A Room For One: Norwegian Epic’s Studio Staterooms

by Gray Cargill on July 9, 2010

NCL Epic

NCL Epic

Have you ever wanted to take a cruise alone, but found yourself frustrated by the hefty single supplements for solo travelers?  Me too.  Well, read on, because our time to cruise solo has come.  Norwegian Cruise Lines’ new ship, The Epic, has created a new category of staterooms called the Studios, that are priced and sized for solo travelers. There are 128 Studio Staterooms aboard the Epic, spread between decks 11 and 12. They come with access to the Studio Lounge, located on deck 11.  I’ve written about these staterooms before, but now I’ve seen them in person.

I was fortunate enough to be hosted by Norwegian on its two-night inaugural cruise aboard the Epic out of New York City this past weekend.  While I certainly tried to see and experience as much as possible aboard the ship while I was there, my primary goal was to see those Studios in person and assess whether Epic is, indeed, a solo-friendly ship.  This will be the first of several blog posts about Epic in coming weeks, but my short answer is: Yes, I believe it is.

Corridor for the Studio Staterooms

Corridor for the Studio Staterooms

As you probably know by now, I’m a fan of shiny things. This ship is very shiny.  It is also huge (at 153,000 gross tonnage, it is the world’s 5th largest cruise ship).  As this was my first cruise, I have no basis for comparison, but I spoke with cruise veterans who were equally impressed with the vastness of the ship. There is so much to see and do here, I can’t imagine any solo traveler ever getting bored–especially when you consider that you’ll be in a different port of call just about every day.  There are more than 20 restaurants, several nighttime entertainment options including the Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert, ten bars and lounges (including the gimmicky but way cool Svedka Ice Bar), an amazing Aqua Park, a full-service spa, a sports complex, a casino that takes up much of deck 6, and more.

My only disappointment with this trip was that I could “look, but not touch” when it came to the Studio Staterooms. No one was booked into the Studios during this trip, including me.  So I can’t tell you how comfy the bed is, or whether noise filters into the room from the hallways, or whether there are enough hangers for all the clothes you brought.  I had a deluxe balcony stateroom, designed in the new Wave style (the room curves like a wave). It was spacious and nice and I’ll blog more about it some other time.

En route to the Studios, I got off the elevator on deck 11, and walked down a hallway tinted with purple light, giving it a high-tech, futuristic feel. Very hip.  I felt like I had beamed up to the Starship Enterprise. Then, there it was, the solo traveler’s Holy Grail of cruising, marked by balloons and a crew member standing watch outside.   At 100 square feet, you would think this would feel like a tiny room, but I had just come off a stay at the Pod Hotel in New York City the previous weekend, where my room was approximately the size of a prison cell, so the Studio Stateroom felt spacious by comparison.  Some of the Studios are connecting rooms, so if you’re traveling with a friend, sibling, parent, etc. but don’t want to share the same cabin, you could get connecting rooms.

Studio Stateroom Bed

It was hard to really get a feel for the place under the watchful eye of the crew member stationed just outside the door.  I don’t know if he thought I might stuff the room glasses in my bag or start jumping up and down on the bed. I was giddy about these rooms, but not that giddy. I was tempted, though, to stretch out on the bed to see if it was as short as the one in my deluxe balcony room.  I restrained myself.

Still, I spent some time in the room scrutinizing it, trying to see if anything seemed awkwardly positioned or inconvenient or if anything was missing that I normally find in a hotel room.  I couldn’t come up with a thing “in the moment”, but I should have had a checklist with me.  According to Paul Motter of CruiseMates.com, these rooms do not come with hairdryer or coffee maker.  (Paul was one of the lucky devils who got to stay in one of these rooms during the ship’s transatlantic crossing/shakedown cruise.)  The lack of a coffee maker is insignificant when you can walk down to the Lounge for a free espresso or cappuccino any time you want. The hairdryer is more of an issue for me, though Paul says these are available upon request.

The double bed spans almost the width of the room, with a narrow space on one side to accommodate the closets, desk, and storage space.  I think this would be a bit of a tight squeeze for a large person. The sink, shower and toilet all occupy separate spaces within the room.  The shower stall and toilet enclosure seemed plenty roomy to me, though I’m a bit on the small side (I’m 5′ 5″ and 120 pounds).

