Many people do not find it easy to cruise alone. There are the natural concerns about traveling to strange places with a group of people that you have never met before. Furthermore, in order to have a cabin to yourself on most modern ships, you have to pay as much as 200 percent of the per person rate for when the cabin is sold double occupancy.
With Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line took a giant step to address these issues and thus make cruising more accessible to solo travelers. The line included 128 “studio” cabins on Epic designed for solo travelers. In addition, as I learned during a recent cruise on Epic, the studios are not just single occupancy cabins but part of an overall approach aimed at making solo travelers feel that they are not alone.
The Price Difference
One of the biggest deterrents to solo travel on cruise ships is the cost. As noted earlier, solo passengers often have to pay twice as much as people who are sharing a cabin.
Based upon an unscientific review of the fares being charged by the major cruise lines for seven day cruises from south Florida to the Eastern Caribbean in early 2013, the fares for Epic's studio cabins appeared to be consistently lower than the lowest fares being charged by the other lines for a cabin single occupancy. The amount of the price difference depended upon which ship you were comparing to Epic.
How do the studio fares compare to what guests in other staterooms on Epic pay? Guests traveling in Epic's studio cabins do pay more than a passenger willing to share a standard inside cabin. (All of the studios on Epic are inside). How much more depended upon which cruise you were looking at. For some cruises the difference was not significant - - less than $100 in one instance. In no instance did the price for a studio approach 200 percent of the per person rate for an inside cabin in the cruises that I reviewed. Thus, the studios do appear to be a more economical way for solo travelers to cruise.
The Single Traveler Facilities
But what do you get for your money? Are the studio cabins a seagoing version of the notorious beehive hotels in Japan where the guest essentially gets a pod the size of a mattress? Or are they like most of the single cabins on the old ocean liners - - narrow rooms fitted into odd spaces between the larger cabins and suites?
In fact, the studio cabins on Epic are surprisingly spacious. The studios on Epic are 100 square feet as opposed to 128 square feet for a standard inside cabin, which can accommodate up to four people. Thus, even assuming that the standard inside cabin is occupied by only two people, the space per person is much better in a studio (100 sq. feet per person vs. 64 sq. feet).
Norwegian makes the studio cabins seem even larger by a clever arrangement of the furniture and facilities. The cabin is dominated by a large bed. This is no narrow bunk but rather a queen size bed that could easily sleep two (or seemingly more). The walls bordering the bed are padded making it comfortable to sit up in bed to watch television.
The television is a large flat screen model that is built into a wall unit that occupies most of the long wall opposite the door. Also in this unit are half closets with hangers, cabinets with shelves, a safe and the sink.
The sink is separate from the other components of the bathroom. Throughout Epic, the bathrooms have been separated into three components so this division is not unique to the studios. However, in the studios, this division clearly does make the room feel more spacious than if there were a single large bathroom taking up a large chunk of the room.
Above: The sleeping area in a studio cabin.
Below: The shower and toilet section of the room bathed in pink light. (The bed seen below is a reflection in a mirror).
The second component, the shower, is in a booth in one corner opposite the bed. It is about the same size, if not larger, than a typical cruise ship shower stall. The walls are glass but inasmuch as the cabins are single occupancy, there is no need to worry about modesty while bathing. In any event, a portion of the glass has been frosted so as to obscure strategic areas.
Across from the shower is another booth containing the toilet. Here, the walls are completely opaque. But there is not much space inside with the door closed. So you really need to keep the door open.
Between the end of the bed and the shower/toilet facilities is an area where you can stand and move about. You won't be able to hold a ballroom dance competition here, but I found it fine for getting dressed and doing ones ablutions.
Thus, Epic's studio cabins make good use of the available space. But unless you long for the architecture of the old Soviet Union, you probably do not want to spend your vacation in a place that was designed just to be utilitarian.
Once again, we find that Epic's designers have been clever. Clearly inspired by Hollywood's vision of future space travel, they have given the studio cabins a futuristic style. The walls are painted white but they are softly tinted by colored lights that change color during the course of the day. In addition, cut into the walls are large round windows fitted with frosted glass that prevent the cabins from feeling confined. (The windows face out into the corridor).
All of the studio cabins are located together on Decks 11 and 12. They have their own corridors which carry forward the futuristic style and lighting, thus giving the entire studio complex its own unifying style and atmosphere.
Another unifying factor is the studio lounge, also called the “Living Room.” This is a two deck high room that includes a bar, seating areas, two flat screen televisions, and tables for board games. It is only open to guests staying in the studio cabins and, like the corridors linking the studios, it can only be accessed by using your key card.
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 1