Taking the Kids Aboard the Newest Megaship Epic
The kids -- and some grown-ups too -- are lined up on the ship's deck, hands in the air, vying for the chance -- to have green slime poured all over them.
SPLAT! The water balloons pop on cue. The music is loud and energetic, with
Welcome aboard the brand-new Epic (www.epic.ncl.com), the latest megaship to debut for Norwegian Cruise Lines. At 153,000 tons, the new ship can accommodate 4,100 passengers, including upwards of 1,000 children, and 1,700 crewmembers and is scheduled to sail to the
Epic is all about entertaining you (everything from the Blue Man Group to Second City to every variety of specialty restaurants) and that, of course, starts with the littlest cruisers, from the unique partnership that delivers
Let's not forget the oh-so-hip teen club Entourage, purposefully located two decks away from the younger kids' facilities, which offers its own burger grill right outside.
"The family market is huge and when you build the family market, you are building for the future," explains
As cruise ships get larger --
NCL has redesigned cabins aboard the Epic with families in mind. There are separate toilet and shower areas, family cabins located near kids' activities and the largest villa complex at sea, which includes two-bedroom, two-bath family suites with access to a private sundeck and pool, gym, restaurant and more. NCL notes that these pricy suites typically book first -- ideal, I thought, for a well-heeled multigenerational family that wants all the bells and whistles (the water slides, the kids programs, the entertainment and restaurants) but wants to avoid the fracas and lines inevitable on such large ships.
I got a chance to see what families will be in for on a mini-cruise out of
The good news: Kids and teens shouldn't whine they are bored. Besides the organized morning-till-night youth programming (until past midnight for teens) there's the AquaPark, including a shaded water play area for the youngest kids, batting cages, basketball, soccer and more on the sports deck, as well as climbing walls, bowling and ice-skating.
There's also a new emphasis on activities the family can do together -- T-shirt painting, pizza-making and
The ship's entertainment is designed so that parents can be comfortable taking kids to an early performance of the Blue Man Group, Second City or "Howling at the Moon," which features "dueling pianos belting out rock 'n' roll. All were excellent, but I admit the ship's new Cirque Dreams dinner theater left me wishing there were more acrobatics (terrific) and less "shtick" (terrible).
There are nine specialty restaurants onboard offering everything from Chinese noodle dishes to Italian to steaks. (Required cover charges are halved for kids 12 and under.) Even your most finicky eaters won't go hungry. Did I mention there are 11 other dining options, including
Be forewarned that while you may never have had so many on board dining or entertainment options, you won't be able to just waltz up to the French Bistro,
Then all you have to do is kick back and enjoy everything the big ship has to offer -- once you figure out your way around.
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(c) 2010 Eileen Ogintz
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