Quick Brief: My family had cruised before but this was my first time. We Sailed in June 2012 from Barcelona aboard the NCL EPIC...
EMBARCATION & DISEMBARCATION- Embarkation in Barcelona was very quick and easy, no long waits to check in. Our room was ready as soon as we boarded just after midday. Airport to the Port in a taxi is approx 30euros. Throughout the trip getting on and off was a lot easier than I expected, swipe of your card and your free to walk off. At the end of the cruise we chose the option to take our own luggage off which meant we could walk off any time before 8.30am. No set times for disembarkation or colour coded collection for luggage. Very easy!
THE SHIP- The ship is very big as you would expect, 19 floors if I remember correctly. Although this size, the ship has a small 2 floor atrium with nothing glitzy about it. The main outdoor area is deck 15 which has 2 small pools and the 3 water slides which were great fun for everyone. Towards the aft of the deck is the adult's only pool and bar area. We found you could always get a sunbed somewhere, even on a sea day.
Deck 6 & 7 are the main entertainment areas, EPIC theatre not massive but very good views from all seats, we saw Legends In Concert show which was good if you like Elvis and Madonna, we also saw the Blue Man Group, very random and like nothing you have seen before but a must see, its free too. The Spiegel Tent for the circus show was fab, very talented people. The casino was very big, lots of slots and tables to pick from. We also visited the ice bar but it lasted all of 15 minutes, it's worth the money but they only give you two drinks vouchers for a reason, its -8 degrees and its unbearable. There are also some very nice bars on deck 7, a champagne bar with a piano and another with an acoustic guitarist playing in the evenings. There are so many entertainment options, almost too many to complete during one 7 day cruise on this ship. For family's with children, I believe this ship is about as good as it gets, lots for them to do and they have the Nickelodeon team to keep them amused.
We sailed in June during the school holidays and although the ship was busy the public areas never appeared over crowded or hectic. The general organisation of the ship was fantastic. My mum commented that out of all the ship's she's has been on she found the EPIC to be the easiest to navigate around.
STATEROOM- I understand the EPIC staterooms are a bit different to the usual stateroom, they have a curved design. They do have lots of storage but not much floor space to move around. We had a balcony cabin on deck 11 with 2 of us occupying the room, the balcony was spacious with two chairs and a small table.
The bathrooms were a new concept too, the toilet and shower and behind sliding frosted glass doors. There is no door to an enclosed bathroom area, it's all open plan at one end of the room. You can see the other persons shadow through the frosted glass so there is a curtain to pull for more privacy; this doesn't stop any sounds though... I can see why some people would really not like this design. Overall I found the rooms to be modern with a fresh look and always kept very clean by your room attendant.
People on here have found problems with the lights, switch locations, storage and bathroom functions but I have to say don't look for problems and you won't find them. There is a card in the room that states all locations for light switches and uses for different stowage's.
I did peer into an interior room and i was surprised at how comfortable and roomy they look. BUT the fact there is no outside area really doesn't help the toilet situation.
STAFF AND SERVICE- Apart from one or two the staffs were exceptional, from waiters too bar staff and our room attendant, all offering some of the best service I have ever received. They work 7 days a week with no days off for their entire contract, they always appeared very happy with a smile on their face, anything you asked for was delivered and done efficiently. We felt paying the daily service charge of $12 was more than fair for the service we received. On leaving we also tipped our room attendant.
FOOD- The biggest surprise for me cruising was the quality of the food, from the buffet which was endless, too the main dining room called Manhattan, where I found the food to be exceptional, always cooked and presented perfectly.
We ate in several of the chargeable restaurants and each one again very enjoyable, best of all being Cagney's steakhouse. I can honestly say I had the best steak I've ever eaten in this restaurant, the 12oz rib eye, melted in the mouth literally.
PORTS AND EXCURSIONS- We stopped off at Naples, Rome, Pisa, Cannes and Marseille. At each port we organised our own trips due to the ships excursions being as much as $400pp. Doing it ourselves we more than halved the costs. In Rome you can get the train to anywhere you want to go, in Pisa a few buses and a train to the tower, Naples we took a taxi to Pompeii and paid a guide 10euro each for a walking tour. Cannes we felt there wasn't much too see so a pre booked tour may have been better. And Marseille they charge you $15 each for the coach to the centre so we just got a private taxi for less than 20euro. Lovely ports just do your research before you go.
OVERALL we had a great holiday, freestyle cruising really suited our family's requirements, the ship, the staff and NCL in general surpassed all my expectations and we are already looking at booking another NCL cruise later this year.