I am a 27 year old gay male who traveled "solo" on the Epic from 3/24/12-3/31/12. I did not have a studio stateroom as there was a sale when I booked and an inside guarantee was cheaper than the studios. This was my fifth cruise - I have been on Celebrity, Carnival, and 3 times on NCL.
I flew down to Miami the same day we sailed, so cant comment on hotels/etc. However, I did fly into FLL, not Miami, and used SAS transportation for $15 to get to the port. They were great and I highly recommend them.
Embarkation was extremely easy. I was in the terminal at 11:00 and on the ship by 11:30. Since they told everyone to go to lunch in the buffet, I went the other direction and did Spice H20. I then did some exploring and took a tour of the spa, and they talked me into an overpriced hot stone massage. But, it was really great and relaxing! I then met up with the "solo travelers" group and met a couple great people who I spent the next week with on the boat. They were in the studio cabins. We all went to Taste for dinner. While the food was good, the temperature was just ok. My companions and I went and watched karaoke and then it was bedtime. Oh...went to Friends of Dorothy briefly but most of the attendees were of an advanced age, so didnt hang out.
On Day 2, we went to the Nick Slimetime in the Epic theater. It was really cute for the kids on board. Lunch was outside on the pool deck during the Mr Epic competition. Next was the martini tasting, for $15 you get 4 martinis...Cosmo, peartini, berry something or other, and chocolatini. Im not huge on martinis but it was a good time, and the chocolatini was great. One of my companions and I went and did trivia, and then we all did Moderno for dinner. Im not a huge meat person, so I didn't love it, but I heard others rave about it throughout the trip. At night I went to Weakest Link game show and was actually selected to be a contestant, which was fun. Stopped in at Howl at the Moon before a late night snack at O'Sheehans. We did Blue Man tonight, and I had seen them before, but they were still fantastic...a must see. Later in the week they also do an interview with the actors which was nice to attend as well.
Day 3 I did Taste for lunch. Food was good, waiter wasn't. Only time the whole trip I noticed bad service. Did Deal or No Deal, which is $19.95 to play...It was fun, but for those that haven't figured it out, it is a total ripoff and is fixed....they say you can win a cruise or 5 grand, but I asked the staff and no one has ever won more than $200. I spent some time in the casino and eventually ended the night at the FABBA party in Spice.
St Maarten was on Day 4...I didn't do much except walk around, so I cant comment on excursions. I wasn't impressed with any of the ports on this trip, but others were...so I wouldn't hold my commentary too highly in regards to ports. Back on the ship La Cucina was dinner, and it was good as it was when I was on the Spirit a year and a half ago. Did Legends that night, and I wasn't particularly impressed...the show itself was good, but Steven Tyler and Elvis (who looked more like Patrick Swayze, it must be said) just didn't do it for me. Madonna was great, however. I think with different acts it could be more enjoyable. Did the late night magician Jeff Hobson after...He was an absolute Riot, and a highlight of the trip. Please go see him if he is on your cruise!
St Thomas was Day 5...I took a taxi with many, many others to Magens Bay which was crowded but a nice destination. St Thomas was pretty poverty stricken from what I saw. Others highly recommended the skyride up the mountain for the views, but I didn't have time. When I got back that day I did the waterslides since the ship was quiet. They were good fun. Dinner was in the Manhatten room just to try it out, and it was average like taste. We did the ice bar and froze our toes off...It was something to do once, but I don't need to ever do it again! Newlywed game was going on that night and was HILARIOUS! We also did the Second City Late Night. They were actually pretty funny. I have seen them on other NCL cruises and wasn't impressed, but the audience suggestions helped this show out.
Day 6 sea day we did the murder mystery with second city. Food had a LOT to be desired (said "chicken" and served a chicken thigh...I don't eat dark meat...wasn't too thrilled). The show was great and second city was again funny. Did deal or no deal again cause im a sucker... ?. Played in the blackjack tournament which was fun, but got knocked out of the final table on the very last hand of the qualifying rounds...D'oh!. Taste for dinner, then the White Hot Party that night. Lots of fun, and the cruise staff did a great job.
Nassau was out last stop. Been there before, didn't like it the first time. Spent most of my time on the island in an internet cafe for cheap wireless! Back on the ship did some reading and did the buffet one last time for dinner. The Crew Talent Show was the last entertainment of the ship, and I was moved as always by the farewell song/performance. O'Sheehans for one last late night snack, and then bed.
Disembarkation was a breeze...off the ship in literally 5 minutes doing easy walk off...waited until almost 930 while others jammed the halls at 8am.
It was a really, really great trip. My favorite ship of the cruises I have been on. Ive read multiple complaints and would like to give my point of view:
Ship itself - Only big negatives are the way undersized pools/pool deck area.
Smoke - Barely noticeable in the casino even playing there except for walking through on the last note, I smelled a lot of smoke.
Lounge Chairs -I never ONCE had an issue with chairs. There were dozens available. Perhaps at 9AM there is a problem, but any time noon-on there was no issue at all. Also, there are multiple decks, and 18 and 19 have lots of unused chairs as well.
Cruise Director - I read a review saying that Richard didn't participate enough, etc. I have to strongly disagree...Richard was at almost every event, and brought high energy and comedy. Great CD.
Room layout - Whats the big deal? Toilet on one side, shower on the other. Sink is in the room. Not a big deal. BTW, room was good sized and closet is HUGE...Don't understand the storage complaints, either. I also got to see the studios and they were done well, in my opinion.
Service - This is the big one. I read a lot before my trip that the people on the epic just didn't care. What I encountered couldn't be further from the truth. The crew went out of their way to be friendly and helpful for the entire week, and I cant recommend them enough.
Please don't let the negative reviews deter you from going on this ship! Remember that most people take time to complain, but not to write about the positives! I certainly miss some things, like the promenade deck and different performances each night, but, overall, it was a great experience.