4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic

Maiden Voyage:

June 24 The Inside Scoop: Norwegian Cruise Line’s 153,000-ton 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic, the lone new-build to emerge from the once two-ship “F3″ project, will debut in summer 2010 as the largest, trendiest and most innovative new design ever from NCL. While the line is transferring much of what already works on its smaller ships — freestyle dining (Epic will have over a dozen restaurants), a nightclub-cum-bowling alley (plus, NCL’s added another three-lane alley in the sports bar, O’Sheehans), tons of balconies (the majority of outsides will have them) and the Courtyard Villa complex — there are plenty of new concepts as well, solidifying Norwegian Epic’s status as the most eagerly anticipated new cruise ship of 2010. On the sun deck, a sprawling Aqua Park will boast three waterslides, including one that utilizes an inner tube (“Epic Plunge”); a twisty slide (a la Carnival Dream’s corkscrew slide); and one just for kids that actually goes right through the rock-climbing wall. The ship will also boast an impressive variety of active pursuits, including cruising’s first batting cage at sea, a climbing cage called the “Spider Web” and a ropes course. As for accommodations, the already-trendsetting NCL is introducing a new style of cabin just for the solo cruiser — the “Studio.” There are a whopping 128 modern studios; each inside cabin is a miniscule 100 square feet. Similar in concept to the ship-within-a-ship Courtyard Villa idea (though perhaps more like easyCruise in style), Studio passengers get an exclusive, shared social space called Studios Lounge, featuring a bar, two large TV screens, a concierge for booking dinner reservations and shore excursions, and comfy seating for hanging out, ordering room service or sipping pre-dinner drinks. There will be no single supplement for these cabins, which are open to passengers 21 and older. On the entertainment front, the Second City improve troupe gains their own stand-alone comedy venue, and Vegas favorite Blue Man Group will join NCL’s already innovative entertainment offerings. Where It Will Sail: Norwegian Epic will sail alternating weeklong Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises through April 2011. The Western Caribbean cruise includes stops in Costa Maya, Roatan and Cozumel. Norwegian Epic’s Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes calls in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau.