Entertainment abounds aboard NCL’s Epic cruise ship

Special to the Los Angeles Times

It’s hard to argue with NCL’s description of its Epic as “the world’s largest floating entertainment venue.”

“The entertainment was superior to any other ship I’ve sailed on,” said Harry Soileau, a retired Navy man living in Las Vegas and a six-time cruise-taker. Others echoed that sentiment.

But if you’re planning a cruise, book the shows ahead. Showrooms are on the small side, long waiting lines are not uncommon and top attractions such as Blue Man Group and Cirque Dreams and Dinner sell out quickly.

Entertainment director Simon Murray spent a year lining up the acts. Some, including Blue Man, are free. Some have a cover charge.

“I don’t expect every person to love everything,” Murray said. I didn’t love “Howling at the Moon” in “the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll dueling piano bar.” But I loved the Murder Mystery Lunch, in which the six-member Second City comedy troupe staged an improvisational whodunit. The gimmick: The dialogue proceeded according to prompt lines elicited from the audience.

The players didn’t hesitate to spoof the Epic. To wit: a public address system announcement about a murder, a short pause, then a chirpy voice adding, “And we invite you to stop by the gift shop....”

I also loved Blue Man Group, basically sophisticated mime with dazzling multisensory effects. Three men dressed in black, with blue face masks and gloves, and backed by three musicians, enthralled the audience. Its popularity may be due in part to fact that there is no dialogue and thus no language barrier for non-English speaking guests.

Legends in Concert is billed as “the world’s greatest celebrity impersonators.” Elvis, Madonna and Tina Turner were on board this cruise. This is another show with broad appeal. After all, who doesn’t know Elvis?

Cirque Dreams and Dinner, in which 16 acrobats, jugglers and trapeze artists perform under Spiegel Tent (a theater-in-the-round with red-striped ceiling), drew overwhelming response, Murray said. I loved the acrobats and all, but an audience participation bell-ringing bit was too long.

There is no massive theater through which the shows simply rotate. Each has its own venue so guests have more opportunities to catch more shows.

Other options included blues in the Fat Cats jazz club; Jeff Hobson, a risqué magician/comedian who’s actually funny; a pianist playing standards in Shaker’s Martini Bar; karaoke in Bliss Lounge; and dancing to a live band in the Manhattan Room, a wonderful Art Deco space with a two-story wall of glass overlooking the ocean.

“People are actually booking this ship for the entertainment,” said Murray, an Australian. “I’m a happy bloke.”