I am aboard the Epic, Norwegian Crusie Line’s massive cruise ship, and we embark for Europe today. This once (until very recently) was the world’s largest cruise liner and is still gigantic, huge, and well…epic in size.
I board the vessel in Miami (after taking a free Alamo shuttle from the airport) and am immediately in awe by the sheer scale of this 1,000 foot long, 4,500 passenger monster of the deep. It has the world’s largest spa at sea, the most bowling lanes (yes! I can blame the roll of the ship for my gutter balls), the world’s largest at sea casino, the world’s only Blue Man Group show and floating Cirque dinner acrobats, an incredible array of bars (even an ice bar), shops restaurants, and activities. So many, in fact, that if you get bored here it’s your own fault.
Every day the planned activities include bingo, trivia, karaoke, live music and entertainment, art shows, jewelry exhibits, movies, rock climbing, aerobics classes, boot camps, wine tastings, day spas…in short, whether you are old or young, man or woman, you’ll be amused during this passage, which is a good thing, because it’s a long one, at 11 days total, and all but the last day or two at sea.
I check into my tiny cabin with a certain degree of trepidation. NCL is one of the very few lines that offer singles-only accommodations. This is important (as experienced cruisers know only too well) because the cost for a single passenger supplement is usually the same price as for two people on most cruises. Solo traveling is discouraged, to say the least. Not so on NCL, which offers the 100 square foot cabins that I have reserved for my trip to Barcelona.
I am pleasantly surprised by my little room. It’s an amazingly efficient place, with an extremely comfortable bed even for my six plus foot frame, two closets, a separate toilet room and a small shower. You can operate a number of mood lighting options. My favorite setting has the under/over cabinet lighting changing by degrees from white to purple to green to orange. I know it sounds tacky but it’s actually fun and even cosmopolitan in flavor. There are hooks and tiny shelves everywhere, along with a room safe and storage for your luggage under the bed. No, you can’t see the ocean through the room’s ersatz porthole, only shadows in the hallway, but that isn’t a big deal when you are really only looking at the open sea for almost the entire trip. I don’t get claustrophobic here. It feels light and bright. Cozy even.
At 5:30 on day one, we have a meeting in the exclusive Solo Lounge as a mix and mingle opportunity. The lounge is equipped with a few flat screens showing the news and sports as well as a coffee dispenser and a ready supply of snacks. My fellow singles are about equally mixed by sex and the age range is from 30 something to sixty something. At 56, I’m right in the middle. We all decide on dinner together in Taste, one of two large restaurants with open seating on the ship. I enjoy surf and turf with a couple of glasses of truly mediocre Chardonnay ($18!). But the food is decent, the service impeccable, the company convivial, and the dining room, like the rest of the ship, feels brand new, which it really almost is.
After dinner, I wander the ship looking for entertainment, and I find it. The Blue Man Group has two shows, and I pick the later one after embarrassing myself and abusing my audience during a karaoke session early in the evening. The BMG puts on a fun show, at least to me, though their brand of entertainment is somewhat polarizing. It’s a mix of very loud music, comedy, satire, and sight gags that involves a lot of audience participation. As I said I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t want to do it again. “Nuff said.
There is a blues bar with jazz music elsewhere on the ship, and the Howl at the Moon piano players are very popular as well, but I’m pooped.
I crash around midnight. It’s been a long day. The bed is perfect, and the gentle roll of the ship rocks me to sleep. Ahhh, home at last.