NCL EPIC cruise ship

Cruise Norwegian: EPIC Solo Studio and Solo Lounge Review

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When I travel solo on a cruise, after the anger of the 200% fare wears off, I tend to overschedule myself to remain busy in the day and forget I’m alone on a ship of over two (or five) thousand people. It’s easy to blend in and become invisible if you want. At night, I would join a shared dinner table to meet new people and listen to their amazing stories of interesting lives lived. If I was lucky, I would get adopted by folks who took pity on me for being alone (without a husband of course). Being adopted has worked out well over the years, until now as Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has drastically changed the solo cruise traveler experience (it’s about time!) with the EPIC Solo Studio cabin.

NCL EPIC cruise ship
My EPIC ride to a new life

In 2010, Norwegian took the bold step of creating solo cabins, called studios, on their new ship the EPIC (and since then on other ships). Going a step further than just making a smaller room (100 sq ft) for one person and not subjecting them to the single supplement (often 100% additional), Norwegian also created the Studio Lounge as a special gathering place to eat, work, play while onboard.

The NCL EPIC Studios and Studio Lounge is a separate area within the ship (all inside cabins – no outsideview or balcony rooms) located on Deck 11 and 12 (with an interior stairwell) accessed only by those staying in the studios (although the Happy Hour is accessible by knocking on the main lounge door). The studios are generally a very popular category and sell out quickly with each sailing so book early.  If you are a first time cruiser, read my cruise tips and budget considerations before you book.

The NCL EPIC Solo Studio Cabin

I was not able to book a studio cabin for the repositioning cruise to Barcelona on the EPIC as they were sold out, but was able to tour the room (via the Cruise Critic Cabin Crawl). I was surprised by the space expecting it to feel small and claustrophobic but it was designed so well that it felt a perfect size for one person. On the EPIC the bathroom has been split into a separate shower and water closet with the sink in the room (not my favorite configuration). Most of the cabins are like this except for The Haven, which is a separate, luxury space with private access and exclusive benefits – they have amazing bathrooms!

Here’s the video of the room

NCL Solo Studio Cabin Tour

Solo Studio Cabin Norwegian EPIC
Cabin for one with private solo lounge – this is 100 sq ft

You do have a porthole window that looks into the hallway to provide a bit of light (don’t worry no one can see in). The Studio Cabin does not have a minibar/refrigerator (with the lounge there’s no need).

Studio Cabin NCL Shower
The shower in the studio was same size as my balcony room (small)

The NCL EPIC Studio Lounge (Solo Lounge or Living Room)

The Studio Lounge is open to those staying in the 128 studios. At night, it opens up to host a Solo Gathering at 5pm for all solo travelers. There is as a dedicated crew member who plans on board activities such as happy hour games (who doesn’t want to win a pen or a t-shirt?), shared meals and events. A note is posted on the board each day and if interested you just sign up. I saw many options to keep busy throughout the cruise in addition to the regular cruise activities for all. While you could eat, drink or see a show alone, bowling or ice bar (crazy people who pay to don a parka and drink vodka in a cold room of ice) is better with other people, in my opinion.

NCL EPIC solo lounge living room
A rare occasion that the living room is empty on NCL Epic – this is one of four seating areas in the solo lounge

The Lounge has a bar that is staffed at happy hour, a self-service coffee area and a cookie jar. The lounge also has several seating area configurations, a high top table and flat screen TVs to watch a game. The great feature is that you can choose to participate, there is no pressure, it’s your cruise and you figure out what’s best for you. You might be staying alone but that doesn’t mean you are traveling alone – your friends or family may be elsewhere on the ship and the studios offer you the opportunity to cruise with them without the added costs as well as a private space to decompress if you want (did I mention the cookie jar and coffee machine?).

Solo lounge coffee on NCL EPIC
Help yourself to coffee and juice with a staffed bar at happy hour

My Studio (Solo) Lounge Experience

During my cruise, every day at 5pm, my friend and I visited the lounge and because it was a repositioning cruise, the mix (and amount) of people was different from a normal cruise I was told. Generally, those staying in the studios tend to do many activities together. This cruise was a mixed bag of ages and travel experiences – while it tended to be older and retired given the type (repositioning, no ports) and length (11 days) of cruise, there were many young (under 40) travelers too. I met backpackers, Camino de Santiago walkers, parents on the way to Pakistan, Geneva and London to visit their kids and grandchildren. I watched men act like children with one man’s toupee, trying it on and remembering when they had hair (lots of laughter and lots of photos) both young and old. I watched the single guys chat up the single girls and I watched the guy in the corner reading a book alone. The lounge offers a nice getaway from the smaller studio cabin for both more space and more opportunity to connect (if you want).

