Friday, July 16, 2010

Freestyle Bathrooms on Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Cruise Line
Latest Innovations

The picture to the left was taken aboard Norwegian Epic during a pre-inaugural cruise.  At first glance you might think this is the inside of a large bathroom.  Is that a flat screen television in the bathroom?   

Well,  I hate to disappoint you, but no, it's a sink inside the sleeping area of the cabin.  Above the sink is the storage area for towels and toiletries. 

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is known for innovations in their ship designs.   Ten years ago the cruise line introduced Freestyle Dining and built the first ship, Norwegian Sun, designed to facilitate the new concept.    Many cruise lines have since introduced similar alternative dining venues, but none have done so to the same scale as NCL.

NCL's newest ship, Norwegian Epic, introduces what I'm calling "Freestyle Bathrooms".    With Freestyle Dining, one can dine when you want and where you want.   With "Freestyle Bathrooms" one guest can wash their face or shave while another one takes a shower while another one ... well, you know.   All guests can get ready for their day at sea or in port at the same time.

At first, the concept sounds appealing, especially for guests in triple and quad occupancy cabins.   Married couples traveling together probably won't have an issue with privacy in the bathroom arrangement, but we're not certain guests traveling with friends will feel the same way.   Even families with children might have issues with this freestyle design.

In a typical bathroom on other cruise ships, you would open the shower door and grab a towel from the rack inside the enclosure.  Notice that the towel "rack" is a hook on the outside of the shower door on the Epic.   There is a privacy curtain that can be pulled to hide you from others in the cabin however if someone is using the toilet, you'll want to time your exit from the shower properly.

The bathroom area is the first thing you'll see as you enter the cabin.  Besides the privacy issues discussed above, there are other issues with this design.   The sink basin is very shallow and guests have reported that water splashes onto the cabin floor every time they use the sink.   Some guests report that they eventually find out how to control the water flow so that they don't drench the floor, but that usually occurs after a day or so.

What happens when you take a hot shower at home?   Steam billows out from the shower when you open the door.    The same thing happens on a ship too.   In a typical ship bathroom, that isn't an issue since you are still within a confined room.  On the Epic, you are in the main cabin area and sensors which keep you safe from fire could be tripped.   So much for privacy as you hear a knock on the door as a ship's crew member makes sure there isn't a problem.   Steam rises as you know, so the cabin ceiling will now become wet and unless properly cleaned on a regular basis, could lead to a build up of mold in the cabin area.

Norwegian Cruise Line has already announced that the sink situation will be reviewed and it may be necessary to replace them with a different model that won't splash onto the floor.  It is common for new ships to have some "kinks" that need to be ironed out.   In many cases, the problems don't surface until the first passengers set sail on a pre-inaugural cruise.   We are certain there will be changes on the Epic, but in the meantime, guests need to be aware of the current situation so that they can plan accordingly.

Getting to the bathroom at night could become a challenge in some of the cabins since it is necessary to get past the sleeper sofa or the main bed, depending on the room's arrangement.  The wavy wall design may impact the amount of room for navigation in some cabins.

Looking back ten years, there were "kinks" in Freestyle Dining which have since been ironed out.  In fact, onboard the Epic there are 21 dining options, some of which are first time offerings.   So, to be fair, we need to give "Freestyle Bathrooms" a chance.   Perhaps the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks - time will tell.

One thing is for certain, the Norwegian Epic's design is a conversation starter.   Right now the bathrooms are definitely the talk of the town.   We'll keep an eye on this story as time goes on to see what changes are made.

Learn more about Epic in Related Blog Posts


Jane said...

Hi there!

I just booked onto the Epic, our first cruise with Norwegian, and wanted to familiarize myself better with the ship. Web sites take the perfect shots to get you in, but I love travel blogs to see REAL customer photos.. To make it short, I started reading through yours RE the Epic. This one, tho, HAD to have a comment...

I laughed. SO hard. Freestyle Bathrooms: "With "Freestyle Bathrooms" one guest can wash their face or shave while another one takes a shower while another one ... well, you know." had me laughing myself into tears.

Pittsburgh, PA

justme said...

Here's what I'm wondering...does the door of the shower go all the way to the ceiling? If not, I was thinking I could put a hook that hangs over a door on the outside with my robe on it. Will that work? If there is no such clearance, is there any way to have a towel, robe, or clothes handy (and dry) before I exit the front hall area?

Chris Pappin said...

@justme... If you look closely you'll see hooks on the outside of the shower glass for robes & towels. Design may vary slightly based on cabin type. In the picture, the curtain pulls across for privacy. Enjoy your Freestyle Bathrooms!

justme said...

Thanks, Chris. Don't know why I'm a little obsessed about this. I guess it's because we're cruising with someone else (staying in a studio) whom I expect will be hanging out in our room a lot. Do you have any suggestions for enhancing the privacy while someone is walking through to the main part of the room and balcony?

I appreciate your help!

Chris Pappin said...

@justme Don't stress over this. We had our older son with us and between robes and pulling the curtain, we didn't have privacy issues. Enjoy your cruise.

justme said...

Thanks. That's exactly our situation--adult son. I bought Poo Pourri for the toilet issue! Again, thanks!