Odds and Museum of Gaming presents a timeline history of gambling and casinos.

The casinos in general are some of the largest available on a cruise ship and some of the fleet have an amazing 480 slot machines, an enormous table section, a bookie section and even a bar and grill where you can relax and enjoy a meal in between games. There are also free gaming lessons for those keen to learn.

Casino Royale

 

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE CASINOS AT SEA

NCL’s Casino At Sea has won many awards and has gained many fans around the world for their enormous array of games. Almost 3000 slot machines and 200 table games are available fleet wide and there are special arcade games too.

These games, known as Cash Crane and Penny Pushers, have carved the word ‘fun’ into their gaming. NCL was the first casino at sea to offer Texas Hold ‘Em, which continues to be popular to this day. The casino has proved to be so popular that it has its own newsletter called The Deal.

Norwegian Jewel Casino

 

HOLLAND AMERICA CLUB 21

Well known for their elegant and classy demeanour, Holland America’s casino’s reflects their style perfectly. With a wide variety of games, including penny slots, poker, blackjack or Texas Hold ‘Em and a high energy style that is sure to get you betting, this is a good place for novice gamblers too.

The company also plays the MegaCash jackpot game which can top one million dollars and the Holland America lottery offers a week long cruise as its main prize. For all of you expert gamblers, try the slots or poker tournaments.

Casino on HAL's Maasdam

 

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES OCEAN PLAYERS CLUB

Carnival Cruise Lines’ party atmosphere extends right into the décor of their casinos which are pure glitz. Don’t let the fantasyland atmosphere fool you; when it comes to the games, they’re all business and high-rollers are commonplace onboard their ships. They follow all the rules and regulations of a Vegas casino such as using a soft 17 at blackjack or playing craps with double odds. Carnival holds several different gambling tournaments throughout the year.

Casino on the Carnival Sensation

 

From avid poker players to those who place a few pence in a slot machine, today, cruise ship casinos offer something for everyone.

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25 Interesting Cruise Industry Facts
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25 Cruise Industry Facts

As the new year is nearly upon us, the time is ripe for a list filled with interesting and fun facts. The cruise industry certainly had a great year in 2014 and we would like to share our 25 interesting facts list. Did you know?

1. Cruise holidays continue their popularity and presently there are more than 300 cruise ships available for your pleasure. Over 20 million passengers took a cruise holiday last year.

2. The largest ships can hold more than 5000 people and can be as tall as a sixteen story building.

3. Cruise ship construction can sometimes cost more than £800 million.

4. Over 150 thousand meals are prepared each week onboard some cruise ships.

Cruise Ship Meals

5. There are 32 new cruise vessels being launched from 2015 to 2020

6. The top three destinations are the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Northern Europe.

7. The most popular ports for cruises in the Caribbean depart from Miami, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale.

8. Miami is also the world’s busiest cruise port with 4.8 million multiday cruise passengers, according to preliminary data for this year.

9. The biggest cruise companies are Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, controlling two thirds of all passenger world capacity.

10. The largest of the group is Carnival Cruise Lines and besides its own brand, the corporation owns Costa, Holland America, P&O, Princess Cruises, Cunard, AIDA, P&O Cruises Australia, Ibero Cruceros and Seabourn.

11. Presently the largest cruise ships in the world Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are the same bar 50mm! and 15 metres longer than the next largest one, Quantum of the Seas. The Norwegian Epic is presently in 3rd place with a 33 metre difference

Allure of the Seas

Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises

12. A study claims that living on a cruise ship costs the same amount as a high-end land based retirement and offers a higher quality of life.

13. The first cruise ship built exclusively for cruising was the Prinzessin Victoria Luise from the American Hamburg Company in 1901.

14. The first ever steam ship to make its way from the US to England was the S.S. Savannah in 1819. It took 21 days to reach Liverpool and was also one of the first ever steam ships.

15. The Titanic’s surviving passengers were rescued by Cunard’s Carpathia. Amazingly, the modest ship was able to dart icebergs but was unable to survive German torpedoes during WWI, when she was commissioned as a troop ship.

16. An Australian billionaire has decided to build an exact replica of the Titanic, due to launch in 2018.

17. The X on Celebrity Cruises is actually the Greek letter “Chi”. This is short for Chandris, the organisation that founded the cruise line in 1988.

