Travel Tips

Cruise Industry Reacts to NCL’s Norwegian Epic Innovations

Locations in this article:  Austin, TX Berlin, Germany New Orleans, LA

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship renderingLast weekend, Peter broadcast his radio show from the newest talk of the travel industry: NCL’s Norwegian Epic.

Of course, there’s no one better to talk about the latest trends in mega-ship cruising than‘s editor in chief, Carolyn Spencer Brown.  

Keep reading to learn what impressed her most about the ship, and what controversies are surrounding the cabin … bathrooms?

Peter Greenberg: Any time there’s a new cruise ship I always get excited because I’ll do anything to get on a boat. Every cruise ship comes out with all sorts of great promotions about new innovation and services, and whether it is Royal Caribbean, Carnival or NCL, everybody is always excited. Right now, NCL’s Norwegian Epic is the big story. So tell me, is it a big ship?

The Norwegian EpicCarolyn Spencer Brown: It’s a really big ship. It’s not the biggest ship, but it’s a very big ship.

PG: Give me some numbers. Wow me.

CSB: It will take you 14.7 days just to figure out how to get your way around it.

PG: The cruise doesn’t last that long.

CSB: Well, then you’re going to have to come back.

PG: I remember when the Queen Mary 2 came out, they had all these figures: it was longer than so many freight trains and higher than so many buildings. They even had to figure out how to get it under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. What about the design innovations on this ship that stand out for you?

Check out our Cruise Travel section for more news and travel tips.

The Oasis of the Seas - photo by Wil ShrinerCSB: The figures themselves intimidate people more than they actually excite them. When you hear cruise lines talking about they serve 42 trillion meals in a three-day period, that doesn’t really speak to me that you’re going to get some kind of great dinner.

PG: No, but I’ve seen some of the people actually insist on all 42 trillion meals themselves.

CSB: I’ve seen them too, and that’s pretty scary. I think what’s really exciting about this ship are some revolutionary measures. You know we heard a lot about Oasis of the Seas last year as being the most revolutionary cruise ship ever built, and at the time it was.

Learn more about it in Peter’s Travel Detective Blog post: Airline Mergers and the World’s Largest Cruise Ship.

PG: Although, when that ship came out it looked to be so large it had a high-crime area on board.

The Oasis of the Seas - photo by Wil ShrinerCSB: Well, it has a police station on board.

PG: You’re kidding me.

CSB: No. It does. It has a little pokey.

PG: Do they call it a pokey?

CSB: No, I call it that. They probably call it a holding cell.

PG: Meanwhile if you have 7,000 people on a ship, that’s a small town.

CSB: It is a small city. But for me it’s not abut how many meals you serve or how many Eiffel Towers you can lie down sideways on your ship. To me, it’s what’s on the ship that I’m not going to get anywhere else. This ship has a couple of wows, and a couple of controversial wows.

So don’t miss Peter’s report on this new cruise ship on The Early Show: Inside the World’s Largest Cruise Ship.

PG: Okay, let’s go to the wows first and then we’ll get to the controversial ones.

Entertainment Venue Rendering on the Norwegian EpicCSB: We’ve heard all sorts of things about the entertainment on the Epic. NCL has been trying to promote that this ship has great entertainment. And I have to tell you, it does. It’s got Blue Man Group which you can only see in places like Vegas, Berlin and New York. It has something called Cirque Dreams which is this bizarre burlesque/circus/acrobatic show with a man in a bathtub that I just can’t get out of my mind.

PG: Let’s stop right there.

CSB: Ladies, it is worth the money. Line up the first day.

PG: Really?

CSB: Yeah, he’s hot.

Don’t miss our Women’s Travel section for more insider tips.

PG: Did they build a theater just for this show?

Norwegian Epic Blues Club RenderingCSB: Yeah, they did. It is theater in the round and it’s just massive. It is completely nuts and so much fun. There are definitely sort of marquee events on this ship that you’ve heard about that you’re going to come on because you’ve heard about. What I thought was really special about my five-night cruise in Europe was the small stuff that they didn’t tell me about. The blues club was awesome. Slam Allen, who is the performer, just sits on the stage like he’s in New Orleans on the front porch and you’re just walking by his home, and just coming on in. It was magic.

PG: Now I’m going to say something that might sound a little elitist. The traditional entertainment on a cruise ship are five people singing every Broadway tune until you basically want to kill yourself.

CSB: Or kill them.

Get insight on making the most of your next cruise with A Cruise Veteran on Three Shipmates Worth Knowing.

PG: You could take everybody out there. But this is different.

CSB: Yeah, and I think in the same way that NCL really deconstructed the stuffy tradition of dining on cruise ships. Remember when you were told when you got on board where you’re going to sit and who you’re going to sit with?

Wasabi restaurant rendering - Norwegian Epic cruise shipPG: First seating or second seating.

CSB: They’re doing the same thing with entertainment. They’re telling you it’s not just one big show with the Broadway theme going on. It’s all these different experiences and circus tents, and things outside on the screen. It’s really special, but it’s definitely geared to a younger traveler. Younger in the cruise world means under 60.

PG: That brings up an experience I had with my own mom. When my mom turned 80 I told her I was taking her on a cruise and she said, “I don’t want to be on a ship with all those old people.” She didn’t perceive herself as 80. She was dancing and having a ball.

Learn more about the inner workings of the cruise industry with Cruise Inc: Big Money on the High Seas.

CSB: It’s called young at heart.

PG: Well, she wasn’t doing the rock climbing wall. Now what is the really controversial wow?

Norwegian Epic Suite renderingCSB: The one I love is the cabin design. I love innovation because most of them do the same thing and model after each other. So when NCL came out and said we are going to make the cabin walls wavy, I thought, “OK, that’s different.” It’s cool. It’s a softer look, and the beds are round, and the couch wraps around a bubble in the wall.

PG: It sounds like an Austin Powers cabin.

CSB: Kind of like that, with a little touch of a spa in the 27th century. But where people are really having a good time on the debate scale is with the bathrooms. Not only did NCL split the bathrooms so you walk into your cabin, you’ve got a toilet on one side, a shower on the other side, and a sink in the middle of the room, but the doors to the toilet and the shower are see-through. That’s exciting.

PG: Let’s go to to the one I like the best: single cabins. That’s a big deal and gets people around that dreaded single supplement fee.

A Studio Stateroom Rendering on the Norwegian EpicCSB: Well, it’s two things. What NCL is doing, and it’s creating lemonade out of lemons. The cabins were small enough anyways, and they made them solo cabins. So you don’t have to pay for two people to reside by yourself in a cabin. But the other benefit is they’ve created this living-room concept. That’s like a private bar area, a community area where you can have breakfast, some coffee, a cocktail, you can meet people. I tell you, the hardest thing for solo travelers, beyond getting past the surcharge, is when you go on these big ships it can be really hard to meet other people and connect with them. I was on the Liberty of the Seas for eight days, and the only people I spoke to were my bartender and my waiter at dinner. It was lonely. It was not as fun as it could have been. And I think this is a really brilliant twist in addition to offering the cabin.

Don’t miss Avoiding Single Supplements & Other Solo Cruise Tips.

PG: I guess it remains to be seen in terms of a revenue stream, how the cruise lines will be able to price these, so they make money and people don’t feel like they’re being hosed.

CSB: I think people will pay a little bit of a premium, because they’re used to paying somewhat of a premium.

PG: Well, they’re used to paying double.

CSB: Yeah, or having to travel in the middle of hurricane season. I think the real challenge will be how this concept can grow beyond just this one ship.

By Peter Greenberg from Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio.

Listen to the show online here:

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