Window in Studio Stateroom

Window in Studio Stateroom

The TV is on the wall beside the bed. I pictured myself piling my pillows in the opposite corner of the bed and sprawling out to watch some TV at night.  Very doable.  There was sufficient closet space for your clothes.   I liked the inclusion of a porthole window in the room so it doesn’t feel too claustrophobic, even though the window only looks out onto the hallway (don’t worry, it’s one-way; nobody can see in).  Sliding shades can be closed to block hallway light at night.  To me, the room felt like a cozy cocoon, one I would be happy to retreat to at the end of a busy day in port and a sanctuary from the sensory stimulation of the public areas of the ship.

The biggest perk, aside from price, of staying in a Studio Stateroom is access to the Studio Lounge, located on Deck 11. (The Lounge  is supposed to be exclusive to the Studios, with keycard access.  Because this was a fam trip, it was open to anyone when I was on the ship.)  Imagine: A place aboard ship where you can easily meet others who are traveling alone just like you.  It is spacious, with lots of sitting areas, and easy staircase access from the Deck 12 Studio Staterooms.  Based on the decor alone, I’m not sure it will be to everyone’s taste.  For instance, I’m trying to picture my grandmother staying in one of the Studios and hanging out in the Lounge, and . . . nope. Just can’t picture it.

There are two big-screen TVs, a bar with bartender staffing it, and a coffee machine where you can help yourself to espresso, cappuccino, and other coffee drinks throughout the day.  I enjoyed a fresh cookie and iced coffee at the bar prepared for me by bartender Coco. Both were quite good, as was Coco’s company.

Studio lounge seating aboard NCL Epic

Studio lounge seating aboard NCL Epic

As I earlier alluded to, I had been following Paul Motter’s posts and Q&A about his TransAtlantic journey on the Epic staying in the Studio Stateroom. He noted that people on his cruise had suggested a whiteboard in the Lounge so solos could invite others to join them for dinner or other activities aboard ship: Let’s say you want company for dinner, you could write “If anyone wants to join me, I’ll be having dinner in the Manhattan Room at 6pm” and leave your name and room number. Or if you want company at Fat Cats, you could write “Anyone up for Fat Cats tonight? I’m headed there at 10.”

I didn’t see the whiteboard, so I asked Coco about it and he said they took it down for the weekend, since no one was staying in the Studios. But presumably, it will go back up again.  (If it doesn’t, ask them to put one up. I found the Epic crew to be incredibly responsive to requests–especially when it comes to the Studios. They want these to be a success.)

Studio Lounge Bar area

Studio Lounge Bar area

I know what some of you are wondering:  Are these rooms really priced for solo travelers?  So I sampled some prices from NCL’s website to share with you:  You can get a Studio cabin for as low as $849 for a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise (depending on the date, of course; some dates are more expensive).  The Inside Cabin (the next cheapest type of cabin) on that same cruises would cost you $1,318 as a solo traveler (if you see a lower price on the web, multiply times 2, because they are priced per person double occupancy).  So no, you’re not paying 50% of what a couple pays for a stateroom (more like 75%), but it’s a whole lot better than what you’ll get elsewhere, and I think the access to the Studio Lounge makes it worth the price.

The good news is, prices for these rooms may go down even further.  For more on this, see this video on the Studio Staterooms by Jason Cochran of WalletPop:

I also got a little taste of what it’s like to be a solo traveler aboard a cruise ship full of couples and families this weekend.  Even though this was a fam trip for media types, travel agents, and NCL sales partners, many brought their significant others (the “plus ones”, as they called themselves) and some brought their children.  At times, it seemed like everyone was there with someone else except for me.  Most of the time, I was too busy to care, but I did have the occasional pang of loneliness.  That’s why I think the Studio Lounge will become such an important space on the ship: A place where solos can find each other and be around others like themselves, instead of one solo in a sea of couples and families.  Partner this “solo traveler neighborhood” aboard the ship with a plethora of dining options, activities, and entertainment (many of which are included in the cost of your cruise), and I can’t help but believe that the Epic might just be the most solo-friendly cruise ship in operation today.  If I were to take a solo cruise, this is the ship I would choose.