18. There is one cruise ship that allows its passengers to reside on it. Named “The World”, it is a floating condo, with occasionally short-term rentals, and travels around the globe.

19. A designated cruise ship from the Tallink & Silja Line departs Stockholm to Helsinki for the aim of purchasing alcohol, which is much cheaper in Finland than Sweden.

20. The Oasis of The Seas uses more than 9000 litres of fuel each and every hour.

21. P&O’s Britannia has over £1 million worth of art on-board.

P&O Britannia

Image courtesy of P&O Cruises

22. The most expensive cruise to date is one that was put together by UK agency Six Star Cruises in 2012 on the Silver Whisper and cost £1million per couple. However, this holiday lasted for four months.

23. Cunards Queen Mary 2 offers old-world style transatlantic sailings with luxury and modern conveniences from Southampton to New York.

24. The first seven notes of the “When You Wish Upon a Star” from the Disney classic film, Pinocchio, serves as the Disney Cruise Line ship’s horn signals.

25. Over 1.5 million British citizens will take a holiday on a cruise ship in 2015.

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Will my Teenagers enjoy Cruising?
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Teens on Norwegian Epic

Cruising can be a wonderful experience no matter what your age is. This also applies to teenagers and the idea of a holiday on a ship can be enthralling to them.

On some ships, teens are eligible for getting single or double cabins of their own depending on their age. This may increase the price by a small amount but it is well worth it in order for them to have their own personal space.

Dining is easy for teenagers with both exotic and simple tastes onboard the ship. There are many international restaurants onboard that serve a wide variety of food, from Italian pasta to Japanese sushi. However, for those that want a more casual experience, the buffet also offers many different dishes in a more relaxing atmosphere. Stay by the poolside and enjoy the grill nearby that serves up hamburgers, hot dogs and other teen favourites.

I’M BORED!

Theoretically you should never hear the words “I’m bored” onboard as there is an endless amount of activities and entertainment. There are special Teen Clubs as well as vibrant nightclubs and arcades with the latest games. Keep in shape with the exercise room in the spa and the pool is always a popular hangout. Innovative and unique shows are put on at night that are sure to please any age.

Keeping in touch with the outside world is even easier today as the majority of cruise ships not only have internet cafes but have Wi-Fi in the cabin too where you can use laptops, tablets or Smartphone’s. Phone calls can make communication very easy although roaming charges can be quite high depending on the destination.

One of the main appeals for teenagers on a cruise holiday is the idea that they can socialise with others of the same age. Depending on the line and ship chosen, and the right time of year, there is bound to be other teenagers onboard. The holiday months are the best times for this.

The bigger, newer ships will have more teens, more teen facilities and more planned teen activities.

Take a look at what’s on offer for teens with these 3 major cruise lines:

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

Norwegian Epic is one of Norwegians most innovative ships and packs a real punch for teens. Entertainment such as the Blue Man Group and the Second City comedy centre shows prove to be big hits with the teens. Teens need their own space and the Epic also has the ‘Entourage,’ a teens-only centre.

It has the appearance of a trendy club that they would be under aged for back home. However, it is a safe hangout filled with age appropriate gaming such as air hockey. Similar set-ups can be found on the Norwegian Breakaway and sister ship Norwegian Getaway.

PRINCESS CRUISES

Some teens have different ideas for enjoying themselves when onboard. For those with a quest to learn, even whilst on holiday, can take part in one or more of the 40 classes with the ScholarShip@Sea program. Found fleet-wide, these enrichment programmes are available to teenagers aswell. Some examples they may be interested in include pottery classes, designing their own website or exploring the night sky through a telescope.

And for those who prefer to do the normal teen stuff and are aged between 15 and 17, the Ruby Princess for example has an area called Remix. This is a well-appointed teen centre with the latest in Sony Play Station and Nintendo Wii games. There’s also a mini-golf course that will keep teens occupied called Princess Links.

P&O CRUISES

British cruise line P&O Cruises has always been great for families. The Aurora, Azura and Oceana are geared for all ages. However, the Ventura has introduced some great new features including a 3D cinema and a giant virtual “Scalextric at Sea”. These were designed with the teenager in mind and are just the start of what is made available for this age group.

