Granted, we hadn't ever been on a cruise ship and had nothing to compare the Epic to. But WOW, were we impressed and excited when we first came aboard! The online registration process was fine. It is a little difficult to browse their tours; the software needs a little work. The process of getting on the ship was very smooth. They offer cool damp washcloths and cold drinks each time you get on...I really liked that. The ship is simply marvelous.
Cabin: It met all of my expectations. I don't understand what the big deal is about the toilets; you can pull the curtain if you need more privacy. But I did hear others complain about it. The beds were comfortable. Housekeeping services were great. Appreciated the safe. The TV channels are a bit limited, but I liked the classic movies. Pay per view movies weren't outrageous.
Food: The buffet was outstanding and the service there was great too. The meal that I had with Cirque Dreams was mouth-watering. But we were very disappointed by the Japanese Steak House (Teppanyaki). The chef kept dropping things during his juggling act (and no, the ship wasn't listing). And he had a very annoying tendency of asking "you like?" every two minutes. What was I going to say, no? And everything was "Japanese ______". he was trying way too hard. His supervisor was standing nearby glaring...awkward.
Entertainment: Great for the most part, but we didn't get Second City, which was really disappointing. The Mexican "Ole" show was a flop. Hot tip: Take your camera to every show (especially Blue Man), because even though you can't take pictures during the show, you can take pictures with the artists in the lobby after the show (free of charge). My son got a really cool picture with a Blue Man. At times, being on this ship was a little like entertainment overdose. If you go to Cirque Dreams, strongly consider the upgraded seats as you will miss key parts of the performance if you sit in the cheap seats.
Kids: My son REALLY enjoyed the teen lounge and their program; it was the highlight of the trip for him. He also enjoyed the waterslides. It looked like they had a great program for younger kids too. It didn't feel to me like there were a lot of screaming kids in my face. It helped to have an adult deck to retreat to.
Internet: This was my number one complaint. They have a satellite internet service, but it is very slow and expensive. My first time I think I spent something like $15 for about 15 minutes. I talked with the director of internet services, and she insisted that they don't need to develop other options on/off shore for internet because "no one wants to check their email when they are on vacation". Really?! Have you ever heard of Facebook or Twitter updates? Please don't insult my intelligence that way. This is obviously a racket intended to separate you from your money. If one of their competitors had a better internet option, that might be enough to affect my choice of cruise line.
Excursions: Overall, I was very satisfied. See my port reviews for details.
Other: Didn't smell smoke aside from the casino area. Was able to navigate ship without any problems. Elevator waits weren't all that bad. Would avoid being on same floor as fitness center since everyone tromps by your room to get there. Information was conveyed effectively each day.
As first-time experiences go, this was pretty awesome. I definitely want to go on a cruise again someday.