Jay - please tell me what you may want to know and I will try to find out anything you need to know.
Here is the first "watch out" - any show or dinner reservations you make online - be SURE to follow the proves online all the way through and print them out - otherwise they will not make it to the ship. Either way - when you get to the ship be absolutely sure to go to "show reservations" and double-check to see what you have registered. None of mine were recorded, and frankly I hate that.
All of the cruise lines have to work harder to make sure their online reservation systems integrate with the onboard systems. I had a similar problem even on Seabourn last fall.
Here is today's update...
Return to Norwegian Epic
I was on the inaugural voyage of Norwegian Epic, the first regular passenger cruise; a 7-day transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City. That was an exciting cruise as I was one of few industry people onboard there to witness how the ship really worked with real passengers onboard. From NCL we had Roberto Martinoli and as far a fellow journalists there was Doug Ward - author if the Berlitz Guide to Cruises.
The way it worked was this - the ship was built in Nantes, France at the STX shipyard. The ship sailed from France and had a couple of short (two-night) media cruises for the European media. I was informed I would be one of the first American journalists to see the ship if I flew to Europe nd caught the ship - of course I glad to pay for my stateroom, airfare, everything as this was not a regular media cruise.
Ah, but then it was discovered that Carolyn Brown was going to see the ship ahead of me, because she worked for Cruise Critic UK. And once Gene Sloan got wind of that, he decided he had to fly himself to Europe to also see the ship on that first short cruise. So, I no longer had the exclusive I thought I would get, but they also didn't get the same 7-day cruise with a full contingent of real passengers onboard that I experienced.
But even better was being "alone" on the ship with Roberto (who left NCL just a few weeks later) and Doug - two very affable and informed companions in the cruise industry whose company I enjoyed immensely and I would like to think they would say the same about me.
Now I am back - again staying in a studio stateroom for the second time, but it now 18 months after that initial cruise.
Have you ever stayed on a cruise once where your stateroom is on one side of the ship, and then you go back and stay on the opposite side? On my first trip my room was on the port side, so every time I exited I knew the to left to go forward.
On this cruise the identical stateroom (as far as decor) I am staying is on the starboard side, but as soon as I walk in I am oriented to old stateroom, so inevitably every time I walk out I turn left, thinking I am going forward, but I am actually going aft - and there isn't much behind me other than a few stern balcony cabins. So, I keep walking the wrong way - all lot of people are familiar with this phenom (getting turned around on ship) but I just realize the real reason - the fact that you stayed in a similar cabin. I realize now the it is walking into the cabin that actually disorients me - although I am not aware of it when it happens.
Norwegian Epic Back Then
So, this ship came out to an incredible amount of "mixed" reviews. Its biggest challenge was just having to follow the debut of Oasis of the Seas by about just 6 months. Oasis (Allure) is the biggest and truly the grandest cruise ship in the world - but Epic has size, but not as much, nor does it have the same intuitive and revolutionary design.
But not only that - Epic had far more challenges in the ship yard than Oasis faced. Oasis came out about three weeks ahead of schedule - Epic was two weeks late due to a last minute fire in the shipyard that destroyed a large number of critical cables - so many that if Epic had been a living thing, it would have died.
As a result, the number of things wrong with Epic when it was turned over to the public at an overdue date was an epic number. To the best of my recollection:
There were a number of bathrooms with bad or missing plumbing parts: my own shower only put out hot water, so for two solid days I showered in the gym. I was not alone. The top deck had a water slide that over-flowed constantly - flooding the entire sun deck so badly three- to six men were in full-time squeegee duty just pushing the water off of the deck. Several rooms were not finished.
But most of the bad reviews had to do with basic, intention design aspects, that became unintentional problems. Many of them ar still on the ship and some have been fixed.
The top deck-flooding situation has been fixed, as have the showers. Another problem, that of a sink faucet in the "New Wave" state rooms that opened up the water with such force into a basically round bowl sink that it created a spray of water that was enough to soak half of the bed.
The biggest complaint, however, had to do with the only partially private showers and toilets. The reside behind glass screens that are no air-tight (or sound proof) and the glass is merely translucent, so you can see an outline of whatever is behind them. Even better, both are situated on either side of the front doors of the staterooms meaning that if you are in the shower and a room steward opens the door, there is a good chance a neighbor walking by will see you partially nude but behind obscured glass. This situation remains the same.
Another very vexing design feature is the light switches. The switch over the sink is so badly hidden I had to call the front desk to ask then how to turn it off. Picture this - you have to reach under the sink counter, all the way back to the wall, and feel around for a switch on the wall but under the counter. I literally looked 20 minutes before I called, and five more after I hung up. They had told me "it's under the sink, sir." and I knew I would find it if I kept looking, and I finally did.
Norwegian Epic Now
The plumbing problems have been fixed, but not the lack of privacy. The faucets have been replaced (this is good) so they don't spray all over. The light switches remain the same.
This is a crowded ship, lots of kids onboard. I am now in the studio stateroom "living room," and this is a feature I love about this ship - the fact that solo cruisers have a place to come and meet and mingle. On most cruise ships singles don't even have a way to identify each other.
This lounge is set off behind a key-card protected set of doors so no non-solo residents can come in and hang out. Its the real deal - and a great idea by NCL.
There is constant hot coffee, cookies and sandwiches in here (complimentary). There is also a schedule of events just for solo cruisers to have chance to meet and dine together. They have a bar happy hour daily from 5:00 to 6:00, after which solos can choose to dine together if they want - a grand idea. In fact, the bartenders just arrived, it is good to see NCL is keeping this solo cruiser idea going and not just letting it flounder. You can get a studio stateroom and not have to pay a singes supplement. The rooms are cozy, too. They're are not as cheap as half of a dual occupancy cabin, but they are a good deal.
They are also extremely quiet, comfortable and utile. I took the red-eye to get to Miami from Phoenix, and I slept in my stateroom all day Saturday from about 8:30 pm to 10:00 am Sunday - the next day, whew.
One thing I was really looking forward to has changed. The ship opened with a program where people could rent Gibson guitars during the course of the cruise (with a private practice amp) for people like me who actually play and want to stay in practice. s far as I can see that program has ended, I see no mention of it anywhere. And I am sorry to see this because like so many cruise things, I didn't hear that it ever ended, and I was really looking forward to it.
The have added the Chef's Dinner - only $75 per person and only once per cruise as far as I know. I am booked for that on Monday night - and I am looking forward to it. I am also on here with a group of CruiseMates, some of whom I got to meet today - Todd and Ray - two ver stab and regular personalities on a cruise boards - what a treat to hang out with them.
Anyway - this is day one - I will have much more to reveal when I have more tim to write. Syat tuned.