Four bungee trampolines, a rock-music school and teen-only talent shows are some of the features to keep them busy. A first ever circus school is onboard. The Cirque circus school features workshops in which teens and those that are young at heart can learn to trapeze, be a clown, juggle and walk on a tightrope.

Cruises provide a sense of freedom to many teenagers as they can feel free to relax and explore areas on their own. As long as trouble is avoided and boundaries are set, this can be an excellent way to let them unwind, have some independence and explore the world.

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That’s Entertainment!
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The most popular part of a cruise holiday for many passengers is the dining experience. After that, what they look forward to is the entertainment. Experienced cruisers will have noticed more changes being made when it comes to the ship’s entertainment styles.

Here is an array of what is happening now or on the horizon with the major cruise lines:

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines is introducing a new feature for entertainment in 2014. They are splashing the waves with their innovative series of concerts called ‘Carnival Live’.

This idea cropped up in an attempt to restore the image of Carnival after a few problems last year. The brand is hoping to restore confidence in many ways, one of which is bringing in the concerts.

The first to open in this series is Jennifer Hudson. Before her winning stretch of both a Golden Globe and Academy Award for the film ‘Dreamgirls’, Jennifer Hudson sang on a Disney Cruise Line ship.

Jennifer Hudson in Dream Girls

Carnival Ecstasy is the ship that will debut the first concert with Ms. Hudson on the 18th of June. There’s a repeat performance the next evening onboard the Carnival Breeze in Cozumel, Mexico, one of Carnival’s most beloved port of calls.

The Carnival Live concert series line-up also includes Trace Adkins, Chicago, Leann Rimes, Daughtry, Foreigner, Olivia Newton-John, Gavin DeGraw, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, REO Speedwagon, Jewel, Kansas, Styx and .38 Special.

Cunard

Cunard has had longstanding partnerships with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the Juilliard School of Music. In the Royal Court Theatre, located on all ships, passengers can catch a bit of culture with ballet or classic theatre of Shakespearean classics as well as production shows and a good variety of cabaret.

The theatre has a unique feature that is a first and not found anywhere else at sea. It contains private box seats that can be reserved prior to a performance for a fee.

orchestra

MSC

One of the most famous bands of the 60′s, The Moody Blues are going to thrill their fans with a special themed cruise that is based on the Isle of Wight Festival from 1970.

For 5 nights commencing on the 2nd of April, cruisers onboard the MSC Divina will get to hear music from the band as well as several special guests, including Roger Daltrey of The Who, The Zombies, The Electric Light Orchestra, Starship and the Little River Band. There will also be a Question and Answer segment for those who want to know all about these famous artists.

Electric Light Orchestra

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian cruise line was always the innovator in entertainment on their long decommissioned classic flagship, the Norway. Since the introduction of the Norwegian Epic and more recently the Breakaway, Norwegian has come up with original entertainment options at sea.

Catch familiar names such as Blue Man Group as well as introducing ground breaking concepts like the Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show.

For the 5th year in a row, music legend Kid Rock will be hosting the Kid Rock’s Redneck Paradise special, commencing on the 3rd of March. This will take place on the Norwegian Pearl departing out of Miami.

The line-up, which is being selected by Kid Rock himself, will be held throughout the week. There will also be daily concerts and two special shows held by the pool deck.

Kid Rock

Royal Caribbean International

In the past, you never knew who would be on-board in the evening. However Royal Caribbean began to introduce other forms of live entertainment such as ice extravaganzas held in an onboard rink. RCCL was the first to bring West End shows on to the waterways with shows such as “Hairspray”, “Mamma Mia” and “Chicago”.

Chicago

Heavy metal fans across the world are celebrating at this moment the ‘70,000 Tons of Metal’. Over forty celebrated heavy metal bands are performing on the Majesty of the Seas. Names include Carcass, Dark Tranquility, Death Angel and Dirty Rotten Imbeciles.

It may be too late for Heavy Metal fans to experience this for 2014, but gear up as this specialised cruise holiday is bound to be on-board for 2015.

Cruise lines continue to seek the exceptional in the field of entertainment. It really does benefit the passengers who gain an even more fun and enjoyable time away from home.

What Artist or Band would you like to see on your cruise holiday? Tell us below.

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