We so enjoyed the Epic in October last year that we treated ourselves to another trip in June.
On Sunday 17th June we stepped away from reality and onto the ship.
Cabin 11205 was smaller than the mini-suite we previously enjoyed but I cannot say we suffered in the least. Yes the bathroom arrangement is odd and in a perfect world you would alter the frosted glass doors and the acoustics! Other than that, I cannot understand other passenger's comments that the bed is not long enough (I'm 6'2" and no problem) or that the gap between the bed and the counter is too small. Perhaps the Epic is a victim of its own smooth sailing as clearly these passengers have forgotten they are on a ship. We really liked the layout of the cabin. It was really quiet and the A/C was efficient, particularly if you shut the curtains when you are out and the sun was is on that side of the ship!
Julito the cabin steward was a bit of a star. Not only was the cabin presented immaculately, but he also had a cheery hello whenever we were passing in the corridor.
The ship is fabulously maintained. It was hard to imagine it is now 2 years old as the paintwork gleams. Little wear and tear is to be found throughout the vessel and the styling hasn't really dated.
It occurred to me halfway through the voyage that this is really a concept ship! A lot of things have been tried and most seem to have found a place with the customer profile that NCL are pitching to.
This has become particularly notable with the design and layout of the new NCL Breakaway. These guys have taken notice of the comments with regard to not having great views of the ocean when in the public rooms. They have taken notice of the cabin designs. More notice has been taken with regard the "top hat" that makes the Epic look a bit cumbersome from anywhere but on board. My guess will be that they drop the Ice Bar as they don't seem to have the throughput of guests who are interested. The smaller venues seem to work well as the audience is more intimate with the performers. This also gives the line the ability to bring in the concessions which give great variety.
What really works for us is the "Freestyle" aspect
Most of the time we ate in the speciality restaurants. We appreciate good food and got it in spades. We don't really enjoy eating in a great hall with herds of other guests and mass produced food. The extra you pay is a lot less than that of the restaurants we frequent when back home and the food and service is certainly worthwhile. Probably the best fillet steak I have ever eaten was at Cagney's on this trip.
Drinks at first seem to be expensive as other correspondents have reported. However my early evening Gin and Tonic was more of a home measure than a hotel measure so perhaps not so expensive after all. Also a good choice of wines and although they may seem expensive, we found them to be comparable to the price of wine in a good restaurant in London!
Entertainment. We like the concessions that are on this ship; however the Blue Man Group and Cirque will need to change their acts as more return travellers go back to the Epic. Whilst the quality from Cirque was as high as last year the BMG lacked a little timing. A first for us was the "Legends in Concert" excellent. Watch out for Elvis, the real Elvis would have done so! The Spanish Ballet was a bit Benidorm 1972 and lacked any light and shade or humour (although it did have some for all the wrong reasons) and needed to be more current.
We loved Slam Allen last year! However, we went to see him twice for the last hour of his act. Each time he had a great audience but decided to take a break at midnight for 20mins. Un-surprisingly he lost his audience with only a handful left and when he returned the Mojo had all but disappeared. A great pity as he can be a wonderful performer! Perhaps he is taking a rest before taking up his new position on the Breakaway next year?
The Beatles were great fun, however we saw them in Fat Cats last time due to inclement weather and Spice H2O is not the best place for their personalities to shine. In fact you couldn't see their face's as the screen behind is so bright they became silhouettes!
A special mention should be made for Richard the Cruise Director. He has a great natural enthusiasm that sweeps you up. We have noticed that on RCCL the CD are all interchangeable and they almost have a word for word script for any time of the day and can become over-bearing! Not so with Richard. Good on you!
The NCL trip that we took to Pisa and Beach was very well organised, unlike the Viator one to Pompeii and Vesuvius! I guess you get what you pay for.
Whilst we are on the subject of money we don't mind spending quite a bit to enjoy ourselves. What does rankle is that our American cousins get a far cheaper ticket price and can then claim back all the tax they spend on board. Whist the tax laws cannot be overcome, the Cruise industry needs to look at the gap in the ticket prices and stop seeing the UK as the land of the cash cow!
Would we sail again with NCL? Of course as "Freestyle" suits us perfectly. We are very interested in the Breakaway or the Getaway and to see what they have to offer!
Would we come back for a 3rd time on the Epic? Absolutely.
On Sunday 24th June, I wasn't ready to step back into reality.