With two gargantuan cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has always boasted the largest boats in the industry. But now Norwegian Cruise Line is vying for a slice of that big boat action with their newly christened Norwegian Epic — which, at 200 feet tall, boasts 19 decks, three water slides and the ability to host 4,200 guests. We had a chance to check out the $1 billion boat and report back some surprising new amenities.

Dining choices galore

Norwegian is the industry leader in “freestyle cruising,” which means that, unlike most other lines, there are no set dining times, no dress codes and numerous extra-charge restaurants. Yes, there are buffets, but the new Norwegian Epic has 20 eateries to try on board — from hibachi to sushi to steak houses to Italian — meaning you probably won’t be able to try them all in just one cruise.

Not your grandma’s shows

Broadway shows have always been a staple of modern cruising, but the Epic was wise to pick the more cutting-edge Blue Man Group (inset) for their main stage show. Other performers include Legends in Concert, a musical impersonation show and, for the night owls, an extremely hilarious improv troupe from Second City. Looking for a party? There’s an ice bar (one of only 14 in the world) as well as bottle service at the open air club, Posh. Dance (or bowl!)?at Bliss Ultra Lounge.


Family fun

With three amusement park-quality water slides, you might not even see your kids while you’re catching some sun. There’s also a full-sized basketball court, batting cage and 33-foot-high climbing wall. It also features largest spa facility and gym at sea — the Mandara Spa and Pulse Fitness Center.

For the solo traveler

Cruisin’ solo? The Epic has 128 modern, yet (at 100 square feet) very tiny studios onboard, making it the first cruise ship ever to cater to solo travelers. And they are priced well, starting at $799 per cabin.

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