cruises

Norwegian Epic Review

A huge ship that is great for families and does a particularly good job catering to the solo traveler.

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Dining Overview

The dining on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic and earlier ships such as the Norwegian Dawn (also reviewed by us) have a lot in common. Not only do the ships offer a number of the same restaurants (with some slight name variations), but also the same menus, right down to the daily menu changes of the main dining rooms.

Unfortunately the similarities don’t end at names and menus. As on earlier Norwegian ships, many of the restaurants on the Norwegian Epic levy an extra cover charge that, in our opinion, would be justified only if the eateries lived up to the expectations created by the line’s marketing. Unfortunately, we found quite a few of the restaurants on Epic to be a disappointment, at least in relationship to the high prices the line is charging for them. If you pay a cover charge of $25 per person plus an automatic gratuity on top of your upfront cruise fare for a cruise ship restaurant, you should expect excellent food. In some cases, however, what we found at Epic’s on-board eateries was mediocre.

The Norwegian Epic has two no-extra-charge main restaurants: Manhattan and Taste. Extra-charge specialty restaurants include Teppanyaki (Japanese), Le Bistro (French), Cagney’s Steakhouse (steaks), Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian Grill) and La Cucina (Italian). The cover charges range from $10 for La Cucina to $25 for Teppanyaki and Le Bistro. It’s all typical of what you’d find back home in a “theme” restaurant: Japanese food prepared in a showy style in front of you, French food in a romantic restaurant, family-style Italian, etc.

Manhattan Room

Being in the rear of the ship, the Manhattan has a huge, two-story high panoramic window. A live band plays in front of the windows every night. As with the rest of the ship, tables and chairs are made of dark wood, lending a certain elegance. Depending on the meal, the tables are laid with white linen or left plain, with just a small vase on the table. Surrounding the diners are some lovely paintings, the largest hung just at the entrance.

The Manhattan offers breakfast and dinner, but never lunch. There’s the so-called Chef’s Special, normally a specialty of some region, like spaghetti vongole in Italy, but sometimes the choices are questionable (such as Bermudan tacos).

Honestly, everything at Manhattan and Taste was mediocre at best. Preparation was decent: when we asked for a medium rare steak, we got it. But that’s just not enough. The food was bland and tasted like it was sitting around for a while. Sure, lots of people need to be fed on the Epic, and it might take a little while for food to reach the table, but it seems to take too long. Some dishes delivered, like prosciutto with melon, figs and a balsamic glaze. Finding the good dishes is a matter of luck, though.

So if you don’t mind bland food and want to dine in a nice environment, don’t hesitate to go to Manhattan. Overall, though, we’d recommend spending a little more money and going to one of the specialty restaurants (like La Cucina or Shanghai’s). Or just go to the buffet, where you get the same dishes without the wait.

Taste

The second main dining room, Taste, is a lot smaller than the Manhattan Room. The decor is almost the same, with dark wooden chairs and tables covered in white linen, but overall the space is a lot brighter. Only the back of the room is a little different, with white benches and colored windows. Unlike the Manhattan, Taste does not have a stage, but a diner’s-level piano plays every night.

Taste looks a bit like someone’s living room with its white, padded benches and the multicolored windows. The middle of the room, where the piano is located, is separated by white curtains, which give the room an airy feeling, furthered by the benches with high rests. The s-shaped bench by the piano catches the eye, and can also be seen from deck six.

The Epic offers a lunch menu at Taste, but only on sea days. It’s exactly the same as the one we found on a the Norwegian Dawn during a recent voyage. For starters, there are portobello mushrooms or chicken soup, cob salad and shrimp caesar salad. For the mains: spaghetti, fish n’ chips, and grilled New York strip steak.

In terms of food, the Epic’s main restaurants are a step up from what we found on the Norwegian Dawn, especially when it comes to the presentation and preparation. When we ordered a steak medium rare, we got it medium rare. That’s the best we can say, though.

Garden Cafe

The Garden Cafe is very big, with six areas where food is offered. The menu is extensive but repetitive, especially during breakfast and lunch, when all six buffets offer the same items. Dinner has a little more variety, especially in the dessert category. The Garden Cafe is located on deck 15. It’s always crowded unless it’s lunch-time on a port day. You can eat your breakfast inside or take it outside.