Here are some more photos of the Studio Stateroom and Lounge:

Big Screen TVs in Studio Lounge

Bar with big screen TVs

Studio Lounge aboard NCL Epic

More seating in the Studio Lounge aboard NCL Epic

Espresso Machine in Studio Lounge

Espresso Machine in Studio Lounge

Studio Stateroom Shower

Studio Stateroom Shower

Studio Stateroom Sink

Studio Stateroom Sink

Toilet area in Studio Stateroom

Cabin toilet

Studio Stateroom Closet and TV area

One of 2 closets plus TV and desk area (partially hidden by sliding door)

Gray November 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Whoa, Mike! 120??? Is this with a tour group, or do you all know each other? Yup, I’d say this could be a party. 🙂

mike November 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I am booked in a studio for the sailing leaving this Saturday, November 12th.

I am in a group of approx 120 singles and I know many of us are staying in the studios.

So yes, it could be a party down there!

Gray October 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm

That’s a good question, Christy, and one I don’t know the answer to. I certainly have not heard that the studio staterooms draw a party crowd, but I haven’t been on the ship since it premiered so I really have no idea. In theory, I don’t think it’s a problem for them to each book their own room like that.

Christy October 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Any idea if these studio staterooms are mostly used by younger people? My mom is thinking of going on a cruise with her 2 sisters. They like the idea of each having their own bedroom. They are all 60+ very active – but not out there for a party or to meet other people. Would this be a problem??

Gray May 24, 2011 at 5:16 am

They do make it a little hard to get to. Try this link, Wendy: http://www2.ncl.com/cruise-ship/epic/staterooms/2/inside#tab_detail
Scroll down to Studios. Under the primary photo, you can click on the tab called Photos and Highlights for more photos and a video.

Wendy May 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Why can’t I find ANY information on these rooms on their website?

Lydia Proenza April 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I just spent a week on the Epic in a Studio cabin! It was the most amazing cruise I’ve taken. The cabin is small, but so well designed that it didn’t feel small. And with so much to do on this ship and the great daily Happy Hour in the Studio Lounge where you were able to make friends and go to dinner and shows in groups you really don’t spend that much time in there. I’m definitely going back!

Gray April 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Thank you for the feedback, Lydia! Good to hear your cruise went so well. I had hoped that the Lounge would serve that purpose. I’m glad to have it confirmed. Now if only more cruise lines would start building solo cabins….

Lydia Proenza April 13, 2011 at 1:06 am

I have to add that they had the whiteboard and it was heavily used. And also Natalie, the Solos leader is just wonderful about organizing events. We had a dinner at The Manhattan Room one evening and the Captain made by to say hello. We also had a bridge tour and went to the Ice Bar.

Gray April 13, 2011 at 1:41 am

That’s better than my wildest expectations, Lydia. I’m so glad to hear they’re going above and beyond to engage the solo travelers aboard ship!

Anonymous August 25, 2010 at 2:25 am

You’re very welcome, Caroline. I’m with you on the roommate thing. I hope the price works out for you!

Caroline August 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Thanks so much for the info. I would like to do a long cruise and am leery of traveling with a companion who might get on my nerves (or visa versa) after a while. All I can hope for is that the price is not too high.

joanna_haugen July 14, 2010 at 4:06 am

Wow! Classy ship! Everything looks very hip and cool.

SoloFriendly July 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Thank you, Sheila. I had fun checking it out in person!

Sheila Beal July 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Exceptionally thorough review of the staterooms, Gray. Thanks for all the useful detail.

SoloFriendly July 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

That's a really great point, Nick. I think that would be a fun way to kick off a RTW trip!

NickLaborde July 11, 2010 at 7:13 pm

After reading this post I did a little research on what Itineraries they have and the prices. They have a one way trans Atlantic trip to Barcelona that I found intriguing. I did some basic flight research and the cruise cost ($1500) was comparable to the flight cost.

Of course after 15 days on a cruise ship you can easily spend twice that much if your not careful. I had a $400 tab on my last 7 day cruise, I did plan for that and I was with a bunch of party people.

I've read that several travelers use cruise ships to cross the Atlantic because it's cheaper. Now that NCL is being more accommodating to us solo travelers it makes more sense to go that route.

I am going to leave that option open as a way to kick off my RTW trip next year.

SoloFriendly July 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I know, right? Suddenly it makes cruising more appealing.

SoloFriendly July 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Not this time, but hopefully in the future! Thanks for the comment Alouise.

