We are a US family of 4 (girl 15, boy17). We spent the week prior to the cruise traveling in Spain and France so we were ready for easy food and some R & R.
We were happy that we could get on the shipped before Noon that day. After a week of struggling with language/food issues, it was great to get on board and find that English was the main language spoken. We of course adapt to where we are, but Spanish is not our strength. As a matter of fact, some of the staff mentioned that Italians and Spanish do not speak as much English and often struggle on the ship.
Beautiful, super clean ship, fastest and most efficient boarding I've had. Staff also the friendliest I've met in a long time. Our cabin was teded by Michael from the Phillipines. He was wonderful and spoke excellent English. With some of the Carribean cruises, this has not been the case.
We had been trying to upgrade to a balcony, but all rooms taken. I would highly recommend a baloney with the family, but we could not get one. We saw the rooms and they were great, as was the Haven.
Buffet great every day. Hot, fresh and large variety.
We did pay extra for:
French-Not worth the extra, Dreams dinner show -show great but food was not more than average, Italian-did not enjoy, Brazilian was not a very goog representation of such a restaurant. Being from the states, we have experienced Japanese, Brazilian, etc. The Brazilian was not cooked in the center or hot when they brought the meat around and was truly a disappintment. After that, we went by the Japanese restaurant to take a peek and could tell that it was just no where near an extra fee, so we cancelled our future reservation. We actually were talking with the kids and decided that we like the old way of sitting with the same waiter and getting to know them rather than moving around. The old way of sitting at an assigned table brought some personal service to the dinner table that you can only get when you sit with the same waiters night after night. Some friends chose to eat in one dining room at the same table night after night and were very happy with the personal service that came from getting to know their waiter. That is what we will do in the future.
Again, great ship and staff but there were disappoints in the following:
For frequent cruisers, we are used to 18% gratuity being added to spa services, BUT an additional 18% is added for the European VAT(value added tax). As a non European, you can get that back on items, but NOT services. This means that the spa services cost 36% more than listed price. I was also disappointed that there was a $15 charge to use the spa facilities if you wanted to use the facilities before of after your services that day. Again, I guess I am spoiled, but regular hotels generally include that as part of your spa service.
When they showed movies in the atrium, they need to turn off music speakers in adjoining areas. I think the sound quality of the movie will be greatly improved. Sound needs improvement in general.
Specialty Restaurants mentioned above
Cost of excursions: The cost of the excursions was very high. The same trips privately booked through independent agencies were 1/4 the price. Some fellow cruisers were disappointed in the Pompeii tour as their guide was not as informative as our private 7 person tour guide. There were 7 of us on the van for Amafii Coast and Pompeii all day tour. We had a separate guide for Pompeii and he was awesome! We paid euros 550. for the entire day, divided by 7. I will leave it to you to compare rates.
Other great things:
Blue Man Group and shows in general
Teen club: 15 year old loved and cudos to Aqua and other staff. All the kids communicated well except those from Italy and Spain that did not speak Englsh.
Full of families
All in all great way for a larger family group to see some of Europe without breaking the bank. Food and lodging are a premium in Europe. Driving a easy but not with more than 4 with luggage. We liked knowing we could always have access to food and a clean room : ).
We knew this, but it is worth mentioning...the ports are generally very far (hour or more) from the sightseeing areas. This means you must truly plan ahead. This is not a "rest and total relaxation cruise" as you hit a port every day but one. We actually opted to stay on the boat in Rome as we had an extended visit there 2 years ago.
You will not be disappointed in the Epic, but hopefully these little notes will help you be prepared.