.... sounds cliche, but oh so true.
Please let me preface this review by letting you know that I am not "one of those" people who is hard to please. I have travelled all over the world, both on cruise ships and not. I have stayed everywhere from 5 star resorts to 2 star motels. Not once have I ever given a bad review, until now.
For starters, we were told we could board the ship at noon. We had just literally flown halfway around the world, and were exhausted. We were very much looking forward to laying down for a bit in our room. Housekeeping knocked on the door to tell us they weren't finished cleaning the rooms yet. We explained to them what I've just stated above, and told them if they were ready to clean our room, we would gladly get out and let them do so. They told us they weren't ready for ours yet (they were still cleaning down the hall), but the man we spoke to seemed to understand and we told him whenever they were ready to clean, just come kick us out, no problem. A few minutes later, we get another knock at the door. This time, it's a different employee, who we proceed to have the same conversation with. He tells us to come back at 3. No, we will not come back at 3 to a room we are paying for when you allow us to board at noon. After 20 minutes and a third knock, we finally tell them if you're going to keep bothering us, just clean the room now. I understand housekeeping has a job to do and that they have to wait for all the passengers from the previous cruise to disembark and then clean all the rooms, which takes time-- but if that's the case, why not tell passengers they could board at 3, or whenever it is that the rooms will become available?
The room was a disappointment and reminiscent of a cheap motel. We paid extra for a balcony room, and the description/photo online were misleading. It was very small and cramped. The balcony was dirty. The temperature knobs inside the shower were dirty as well.
The "bathroom" is a toilet in the room the size of a phone booth. The shower is across from it. The sink is in the actual room itself, separated from the toilet/shower by a filthy curtain. The sink is so shallow that more than half the time, I had to re-wash my hands because they had touched the dirty drain.
The storage space is compacted, so the clean bath towels are placed on a shelf very close to the floor. The problem is, they hang off the shelf and touch the floor, as well as the underside of the couch next to the shelf.
Believe me, I'm no germophobe, but I did expect a lot more in terms of sanitary room conditions and cleanliness.
The food was mostly bland. I have had much better on other cruise lines.
You pretty much have to either sleep on the pool deck or get there when the sun rises to get a chair. I understand it's impossible to provide a chair/space for every single guest - but as I've said, I've been on other cruise lines which had much more to offer in terms of space.
And now on to the best part -- the rude employees with no basic knowledge of human interaction. 99% of the staff needs to be either replaced with nice people or re-trained by someone who knows what they're doing. When you work on a cruise ship, your JOB is to provide hospitality and good customer service to the guests. If you can't handle that, get a new job.
On one of the days, disembarkation was delayed about 25 minutes as the ship had not yet been cleared by customs. I understand this was not NCL's fault- however, the staff could have been MUCH more helpful/friendly to passengers during this time. Before they announced the delay over the loudspeakers, we were part of a large group of passengers following the arrows on the exit signs they had posted. When we reached what appeared to be a dead end, we were told by an employee standing at the dead end that the exit was clear in the opposite direction. When she was asked by another passenger why the arrows did not point that way, she was unable to answer, nor was she able to do anything to fix the problem. The exit was in a different location that day than it had previously been, which lead to some confusion. My fellow passengers and myself were all getting the run-around. It seemed each employee had a different idea of where the exit would be (and as you can imagine, not one of them was nice about having to answer that basic question, either). When we finally did get to the other end, and they made the announcement of the delay over the loudspeakers, the staff was very rude and unable to provide assistance to passengers who had questions or concerns.
Throughout our trip, I had spoken with other passengers who experienced rude behavior from the staff. I also witnessed it firsthand on several occasions.
The excursion employees in the turquoise blue shirts are particularly horrendous. I don't know where NCL found these people, but people such as this with no class are not even fit to shine my shoes, let alone handle booking an excursion or providing assistance to passengers with a smile on their face.
I should mention that my entire life, I have worked in customer service. All I ever expect of anyone is the same basic courtesy I would expect of myself while performing my own job. I understand this is far from a 5 star resort, so I'm not expecting anyone to fall all over me - but a simple smile and friendly attitude would go a long way. The staff makes you feel as though you are bothering them just by being there and as though they are doing you a favor by doing their JOB.
Twice in the same sitting at Cagney's Steakhouse (by two different waitresses), I almost had food spilled in my lap. While both offered halfhearted apologies, the second one even went as far as to laugh about it, as though it was not her fault. Yes it is your fault, and no it is not funny. You would have been paying for my dry-cleaning or for a new dress if you had actually spilled anything on me. Perhaps some re-training would suit these waitresses as well.
We did book one excursion through NCL, which is partially how I know about the unacceptable attitude of the employees in this department. (I also know because they were standing around every day, dishing out attitude to anyone who dared look at them). I do NOT recommend booking any excursions through NCL. We booked all but one through a separate company called Cruise Excursions. They were wonderful- friendly, knowledgable and showed us some great sites. They did so at half the cost of NCL.
Just an FYI to anyone traveling to Cannes who has not been there before: the port at Cannes is too small for a cruise ship to dock, so you have to take a short ride on a speedboat to land. NCL makes no mention of this until the night before, in the newsletter they leave outside your door. (There is apparently a reference to this under the Entertainment tab on the TV in your room- but if you don't go in there, then you won't find out unless you read the newsletter the night before). By the time we found out, we went to book seats on the speedboat, and they were all booked up until 10:30 (we docked at 8, and wanted to start our day as early as possible). We WERE lucky enough to snag two seats on the standby list, so it ended up being OK - but just as a helpful tip to those who might not be so lucky.
Oh, also-- they expect all passengers to use hand sanitizer when embarking/disembarking, as well as when entering/leaving their restaurants -- but then can't be bothered to provide clean glassware on every occasion. There was a lipstick stain that was not mine on my glass at O'Sheehan's.
I expected more from NCL and from the Epic, and I will not be cruising with them in the future. I also will not recommend them to anyone. NCL pales in comparison to everything else I have experienced while traveling.