The Garden Cafe doesn’t just look like a cafeteria, it feels like one – all that’s missing are the folding chairs. Walls, floors, and buffets are all white, which makes the place even brighter and more sunny. Tables and chairs are of a dark wood, and along the dividing walls are red, wavy benches. Silverware is already at the table, as well as a tray with ketchup, Tabasco, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Some table islands are separated by rose fences. Fake plants adorn the whole dining area.

The Garden Cafe opens every day at 6.30 am for breakfast, and offers Eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles, French toast, a big selection of bread, marmalade, cereals, cold cuts, salads, sausages, boiled eggs, bacon, etc. There’s also an egg station, where you can get eggs done to order.

Lunch options are more extensive than at breakfast – but only on sea days. On port days the ship is nearly empty and the menu is scaled back accordingly.

Desserts include crepes, fruits, ice creams, puddings, and cakes for dessert.

Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors is directly outside the entrance to the Garden Cafe. It’s the same breakfast menu as the Garden Cafe.

The Great Outdoors is designed like a beach-side cafe. It has rattan chairs and marble tables with chrome legs. However, the two elevators in front of the grill do manage to disturb the relaxed feeling. On the tables are trays with condiments and silverware. The decor is sparse, but the sun and fresh, salt air make up for it.

Breakfast at the Great Outdoors consists of waffle, pancakes, French toast, cereal, scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon.

Lunch and dinner at the Great Outdoors is always the same: hot dogs, burgers, mac & cheese. As with the rest of the ship, the burgers are not the best we ever ate, though the mac & cheese is pretty good.

Shanghai

Shanghai is classified as Chinese, but it’s more of an Asian-fusion restaurant, with traditional Chinese dishes but also Indian and other Asian dishes. Dishes like dim sum, wok-fried noodles, rice dishes, and lamb curry are prepared in an open kitchen. It has the same menu as Bamboo on the Norwegian Dawn, but the cooking is much better.

The decoration is all about old Chinese restaurants: Lots of reds and greens and Chinese vases and lamps. At one end of the restaurant is an open kitchen where all the food is prepared.

Shanghai’s menu has a lot to offer, including noodles, dim sum, wok dishes. As an hors d’oeuvre you get shrimp chips with three different sauces. Highly recommended is the chicken lettuce wrap. It includes one leaf of iceberg salad and ground chicken. You have to wrap it yourself, and it’s a little messy, but the sweetness of the chicken and the salad go very well together. As a main course, you should definitely try the bass with mushrooms. The fish was cooked perfectly, almost melting in your mouth, and it included the only mushrooms on the Epic that didn’t taste like they’d been in dry dock for a month.

Shanghai’s offers ice cream, like most of the restaurants, but also some more unusual dessert options such as an Asian-spiced crème brûlée. Our favorite dessert was the lychee and coconut spring rolls. They’re not too sweet or heavy and round out the meal perfectly.

Shanghai’s offers Epic’s regular wine list, along with Japanese beer, but oddly no Chinese beer.

Noodle Bar

The Noodle Bar has a very limited menu, but the idea is great. You fill out a form and give it to your waiter. Since the kitchen has an open design, you can watch the chef preparing your meal. Because it’s part of Shanghai’s, the Noodle Bar has the same decor.

The best dish at the noodle bar are the pork dumplings – no matter if you prefer them steamed or grill. You can get noodles from the wok, in broth, or on different kinds of fried rice. The beef chow fun was also delicious, with crispy vegetables and soft noodles.

There are just two dessert options in the Noodle Bar: chilled mango pudding and five-spice chocolate cake. We recommend the Chocolate Cake. The mango pudding has a layer of jello on top that just didn’t work for us.

La Cucina

La Cucina not only has the same name, but the same menu as the Italian restaurant on the last Norwegian ship we visited, the Norwegian Dawn. We suppose that makes things economically efficient for the line, but it’s a bit of a let down if you like jumping from ship to ship on your vacations. La Cucina is located underneath the Garden Cafe and has a beautiful view on the ocean. The menu is all Italian, with different pastas, pizza, risotto, and different meat dishes.

With its fake brick walls and book shelves, fake tree and fake vines, La Cucina feels a little like a parody of a Tuscan restaurant rather than an homage, but it’s comfortable and the food is decent.

Beef carpaccio, as a starter, is done well, and the pork saltimbocca with gnocchi was good too, but the sauce was a little bland. The gnocchi was delicious.

