Something is afoot at sea. What the cruise industry has deemed as contemporary or mass-market ships are awash with accommodations that scream luxury. Luxury Travel Advisor was aboard the new Norwegian Epic to discover firsthand. The vessel’s Villa complex, a kind of ship within a ship, has 60 Courtyard Villas, Penthouse Suites and Deluxe Owner’s Suites spread across two private upper spaces on decks 16 and 17. It’s like having your very own oasis, which includes a private pool, two whirlpools, a sauna, private indoor/outdoor dining, bar and concierge lounge.
Our favorite has to be No. 17004, a Deluxe Owner’s Suite that, we say, has the best views going at sea. Every morning the wide blue ocean greets the suite’s lucky guests as they stir from bed. This is what you get with floor-to-ceiling windows, an amenity usually found only in chic hotels—not cruise ships. The Deluxe Owner’s Suites, of which there are eight, also have separate showers and whirlpools, and concierge service. We also love the layout of Courtyard Penthouse No. 17009, where the bathroom space is behind the circular bed, separated by a wall.
NCL CEO Kevin Sheehan said that no one—not even the luxury lines—comes close to these array of accommodations. Bold statement, yes, but then again Epic is not your usual cruise ship (it has an Ice Bar chilled to 17 degrees, for Pete’s sake!). Andy Stuart, NCL’s executive vice president, global sales and passenger services, was less audacious than his boss, but as definitive, stating that there was a huge segment for this kind of product.
Norwegian Epic’s most trailblazing concept, perhaps, is its 128 Studios. These were built solely for solo travelers (note: they don’t carry the normal single supplement) and come with exclusive use of a private Studio Lounge. Okay, they are a bit on the small side, but have everything a single traveler needs. Besides, they are stylish (think the W with cool lighting and a large round window that looks out on the lounge or hallway).
We think NCL is on to something with Epic; it’s still a ship with all the bells and whistles, but it can also cater to the affluent customer who doesn’t want to compromise on luxury.