I have cruised on 4 major lines, Princess, Royal Carribean, Carnival and Norwegian. All have the pluses and minuses but generally they are overall similar in the expectations, at least that is what I believed when booking my last trip with NCL leaving 4/29 out of Barcelona. The ship, the line, food and entertainment couldn't be more of a disappointment. I have always been very happy with cruising and am not typically one who has a lot of complaints. NCL shattered this and quickly.
Having never been to Europe we decided this was the year we would take the plunge and go for it. The ports of call were great, interesting and lots of fun. Wish I could say the same for the ship. Epic is not your typical ship. It is in my opinion poorly laid out. There is little to no quiet sitting areas to relax and just look out the window. Every place your able to find a seat is surrounding a bar. Don't try out on deck that gets no better. There is is limited section with normal railings where you can see over without looking thru glass walls. Most of the ships view is blocked with wall like railings throughout. Feels like NCL doesn't want you to see something. We decided to try walking on deck 7 to see the waves and most of that deck is also blocked by the lifeboats. When this ship was designed it was clearly for maximum people and profit, not enjoyment or relaxing.
The entertainment leaves a lot to be desired. Quality of shows is good. Types, options and how to see them is the problem. Some people may enjoy the ability to select what night you see what but dealing with sellouts and paying for some shows is not my idea of a stressfree vacation. This ship offered 5 shows from what I found. I personally had no desire to see a ballet performance so it got whittled down to 4 options. If you chose not to book one of the shows then alternatives are the same singers and bands playing all seven days. No variation, no special guests, no late night shows, no alternatives. Also if you are not a drinker then your pretty much out of all options because the repetitive bands play in small nightclub types of venues where being pounded to buy a drink is the normal. This is similar on most cruises but NCL just felt more pushy and driven to siphon your pockets than others. We were able to book 2 shows (out of the 4 we were interested in) while the other 2 were always sold out. 7 day cruise with 2 nights of entertainment = Boring!!!!
The options to eat are never ending, if you wish to pay. Free options are your typical cruise options but the quality and ambiance using them is clearly less superior. We found the buffet to be lacking options with items you would think go together scattered out all over. Ex: I was having a salad and after dodging my way around i found the croutons across then isle in another row. There is simply no explanation why that would be. The cafe is much too small for a ship of 4000. No trays limited seating and the search and hunt feature leaves one feeling the need to pay for a better experience. Is it NCL intention or not? We did pay for the restaurants and they were ok. Not great not terrible and not justified in the extra expense. The quality they provided is close to what I have experienced on Princess in the free dining rooms and buffet. It appeared to us NCL was compensating for the lower fare by charging to upgrade to industry standard. I would have preferred to pay more in advance and not felt pushed to upgrade.
A few nit picky items that don't make or break a cruise. I'm pointing them out to describe how the passengers enjoyment isnt priority. 2 of us in the cabin yet only 1 towel was provided each day and that was made into an animal. We were forced to use the pool towels and exchange them on deck for dry ones in order to use the pool. Speaking of pool, we were so bored at one point we attempted to use the pool tables only to find they charge for each play. Really? My wife decided she would spend $5 in slot machines to kill some time. We asked how to use our cards in the machines and were told they only took cash. Really? We wanted to tip one of our waitresses in a specialty restaurant and were told it couldnt be added to the bill. Really? Utilizing NCL shuttle to downtown in Lovorno we had to pay for the ride at the bus in cash. Really? Ironically when registering and boarding the ship we were explained how the ship is a cashless system and do not carry any with you while on board. This is pretty much industry standard so you can understand my frustration when I had to keep running back to the room to get cash on my cashless cruise. Really?
We are so disappointed with NCL that idea of crushing with them again is unbearable. We have another cruise booked for Christmas week that was with NCL and we changed to a competitor.
The ship is Epic. Just not in the manner you would think.