Of all the places to watch England’s World Cup victory over Slovenia earlier this week, one of the most exciting must have been aboard the giant new cruise ship Norwegian Epic.
Hundreds of fans sat on deckchairs and sun-loungers, sipping ice-cold beer as the sun beat down on the Solent and a helicopter circled overhead taking publicity pictures.
Like the England team, the billion-dollar Epic – the most eagerly awaited ship of 2010 – was burdened with huge expectations. And just like Rooney & Co, Epic was showing signs of letting us all down. A series of shipyard fires threatened to delay its completion and a last-minute bearing failure on a propeller shaft delayed the 153,000-ton vessel’s arrival into Southampton.
But it finally came good, welcomed 2,500 eager travel agents aboard and set off on a cruise to nowhere just to show what it was capable of… providing a virtual Las Vegas experience at sea.
Much more a floating resort than a cruise ship, Epic provides freestyle fun for all the family rather than the formal nights favoured by traditional lines.
There’s Nickelodeon shows and SpongeBob SquarePants for the kids, Blue Man Group and a blues band for the mums and dads. You’ll find 20 bars and as many restaurants, and a cavernous casino. Up top is a water park with three terrifying slides and a 33ft climbing wall for the daring. Inside are six ten-pin bowling lanes and the biggest luxury spa at sea.
Destinations and ports of call almost become irrelevant as there’s more than enough entertainment on board to fill a week’s holiday.
One word of caution: unlike many cruise holidays, a week on Epic will be far from all-inclusive for passengers determined to sample everything on offer. Premium restaurants such as Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro, Teppanyaki and the Moderna Churrascaria all carry a cover charge and there’s a 15% gratuity automatically added to bar bills.
There are exclusive pictures and reports elsewhere on this blog.
Want to sail on Norwegian Epic? Virgin has some great deals on 14-night cruise-and-stay packages between September and March. Fly to Orlando, stay three nights in a three-star hotel, then join the ship for a seven-night Caribbean cruise before returning to Orlando for another four nights in the hotel. Fares start at £1,049.
And for Mediterranean cruises between May and October 2011, fly to Barcelona and sail to Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples and Palma, Majorca. Fares start at £689 and include $150 (£100) onboard spend.
Go to www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk or call 0800 840 9683.