Alouise July 10, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I've never really thought about doing a cruise before, probably because when I think of cruises I picture families and older couples traveling after retirement. I'm sure there's more to it than that (like all travel). But it's nice to know if I decide to take a solo cruise I can, the prices seems pretty reasonable, least moreso than many other cruise lines. It's just too bad you couldn't actually stay in those staterooms.

Hedy July 10, 2010 at 7:01 pm

This is awesome! I hadn't heard about these rooms. It makes me want to price a NCL cruise out, LOL.

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Yes, they are. If you want a balcony, you'd have to upgrade, and you'd definitely pay the price. I'll be reviewing the deluxe balcony cabin I had in a future blog post. That would be fine for a solo, too, but you wouldn't have access to the Studio Lounge, which is kind of a bummer. Unless somehow, we can all persuade NCL that any solo traveling aboard the ship should have access to the Lounge? Just a thought….

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Thanks for the comment, Bevin. I've certainly heard enough solo cruisers lament over how miserable their cruises were because they never ran into anyone else aboard ship that was solo. This is such a terrific advance in solo cruising.

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Exactly, Akila! An upscale floating hostel lounge. 🙂

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for letting me know, Sabina! Good to hear from you. Yeah, I was bummed about not being able to stay in one. But that's incentive for me to book one of their cruises at some point!

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Well, it is actually an inside room, just a little bit nicer than most. Cool thing for single parents is that you could bring your daughter and get connecting rooms. She could have her room, you could have yours.

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Depending on where you live (how populated the area), you might consider a Travel MeetUp.com group. Many cities have them. You could also start one specifically for solo travelers. Hostels have long been known as good ways to meet other travelers when traveling, but hosteling isn't really for everyone.

SoloFriendly July 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for your comments, Nick. Before this, those were pretty much the only options–share or pay double. I'm not sure the singles cruises are for me, but it might also be a good way to meet other solos while traveling.

Peter West Carey July 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Nice write up and good to see some option for solo travelers. While not a huge price break, it is nice to not have an inside room. Thanks for this!

Lesalo3 July 10, 2010 at 7:17 am

By the way, this is Sabina. Didn't know it was going to use my email as my name.

Caroline Eubanks July 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Hey Gray! I linked you on a post I wrote about my attempt at solo travel that you might like. http://www.carolineinthecityblog.com/2010/07/losing-my-independence.html

LESALO3 July 10, 2010 at 7:15 am

This is such a great and comprehensive review, Gray. It's too bad you couldn't actually stay in that room. It does look invitingly cozy.

Akila July 10, 2010 at 5:42 am

Wow, this is a fantastic idea for solo travelers and budget travelers. I always travel with my husband but I know how many solo travelers hate cruises because they have to pay the supplement. The lounge sounds like a fantastic idea, too — it's almost like a hostel lounge on a ship but more upscale!

NickLaborde July 9, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I've not experienced any thing like that personally but I know there are several companies that specialize in single travel.

Bevin July 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Do you think it would be possible to have something like that on land as well? I'm not single anymore, but I know that when I was I spent a lot of time bored at home just because I didn't have someone to vacation with. If I had known of a fun option to meet up with a lot of other singles when I got wherever I was going, I know I would have taken it.

Bevin July 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm

These cabins are really cool. I have only ever been on one cruise and I was traveling with people who may as well be my family at the tender age of just-barely-legal, but I could see how a space on the ship that was more or less dedicated to singles would be a really great addition. It seems to me that cruising could be pretty painful as a single, especially if you're the type (like me) to not go to movies alone. But, if you knew that you were really just going to a floating opportunity to meet new friends (or hook-ups, whatever), it could be a big all-you-can-eat adventure. I may have to look more into this. 🙂

Kathy July 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm

But these are all inside cabins, right? I'm still waiting for a solo cabin with an outside window/balcony – half the price of a double for half the size would be fine. But I'm not a cruiser in the first place, so not really the target market.

NickLaborde July 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

That looks like it could be a good option for solo cruising. I am curious how it will actually be on a normal cruise. I'm a veteran of two cruises where I went solo, but I did have a roommate that I met the day of the cruise. It was either that or pay double, It worked out well because all I used the cabin for was sleeping and changing.

I traveled with a singles group that had its own private parties and events. It's a little bit more but it's well worth it. You can choose to participate or not and you can hang with the wild bunch one night and the more laid back people on other nights.

Just another option if you want to cruise and not feel out of place among all the kids and families.

I'm looking foreword to your future posts on this ship.

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