Tiramisu is a standard Italian dessert and La Cucina does it justice. The idea to make a panna cotta trio, with amaretto, vanilla, and lime sounds good, but alas, lime turned out to be a stretch for pana cotta, in our opinion.

In addition to Italian cocktails such as Bellinis and Italian liquors such as Campari, La Cucina also has wine suggestions on the menu and sells these by the glass or in carafes of 1/2 or full liters.

Le Bistro

Le Bistro is one of Norwegian signature dining venues. The high-end specialty restaurant is the spot to celebrate an anniversary with a romantic dinner. Being one of the higher priced and more elegant restaurants on the ship ($20 cover charge per person, excluding drinks) the expectations are high. Sadly, it did not meet expectations.

Le Bistro offers classic French dishes like escargot and steamed mussels with Pernod for appetizers. Entrees include bouillabaisse or Coq au Vin (Burgundy Chicken). There are some specials on the menu, but they cost $10 more.

As an hors d’oeuvre, Le Bistro offers an acceptable salmon pate. The “Coquilles St. Jaques,” seared scallops with eggplants, so small and lacking in flavor that we can hardly comment on their quality. Perhaps salmon is not the food to order in a French restaurant, but we did. It, too, was mediocre. The cream sauce was fine, but the mushrooms were on the verge of going bad. As for the fish, it is hard to mess up salmon, but it was definitely not the best we’ve eaten.

As one would expect, desserts have a French theme and range from crème brulée and profiteroles to the not-very-surprising French cheese plate. The profiteroles three ways, with chocolate, vanilla, and lime is an unconventional idea, but the lime did not play well with the rest of the flavors.

Signature drinks include Kir Royal, a French Kiss, and more. Port wines, cognacs and liqueurs are also offered on the menu.
Le Bistro is one of Norwegian signature dining venues. The high-end specialty restaurant is the spot to celebrate an anniversary with a romantic dinner. Being one of the higher priced and more elegant restaurants on the ship ($20 cover charge per person, excluding drinks) the expectations are high. Sadly, it did not meet expectations.

Le Bistro offers classic French dishes like escargot and steamed mussels with Pernod for appetizers. Entrees include bouillabaisse or Coq au Vin (Burgundy Chicken). There are some specials on the menu, but they cost $10 more.

As an hors d’oeuvre, Le Bistro offers an acceptable salmon pate. The “Coquilles St. Jaques,” seared scallops with eggplants, so small and lacking in flavor that we can hardly comment on their quality. Perhaps salmon is not the food to order in a French restaurant, but we did. It, too, was mediocre. The cream sauce was fine, but the mushrooms were on the verge of going bad. As for the fish, it is hard to mess up salmon, but it was definitely not the best we’ve eaten.

As one would expect, desserts have a French theme and range from crème brulée and profiteroles to the not-very-surprising French cheese plate. The profiteroles three ways, with chocolate, vanilla, and lime is an unconventional idea, but the lime did not play well with the rest of the flavors.

Signature drinks include Kir Royal, a French Kiss, and more. Port wines, cognacs and liqueurs are also offered on the menu.

Teppanyaki

The only significant difference between the Teppanyaki on the Epic and the Teppanyaki eateries found on other Norwegian ships is that the Epic’s dining area is a much larger. They share the same concept. The chef prepares food on a griddle right in the dining room, surrounded by an audience of diners. They toss their utensils around, generally making a lot of noise while cooking, all for a cover charge of $20.

The menu is the same: appetizers are edamame, miso soup, and seaweed salad. For main courses you can choose between different meats and seafood, or a combination of both. For dessert, you get the same green tea cake with green tea ice cream as on other Norwegian ships.

The restaurant’s decor is relatively clean and simple, but the room is cavernous — a design mistake, we think, as it results in an uncomfortably noisy and impersonal experience as compared to the smaller Teppanyaki restaurants found on other Norwegian ships. Norwegian clearly was trying to pack in as many tables as it could into this space, and the result is a warehouse-like ambiance that has a production-line feel. Unlike at the Teppanyaki restaurants on other Norwegian ships, this is not an intimate experience.

Fresh fruit sashimi and green tea cake with ice cream are offered for dessert.

Teppanyaki offers two signature cocktails: the wasabi cocktail and a Japanese martini.