Solo Lounge NCL Epic Solo Studio
A rare few guests at the end of Solo Gathering happy hour – most nights it was packed with people

The Verdict – NCL EPIC Solo Studio

I’d happily stay in an EPIC Solo studio cabin for a cruise if the itinerary was good and love the solo gathering each night. I met amazing people in the studio lounge at the happy hour that I then met for dinner, a show or drinks later (plus a few new Facebook friends). I didn’t need to be adopted by anyone and no one took pity on me which was a nice change. The general consensus has been surprise at how busy we all are on this cruise which I attribute to the solo lounge and studio cabins. I never got to read my books or sleep in a lounge chair on deck – I was too busy having fun with other solo travelers and that was EPIC.  So now the question is – where do I go next?

NCL Epic Margarita tasting EPIC Solo Studio
The solo lounge was like adult camp with alcohol – so much fun and no need to drive home (this was the Margarita tasting I attended and shared with a new friend)

Have you tried a Norwegian studio cabin yet or have you considered it? What about the studio lounge? What did you think?

14 thoughts on “Cruise Norwegian: EPIC Solo Studio and Solo Lounge Review

  1. Thanks for this great look at solo cruising Norwegian-style, Suzanne. It looks like an ideal way to cater to solo cruisers. I often meet and team up with people on my cruises, but having a dedicated lounge to socialize with other single cruisers would be a big help, and add a lot of fun to the cruise. And who wants to pay the single supplement — but how does the pricing for the studio cabins compare to regular per-person cabin rates?

    1. Paul – for the transatlantic, the solo rooms were about $429 if I remember and the regular room $399 pp with 200% single supplement. I’ve found that they are priced a bit more than the inside double room rate but they sell out quickly. Knowing that I can use the lounge without staying in the solo rooms was a bonus – sadly the EPIC food was horrible so I’d try a different ship hoping for better food.

  2. I have a deposit on a 16 night transatlantic cruise on the Getaway march 2017….staying in a solo studio cabin…. I am excited about this cruise as i have never done a transatlantic cruise before….my question is am i going to feel too confining staying in a studio cabin, for that length of time….I understand that the room is only 100 square feet… but a lady that i do know say they are perfect for one person…she always says in a studio cabin…..I would like your suggestion on this….. as i have never stayed in a studio cabin before…but i have been on rcl majesty of the seas in their inside cabin and their cabins are only 114 square feet…so there could not be that much of a difference…plus ncl studio cabins are much more modern

    1. If you have stayed on an inside cabin then the studio won’t be much of a change. I think that for the most part you are in the room to sleep, shower, change and it works well for a solo traveler. That said, you need to feel comfortable on your trip and within your budget – this might mean you do an inside for the cruise, usually at 200%, and ask to view the studio cabin for the future or you do the studio room now and use the savings for on board fun.

    1. Sharon – unless you are hiding out, you will definitely find people to chat with. I loved that there is a social director in the Studio Lounge who arranges group dinners and fun for those who want to participate. Plus each night there is usually a happy hour to meet other solo travelers in addition to lounge time. For friends and clients, I’ve found that they really enjoyed the cruise and solo cabins. I’d also suggest outside of the solo lounge joining a quiz group or other activity – I did that and met lovely folks that were couples and groups. Plus I had a standing appointment on sea days for fun – enjoy!

  3. Interesting! Big cruise ships aren’t really my jam, so I didn’t know these solo cabins existed. The price seems really good for such a long trip, though!

  4. This is such an amazing idea by Norwegian, I’ve never even heard of this. So cool they saw an issue and met the need. It looks so fun and I would have never considered it. Love the lounge idea too, so you could organically meet people 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!!

  5. I’ve never been on a cruise myself, but do know people who are into them, go solo and often struggle to meet new people. Good on NCL for figuring out a solution to that problem.

  6. I am booked on the Epic for a Mediterranean cruise in October 2017. Being a middle-aged single woman, I am nervous doing Europe on my own, but love the idea of the studio cabins and I hope to be able to make some friends on board! Can’t wait to check out the lounge!

    1. Marie – what a fabulous trip to look forward to! What’s great about a cruise is that you can choose to tour solo, join a private group (check out the cruise critic board for your cruise), do a ship tour or find new friends onboard to travel together. I love the diversity of choice and love Europe! I’ve booked clients on the EPIC solo and they loved it, I’m sure you will too!

    2. I’m also a middle aged lady & I traveled alone on a cruise for the first time in April, and was thrilled with the solo travelers group. We had so much fun at the happy hours, couples started joining us on a daily basis.
      (There was no studio area- smaller, older ship)

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