Back in May 2009. I attended an event introducing the anticipated launch of the cruise ship, Norwegian Epic of Norwegian Cruise Lines. NCL originated the concept of “Freestyle Cruising,” to allow passengers to do what they want, when they want, and with whom they want. They also have the youngest fleet of ships afloat. Today, I attended an event on the lovely, Norwegian Gem (I’m actually going on a personal trip next weekend–a cruise to “nowhere” on this ship.
Based on all the ice I saw in the water today, I’m staying inside)! The purpose of this event was to introduce even more innovations planned for the Epic, which is booking cabins as of January, but sailing starting this summer. Freestyle crusing is unique to NCL. No other line has been able to copy the formula, successfully. This Summer, as NCL launches the Norwegian Epic, they’ll be taking Freestyle cruising up another notch. The 150,000-ton 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic looks like a traditional cruise ship, but it’s radically different than what’s been sailing for the past couple of decades.
What makes the Epic very special, is that it is designed around the concept of “communities” (my own word for it). Instead of just chosing a cabin on a certain deck, you can actually choose different categories of staterooms that are geared towards different interests.
For example, if you’d like a quieter, more relaxing spa ambiance, you can choose a spa suite centered around the ship’s spa and activities. If you are sailing as a family, there are family suites clustered near the children’s center, and near other family cabins. If you are traveling with a group, you can choose adjoining cabins, or larger villas and suites for groups and families who want to spend more time together.
Another innovation is the elimination of the standard, cruise ship dining room that can serve half or more of the passengers in one or two seatings. Instead, the EPIC offers 14 smaller dining venues. For those who like entertainment with their meals, there’s dinner theater and dinner dancing. The “Cirque Dreams and Dinner” features an interactive “Cirque de Soleil-type” show as you are eating.
The “Manhattan Room” is a 1950’s inspired, dinner dance club that becomes “younger/trendier” in music choices as the night gets older. “Spice H20” is an outdoor, multi-purpose area that becomes a “hot” club when the stars come out. For the more sophisticated, “Fat Cats” will feature blues and jazz in an intimate setting and “Headliners” is a 280-seat comedy club featuring a Second City comedy troupe.
But the big news we heard today on the Norwegian Gem, was in keeping with this “something for everyone format.” New to the Norwegian Epic will be128 studios on this 4,200-passenger vessel, designed and priced specifically for solo travelers. Solo cruisers traditionally are penalized by having to pay big singles supplements in cabins that house two or more passengers, because there are no specific accommodations for them.
This singles supplement can make the cost of a cruise, prohibitive. The single occupancy studios on the Epic will begin at $799.00 on the ship’s seven-day alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Although the studio cabins are a snug, 100 square feet, they are ingeniously designed to make smart use of the space. The shower and toilet are separated from each other, and from the main sleeping/living area by a heavy curtain Inside cabins are often dark, and isolating.
However, the single rooms are nicely lit and have a “porthole” that looks out onto the main corridor. There is even a privacy shade. You can look out, but no one can look in. Even nicer, these special studios (on Decks 11 and 12 of the Epic) will feature key-card access.
And they will also have their own private lounge with bar. This makes the studios “safe” as well as exclusive. It seems to me that the studio lounge will be a natural meeting place for singles on board who may want to socialize.
For families, there’s even bigger news: NCL and Nickelodeon have signed a multi-year partnership to feature Nickelodeon-themed family entertainment and progams not just on the Epic, but also on the Norwegian Jewel. There will be character meet and greets; interactive game shows; character breakfasts and more. The partnership will also include Nickelodeon-themed cruises, including some of the popular, Nickleodon TV stars, and Nickelodeon-themed elements in the Norwegian’s Kids’ Crew program. The addition of Nickleodeon will create excitement for both parents and children, and give families another way to bond, be entertained, and cruise in a unique way. At this event, the kids who volunteered to play “pie in the face” musical chairs (with the winner being “green slimed”) had a fabulous time and said they’d definitely do it again!
I am a huge fan of NCL’s formula. On a personal note, I am not just someone who writes about lifestyles and travel, I am a consumer of travel. I have taken many, many personal vacations with Norwegian Cruise Line. I love their Freestyle concept.
There is so much to choose from. You can take advantage of all the activities and entertainment, or spend your days on deck with a book, soaking up the sun. You can have a wild and crazy time with a group, enjoy family time together, spend your days in the spa.
If you’re like my husband and I you can book a Penthouse, Garden Villa, or Owner’s Suite and enjoy a private, tranquil, top-of-the-ship experience that makes you feel like you’re on your own, private cruise. Maybe I’ll see you onboard, someday!
or contact a travel professional