Moderno

The Epic’s churrascaria eatery is next to Cagney’s Steakhouse, and offers a variety of meats and a huge salad buffet. When you arrive they give you a little card with green on one side and red on the other. When your card is green side-up, that means you want more servings; red side-up, you’ve had your fill.

Moderno looks like an old-style Argentinian steakhouse, with everything in dark woods and reds. The tables are lined with place mats instead of cloths, the steak knives are enormous, and the walls are decorated with monochrome photos.

We think this is one of the best restaurants on the Epic and far better than a similar churrascaria eatery opened recently on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (Epic and Allure are the first two ships at sea to offer a churrascaria restaurant, a new trend in cruise ship dining).

Being a Brazilian style grill, the choices of meat is extensive. The best is the picanha, a special beef tenderloin only found in Brazilian restaurants. Others include linguica, a Brazilian sausage. Waiters come along frequently with meat on a stick, and cut off a fresh piece for you. In between, they also offer grilled pineapple. Brazilians believe this helps the digestion and makes room for more food. On the side, they offer pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), rice, black beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and fried bananas.

The sides are very good, especially the fried bananas. Most meats are well-prepared. Our first piece of picanha was almost perfect. For some reason, a later serving of the same meat lost a lot of taste.

Moderno offers all the regular drinks, as well as some specialty mixed drinks, like caipirinha, ginger passion, and strawberry batida.

Spiegel Tent

Spiegel tents were invented by Belgium in the 19th century as moving dance hall, and many chefs took this idea and made a dinner spectacle of it. The Norwegian Epic presents Cirque Dreams and Dinner, their own take on the spiegel tent.

Encompassing two levels, guests can eat and watch the circus, including clowns, aerialists, and other acrobatic shows. The show itself is fun and exciting – the food, not so much. There are three predetermined courses that never change. If you don’t mind sitting on the balcony or further away from the stage, the cover charge is $20, if you want to sit downstairs, close to the action, you’ll have to pay $30.

Spiegel tents looks just like a circus. It’s round, like a tent. On the walls are paintings of clowns. In the middle of the restaurant is a small stage where everything happens, as well as four corridors for the artists.

The menu for Cirque Dreams and Dinner never changes. For starters you get an appetizer trio with crab cake, salad, and chicken satay. Surf & turf is served next, with a roasted beef tenderloin and jumbo shrimps. The dessert is a trio, as well: the Trilogy of Sweets, with a red velvet cake, vanilla bean pot de cream, and a flourless chocolate cake.

For a cover charge of $20 or $30, our expectations were very high. Unfortunately the crab cake was not good at all, the salad bland, the shrimps tasted funny, and vanilla bean pot de cream is just a fancy name for a vanilla pudding. Only the beef and the gratin were any good.

The Spiegel Tent offers a selection of sparkling, white and red wines, as well as two special cocktails.

Wasabi

Located on deck seven (midship), Wasabi has a beautiful view on the gigantic chandelier hanging down to the deck below. The restaurant offers a simple menu of sushi, sashimi and yakitori.

Being the entrance to Teppanyaki, the decor is basically the same. Every place setting has some fake grass and white dishes.

Wasabi’s sushi rolls have far too much rice and not enough fish or vegetables. It tastes good, but we wish there was less rice. The sashimi is just the right portion size and the fish tastes fresh and delicious.

Wasabi offers the same desserts as Teppanyaki: green tea cake and fruit sashimi.

Signature drinks include Kamikaze (a Seabreeze) with Vodka, cranberry and apple juice, and a lychee saketini with vodka, lychee liqueur and sake. Wasabi also offers different sake and Japanese beers.

Cagney's

The Cagney’s on the Epic is huge, much larger than on other Norwegian ships. Apparently taking a cue from Moderno, Cagney’s feels more like an Argentinian steakhouse than an American one. There are some two-tops right next to the windows, making it a perfect spot for a romantic dinner. To show everybody that all the food is prepared a la minute, Cagney’s has an open kitchen in the back.

Once a week, the Norwegian Epic offers a jazz brunch, which sometimes takes place at Cagney’s. For $15, Norwegian sets up a buffet with salmon, different cheeses, salads, souffles, and sweet rolls. At the open kitchen, the chefs serve French toast and pancakes. Beyond that, there are some dishes you have to order a la carte, like braised beef or salmon with saffron risotto. The salmon is the perfect brunch dish: not too heavy, with the fish perfectly cooked.

