At the onboard SVEDKA Ice Bar, tables, stools, sculptures and even the walls are made of ice.
It’s showtime for Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship.
When the 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic launched a few months ago, it definitely turned heads. Some agents remarked that the 155,873-ton ship—the largest ever for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)—wasn’t a sleek, classic beauty in the traditional sense. But others pointed out that clients were eager to book this ship for its innovative features and an array of entertainment and activity options. After sailing on the ship in July, I’d have to agree.
On the Epic, clients will discover 20-plus restaurants, two sets of bowling lanes, a huge casino and entertainment that spans everything from Nickelodeon to the Blue Man Group. “NCL designed a great ship that appeals to a broad audience,” says Carrie Finley-Bajak, president, Cruise Holidays, Mission Viejo, CA. She says the ship’s price points are excellent and the added values make Norwegian Epic a worthwhile cruise option for many clients.
Similarly, Sabine Harris, owner of a Cruise Planners agency in Tampa, says, “I would probably recommend this ship to younger families and single folks since they have awesome single cabins.” Harris tells us her cruise was a nice experience: “I would go again. And I’ve already booked a couple on the ship for next May.”
Here are my personal gleanings about one of Norwegian Epic’s most important and innovative facets—the core entertainment options.
Blue Man Group: What can one say about Blue Man Group? It’s almost indescribable. A trio of blue-painted men perform in a 70-minute show that mixes amazing pyrotechnics, boisterous drums and technology wizardry. The ghoulish performers are mimes, so no words are spoken. While the audience reads sentences displayed on digital signboards at the show’s outset, only actions and expressions follow to create mood and flow.
The show on board Norwegian Epic is a hot ticket. Visitors may pay $100 or more per person for tickets to a Blue Man Group show in such cities as Berlin, New York, Tokyo or Las Vegas. But cruise guests securing tickets for Norwegian Epic’s show attend at no charge; that’s a significant value-added feature within the cruise fare.
“Blue Man Group has received rave reviews and it helps create the Vegas-at-Sea vibe that permeates [the] Epic,” says Finley-Bajak. But “the biggest issue with the entertainment is not the execution or quality of the shows, it is the procurement of tickets,” she says, noting that reservations for the most popular shows are a “must.” Guests may begin booking tickets 45 days prior to sailing.
Guests may attend Blue Man Group show only once during their cruise. “As one can imagine with thousands of people on the same ship, not everyone will be able to see all the shows at the same time,” says Finley-Bajak.
AnneMarie Matthews, NCL’s director of public relations, says Blue Man Group performs eight times on each weeklong cruise—twice daily on four different days—so guests who want to see the show usually can be accommodated.
Clients who attend the Blue Man Group performance in the onboard Epic Theater will discover good sight lines and comfortable seating. The area at the back also has a few small tables and chairs for guests with mobility issues and their friends or spouses.
I purposely sat in the middle of a central section row, my usual trick for avoiding any potential audience participation. But, suddenly the shiny blue-faced creature began to climb up the central section’s interior seats toward the back of the audience—and toward me. “Oh no,” I said to my mom, who accompanied me on this cruise. She giggled mercilessly as I nervously said, “He’s coming to get me.”
Fortunately, he didn’t get that far, but several others in the audience did get pulled onto the stage action. It’s good to tell clients this is a possibility, although obviously a remote one given the theater size. But this is just a small part of the show, the audience loved it, and it’s all in good fun.
Tell your clients that Blue Man Group is loud, boisterous, highly creative, irreverent and immensely entertaining. While the show may not appeal to everyone, I’m glad I went. Guests won’t find this on another line.
Svedka Ice Bar: During my Norwegian Epic cruise, I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy a drink in the ship’s SVEDKA Ice Bar. But I did venture inside briefly.
This is one of only 14 true ice bars in the world. Some so-called ice bars have features of ice but on Norwegian Epic, the bar, tables, stools, life-sized sculptures and even the walls are made of ice.
This ice bar’s temperature is set at 17 degrees or below. It’s more than just cold, it’s frigid. To handle the warming influence of human bodies, NCL controls bar access, allowing only 25 people in the bar at once.
The Norwegian Epic's Fat Cats club belts out jazz and blues numbers.
Outside the bar from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., guests line up and don a hooded faux fur coat, hat and gloves—all from NCL. A doorman lets guests enter on the half hour and they stay inside for a maximum of 45 minutes.
Once clients enter, they’ll discover a glistening bar that’s a frozen fantasy world. It blew me away that the bar has a freezer-like door. Size-wise, though, the bar is relatively small. But it’s definitely one of those one-of-a-kind experiences that provide bragging rights for your clients.
The ice bar experience costs $20 per person and includes two signature cocktails; guests can choose from six specialty drinks made from SVEDKA vodka and Inniskillin ice wine as well as two nonalcoholic drinks. Advise clients that the normal drink selections available in other bars and lounges onboard are not served in the ice bar. Describe it as an Arctic-like experience as blue, green and purple LED lighting simulates he northern lights.
Cirque Dreams and Dinner: I attended the Cirque Dreams and Dinner show in the Spiegel Tent, the ship’s 217-seat dinner theater venue. This alternative dining option carries a charge, and—starting with this week’s voyage—that fee is increasing to $20 for regular seating and $30 for premium seats closer to the action.
My dinner was typical of what one would expect in a moderately priced dinner theater on land with a three-course meal of salad, entree and dessert. NCL is enhancing the menu starting this week. The salad selection is being changed and a new dessert trio now includes a cupcake.
Tables in the Spiegel Tent theater were exceedingly tight. Some diners on our voyage complained they couldn’t turn their chairs to watch the circus-like, artistic show. While my views were just fine, I’d like to see fewer tables and more space. That said, Matthews notes that this is a very hot ticket, so they want to give as many guests as possible the chance to see this show. She advises guests to line up early for the best seats.
Essentially, the Cirque Dreams show involves a circus-like, artistic presentation in the round— featuring an array of acrobatics, singing, comedic and specialty acts by the Cirque Dreams troupe. The show’s high-quality acts shine brilliantly. The theater venue also delivers a unique “up close” perspective on the action.
However, I personally would have preferred shortened and revamped comedic lead-ins, which appeared convoluted. But Matthews says the line needs three months of show experience before evaluating the full range of guest comments and considering any potential changes.
I was seated at ground level, peering over other guests to see what was happening, but my view was still good. For the best view, book a premium seat up front. Or, alternatively, for a bird’s-eye view but at the regular price, clients may also sit upstairs on a single row of stools circling the opening to the theater below. Note: An announcement is made to let dinner guests know that no one is permitted to leave during the show for safety reasons.
Other Entertainment Options: Norwegian Epic has a slew of other venues and activities to entertain your clients. Fat Cats is the place for jazz and blues tunes, Howl at the Moon fields a Rock ‘n’ Roll Dueling Piano Show and the Second City Comedy Troupe performs at Headliners.
Clients may also admire the best Elvis Presley, Rod Stewart, Cher, Madonna and other entertainer impersonators at the Legends in Concert tribute show. For families, Nickelodeon at Sea activities include character meet-and-greet sessions, SLIME Time Live and Dora’s Dance Party.
Sport enthusiasts can spend time at the Sports Complex with its full-size basketball and volleyball courts. They may partake in a game of dodge ball, climb a 24-foot-high spider web or a rock wall, and practice baseball in a batting cage.
“NCL has done a great job designing a ship that can be cross-sold to many groups,” notes Finley-Bajak. “Families, solo travelers and active cruisers who want a lot of action and activities will find a place on the Epic.”