The Solo Community
The lounge underscores that the single cabins on Epic were not built merely to utilize excess space but are part of a well-thought out design to create a community of solo travelers. “What's good with the studio [concept] is not only that you can have a single room at a cheaper price but what we do around it - - put people together so they can gather together and make friends,” explained Richard Janicki, Hotel Director on Epic.
Norwegian tempts studio guests to come together each morning by having juice, individual cereal boxes and yogurt in the lounge. Stop by during the day for freshly baked cookies. Then, in the early evening, there is a solo passenger gathering with bar service.
The gatherings are hosted by a member of the ship's activities staff. He also organizes activities for the solo passengers including participating as a team in some of the onboard contests and game show activities. In addition, he posts sign-up lists for those guests interested in having dinner with other solo passengers. He also arranged to have the magician who was performing in the ship's theater do a show for the solo guests in the studio lounge.
The idea is to facilitate interaction and thus make the cruise more enjoyable for people traveling by themselves. And indeed, people do appear to make new friends - - a sizable number of the solo passengers posed for a group picture at the pizza party at the end of my cruise.
It should be underscored that this is not “forced fun”. “We organize people to get together but if you prefer to be solo, so be it and we leave you alone, we will leave you in peace.” Janicki noted, “You don't have to be there every day at the meeting at five o'clock. It is up to you.”
In keeping with Norwegian's overall Freestyle philosophy, a guest can participate in as much or as few of these group activities as he or she wants. On my voyage, there were guests who seemed to sign-up for everything and guests who I saw only in the studio corridors never coming to the solo traveler events. Most guests seemed to opt for some participation.
Above: Another view of the studio lounge.
Who travels solo
Although this was a cruise from Miami, the solo travelers were an international mix including Canadians, British, and Europeans as well as Americans. Of course, Epic spends her summers in Europe and so has an international following.
I was somewhat surprised at the age of the studio guests. The studios are a lower cost way of cruising and there is something of a hostel-flavor to the studio area on Epic. However, most of the guests were middle-aged with just as many seniors as guests in their 30s.
Also, not all of the studio guests on my cruise were traveling alone. Some were traveling with friends but did not want to share a cabin. Some were traveling with family who had a cabin elsewhere on the ship (e.g. a grandmother had a studio cabin while her children and grandchildren were sharing their own cabin elsewhere). However, the majority were traveling on their own.
All in all, I found traveling in Norwegian Epic's studios be a comfortable and fun experience. It is a different experience than cruising in a balcony cabin but then it is intended to be. It is also a more economical way to travel if you are traveling solo. I enjoyed the interaction with my fellow travelers but I also enjoyed being able to be by myself in my own cabin when I wanted to be. It is a concept that I hope the other cruise lines will emulate.
Click here for our interview with the Hotel Director of Norwegian Epic
Click here for dining reviews of Norwegian Epic
Click here for daily programs from Norwegian Epic
Cruise experience review - - Norwegian Epic - -Norwegian Cruise Line - Sailing Solo - page 2