There was so much spinach on the oysters Rockefeller, that you couldn’t really taste the oyster beyond a vague fishiness. We do feel that Cagney’s on the Epic is better than the Cagney’s on the Norwegian Dawn. We salute the chef for delivering the prime rib as ordered, medium rare, but on the other hand, our side of asparagus was completely overcooked. We tried the Cagney Fries again, in hopes that this time we’d actually taste the truffle oil, but as on the Dawn, we were disappointed.

Cagney’s offers a variety of desserts, from a sampler plate to a cheese plate. The raspberry crème brûlée looks good, but the cheese plate is the best thing here, with Danish blue cheese, brie and parmesan as well as some fruit and honey.

O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill

O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill is the first Irish pub at sea, at least according to Norwegian. It offers food 24 hours a day, as well as bowling, darts, pool, some arcade games, and big-screen TVs.

O’Sheehan’s is the only place on the Epic offering food 24/7. For breakfast, you can create your own omelet or get O’Sheehan’s Country Platter with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, hash browns, and grilled tomatoes – a great and healthy start to any day.

After 11 am serving up comfort food like chicken wings, chicken pot pies, meat loaf, sandwiches, burgers, and salads. There’s also the same desserts you get from room service, but you can be more sociable while you eat them here.

Along with soft drinks and water, O’Sheehan’s offers a long list of beers from all over the world. Shots, mixed drinks, red, white, and sparkling wines are also available for an extra charge. All drinks cost an extra charge and not all prices are in the menu. Very sneaky, Norwegian.

Spice H2O

During the day, Spice H2O is a terrace sun deck located on deck 15. At night, all the sun chairs are put away and the pool rises from below to form a stage and dance floor, simultaneously very cool and completely extravagant.

On sea days, Spice H2O offers breakfast and lunch. For breakfast you can get French toast, waffles, eggs, and bacon. At lunch, the pool bar serves up burgers, hot dogs, and mac and cheese.

The Epic offers nearly the same drink options all over the ship. Spice H2O is no exception, though it doesn’t have as large a beer list as O’Sheehan’s pub. For a cover charge, you can get the featured drink of the day, as well as all the cocktails and frozen drinks, such as pina coladas, margaritas, and mojitos.

In-Room Dining

The room service menu is not long. Breakfast must be ordered by 4 am and will be delivered at the requested time (sometimes a little earlier). You can also order salads and sandwiches, special occasion dishes, and special dishes for kids.

There’s a 24/7 pizza service too, which sounds very exciting. Delivery takes 30 to 45 minutes, sometimes less. Room service is available all day, but Norwegian adds a service charge of $3.95 per order between midnight and 5am.

Breakfast delivery is available from 6.30 am to 10 am. Orders have to be made by 4 am, using the forms hanging on the door knob. There are juices, cereals, fruits, yogurts, beverages, and breads to choose from.

There’s just one menu for the whole day. It includes chicken noodle soup, caesar salad, omelets, and assorted sandwiches (BLT, tuna, etc.). Even though there was not a lot of bacon on it, the BLT tasted pretty good. The tuna sandwich, however, tasted as though the mayonnaise had gone bad. For kids, Norwegian offers mini hot dogs, chicken fingers, and mac & cheese.

For special occasions, there’s a selections of cold and special hors d’oeuvres, a dozen of jumbo shrimps, Sevruga caviar, and a cheese platter for four. The special occasion menu is available from 11 am to 11 pm, for a cover charge of $15 to $42 (caviar is available at market price).

A 24/7 pizza delivery service is also available. Three pizzas for $5 each are available: cheese, vegetarian and pepperoni. They were all pretty terrible.

For dessert, the room service menu offers cheese cake, strawberry pound cake, and chocolate cake. The chocolate cake is Norwegian’s special flowerless chocolate cake, which tastes more like a heavy brownie.

Soft drinks, still and sparkling water, and beers are available around the clock. Wines include Pinot Grigio from Italy, Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Moët & Chandon, and more. All wines and champagnes / sparkling wines are available by the glass and bottle, and cost between $28 to $69 (a bottle) or $5.25 to $14 for a glass.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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  3. Dining
  4. Drinks & Nightlife
  5. Activities
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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