By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
WEDNESDAY, 1:21 PM GMT
One of the most anticipated new features on the Norwegian Epic is its complex of 128 “studio” cabins — small, stylish interior rooms that are being sold to solo travelers. So does the area — billed as a game-changer in interior cabin presentation — live up to the hype?
Last night I got a chance to try the complex out with an overnight stay, and I have nothing but praise.
Located in the middle of decks 11 and 12, the area includes a snazzy private “studio lounge” — a shared, two-story social space with a bar, two large TV screens and comfy seating. But the highlight of the area, no doubt, is the cabins themselves, which are a refreshing burst of creativity in ship design.
At just 100 square feet, the studios are less than half the size of the 217-square-foot “New Wave” balcony cabins that make up the majority of the ship’s accommodations, but they’re so cleverly put together that they don’t seem nearly as cramped as they should.
An alternative to the traditional inside cabin, each of the rooms comes with a full-size bed and an innovative, streamlined wall unit that includes closet space for hanging clothes, a number of small shelves, a nook with a flat-screen TV, a small desk area and a built-in sink area.
On the opposite wall from the bed, in one corner, is a compact shower stall that features lovely glass-tiled back walls and a glass surround. In the other corner is a small room containing a toilet.
The rooms also have a large round window that looks out into the
corridor — a nice touch that helps alleviate the claustrophobia of inside cabins. In addition to closeable blinds, the translucent windows have sliding-door closures for total privacy.
The window area, along with the entire cabin, comes with customizable color changing light effects that mirror different stages of the day (including a much-ballyhooed “love setting” that bathes the room in a romantic red glow). A control panel next to the bed allows passengers to switch between four different settings.
The overall decor of the room is sleek and contemporary, with a mostly monotone white and cream color palette accented by tiny splashes of purple and green.
Norwegian hired an outside firm, London’s Priestman-Goode, to design the rooms, and it deserves kudos. Indeed, it’s too bad the line didn’t contract with the firm to design all of the ship’s cabins.
Despite being smaller, the sink area of the studio cabin is much more functional than the sink area of the ship’s balcony cabins, with a faucet perfectly sized for a sink basin that is molded into the counter-top. Unlike when using the raised-bowl sink in my balcony cabin, water did not splash all over the counter when I washed my hands. And the toilet compartment is both more private and more solidly designed than the toilet area in the balcony cabin.
Another smart touch are the sliding doors on the wall unit that allow for a narrower space between the unit and the bed (as none of the unit’s doors opens outward). Even for one traveler, the storage space for clothes in the wall unit is limited, but as a backup there also are large baskets under the front of the bed that can be filled with passenger items. Additional room under the back of the bed can be used to store one’s suitcase.
Interestingly, Norwegian originally planned to market the cabins for two people, aiming at travelers on a super-tight budget who didn’t mind jamming into a tiny room to save money. But the line quickly changed its mind after initial feedback, and it appears they made the right move.
It’s been a long time since a cruise line has built a ship with cabins for solo travelers, and Norwegian executives already say they’re seeing strong demand for the product.