Epic’s solo Studios could change the face of cruising

July 2nd, 2010 in Cruising by Sarah Lee 0
Could singletons meeting in The Studio's Living Room turn Epic into the Loveboat?

There was a time when cruising was seen as the domain of the newlywed and nearly dead. But it seems Norwegian Cruise Lines is intent on changing the cruising demographic with Epic, their latest ship being christened in New York this afternoon.

Not only does Epic have some cool entertainment venues but NCL has done something daring in the world of cruising – introducing 128 staterooms for solo travellers with no single supplement.

When I first heard about The Studios, as these solo cabins are known, I was impressed if a tad cynical. Yes, NCL was finally acknowledging that there’s growing demand for solo travel, unlike other cruise lines that still make people pay up to double for the privilege of being on their own. But given that NCL is generally a family-orientated cruise brand and The Studios and accompanying Living Room (a bar and lounge exclusively for the use of The Studios’ passengers) were separate to the rest of the ship’s accommodation (often different stateroom classes are cheek by jowl) did it mean NCL was happy to keep solo passengers away in a dorm-like section?

Well after checking out The Studios I’d say this fear was unfounded. The Studios themselves are trendy, well-laid out cabins with a rather futuristic feel. They were designed by UK consultants Priestmangoode, who are more used to designing luxury aircraft and budget hotel interiors.

The Studios aren’t big – just 100 square feet. But they are not short on the features you’d expect to find in other staterooms – en-suite shower and toilet, flatscreen TV, wardrobes with plenty of hanging space, mini-bar and full-length mirror hiding connecting doors to neighbouring cabins for people travelling with friends but who don’t want to share, as well as colour-changing ‘mood’ lighting. What you’ll find is that everything is tucked away neatly with space-saving attention to detail. The only thing they lack is a window on the world – but this is the case with any inside cabin. Where they differ to standard inside cabins is that they have a window onto the corridor to keep them feeling a part of the ship.

The split-level Living Room is another slightly space-age area with a bar, and soft and hot drinks dispensers as well as plenty of places to chill out in comfy chairs.

For me cruising is all about being able to see the sea and so sea-view balcony is essential. But for those who don’t mind the bijou-feel of The Studios, and people who don’t anticipate spending a lot of time in their cabin they’re ideal. Added to that they’re a whole lot cheaper when you don’t have to pay a single supplement, starting from £479 cruise-only for a seven night Caribbean sailing. And when you have Epic’s bountiful facilities at your disposal (some 21 bars, 20 restaurants, two clubs, a theatre, big top circus and shops) it could be perfect, leaving you with an exclusive area in which to retreat when the kids get too loud in the rest of the ship.

But will NCL change the face of cruising with their solo innovation? It’s unlikely we’ll see a huge shift in cruise travellers. But it could attract a younger crowd – not 20-something gap-year travellers but 30-something singletons looking for something different, who didn’t expect cruise lines to cater for them. NCL has seen a boom in bookings primarily from this age group. Now what I’d like to see next is the first Epic wedding – you know, that couple of solo travellers who met in The Studios Living Room and turned Epic into the Loveboat!

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