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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Epic Studio Cabins, the good, the bad and the shower...

Studio cabins, did NCL accidentally get it right?

Yes and No!

I've heard that when NCL originally designed the studio cabins on the EPIC they were supposed to be small double occupancy rooms, but they didn't sell well so they made them solo passenger cabins, though you can still put 2 people in them if you choose. They have a private lounge area for only the studio passengers, it has a bar (open 1 hour a day), coffee, snacks and continental breakfast. There is even a member of the staff that helps to get the passengers to know each other.

It sounds perfect, and NCL absolutely got this right.  But it felt like now that they have this product they don't quite know what to do with them now, I think the concept needs a little nurturing to make it truely fantastic.
I'll start with the cabins...
The cabins, although small, are nice.  The bathroom is broken up - the toilet, shower and sink are separate.  The shower has a glass wall with frosting on it, but the frosting needs to be darker and cover more of the wall, luckily I was the only one in the room.  There are two closets in the room,with doors that slide (when open they cover the sink and the TV), each with a hanger bar and 2 shelves.  There are additional shelves in the room, but no drawers.  If you look hard enough, there are baskets under the bed for additional storage.  I thought there was plenty of storage for 1 person, but I think it would be tight if there was a second person in the room.  Actually, everything about this cabin was just fine for 1 person, but I couldn't imagine a second person in one of these cabins, except maybe a mother and small child. 

The room comes with "mood" lighting.  This was neat for about 2 minutes, then it was annoying.  Even more annoying was the panel to change the settings was next to the bed, not near the door.  Although there is no thermostat there is a panel that allows you to adjust the temperature to cooler or warmer, I think this is the first ship I've had this feature on and I like it!  My cabin had at least 3 sets of outlets, several of which were for european and american plugs.  There was a table and a bench in the room, but both were so small that I only used them to put stuff on. 
Mood Lighting

The Studio Lounge:
The studio lounge was a private area that offered a bar, drinks, food, sitting area and TV.  It was a nice sized space for the number of passengers in the studios, it was busiest in the mornings (continental breakfast was offered) and evening, but never crowded.  The space was used for the solo passenger meet ups, which was the only time the bar was open.  We had a member of the social staff assigned to us for the solo meet ups, Sol, she helped get everyone introduced and arranged for 1 group dinner. 
I think this is the area where the studio cabins fell short.  I met many wonderful people who were staying in the studio cabins, some were very outgoing and others were very very shy.  I think that the staff member who is assigned to the studio lounge should be organizing more activities.  I don't think this is the fault of Sol, from what I have heard everyone has had the same experience since the ship launched, so I think this is how NCL has designed the position.  I would have liked to have seen a few more dinners planned, particularly in the specialty restaurants, a session in the Ice Bar or bowling.  I think that would open up more opportunities for solo cruisers and it would generate more money for the cruise line - a win for all. 

The other thing that I thought was missing was a window or a balcony or anything involving fresh air and sunlight.  Since the studio cabins were inside I felt an extra need to go outside in my free time, I know other people expressed a concern about possibly feeling clausterphobic in these cabins.  I had no issue with clausterphobia.  There were a few occasions where I would have liked to have spent time in the lounge, but with no window or baloncy, I chose to go up on deck instead.  I think the interior nature of the lounge kept it from being a more popular place to congregate.  Not that it needed a big section of window or a large balcony, but anything would have been better.  The best example of this was on the last day of the cruise I ate breakfast in the lounge, got my things and debarked the ship.  To my surprise it was cold and raining and ended up not being dressed properly. 
Hallway for the Studios
I have written NCL a letter about all of my thoughts on improving the Studio cabin experience, so I don't mind saying it here.  They did write back and thank me for my input.  But since this post seems to be a bit negative, I do want to add that I absolutely LOVED this cruise and the studio cabins.  I made many wonderful friends and would definatley consider sailing on the EPIC again if I was traveling by myself.  I would also recommend this ship to anyone else traveling by themselves.  I just think there are a few things that can be done to make it an even better experience.

Reminder: I can be found on Twitter @Travelingiraffe