I just did a 7-night cruise on the Norwegian Epic and have mixed feelings about it. I loved, loved, loved my room! I traveled with friends and family and choose the option of a studio stateroom and could not have been happier. The room was great for one person and very well kept. Two people could share it, but it would be tight. There's lots of storage stage and the phone, interactive television technology is excellent. The ship is huge, so expect to do a lot of walking. My room was aft so I often did not use the studio lounge because I just couldn't be bothered to walk the distance. However, it was not difficult to access the open buffet and pool areas from my room.
Staff: Having cruised on Royal Caribbean before, I was expecting a similar level of high staff involvement. However, NCL falls short! Staff was aloof, spent more time talking to each other than to passengers and didn't make an effort to get to know us. The only two people who seemed genuine was my stateroom attendant and he never bothered to address me by name, and a security guard who said hello whenever we met. Most other staff members seemed overwhelmed by the sheer number of passengers and often tried to brush away concerns and inquiries by hurrying us along to the next staff member or to get us away from the guest services area. One staff member at guest services even rolled his eyes at a passenger because she returned to ask him a question.
Entertainment: The cruise director tried his best to get the crowd going, but hardly anyone seemed to be paying attention. The music selections were not great as the DJ at the evening parties played mostly techno/ house music, and the pool side games/music were oldies and dry. I only attended the first night and for the white hot party which was nice. Get the premium seats for the Cirque du Soleil, otherwise you will miss some of the performance. Blue Man Group was good. The Spanish Ballet was great, but the venue was poor so unless you get in early you have to look at tiny television screens. I would have liked the staff to do a farewell performance.
Excursions: I did the Amalfi Coast & Pompeii, Rome on Your Own, and Pisa & Florence on Your Own. I think they were all worth it. The tour companies that NCL used were excellent, guides were very informative. It would be possible to do excursions on your own, but the ports are so far out that I would worry about getting back on time, so doing the excursions through NCL provided peace of mind.
Dining: Food was 4 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the open buffet options immensely but the sit-down dining situation was bad because unless you had dinner between 5 and 6pm, you pretty much had to wait for 15 to 45 minutes depending on time and you could not make reservations in advance for the free main dining rooms. The two main dining rooms basically had the same menus (maybe 2 things were different) which was a bit of a let down because I was expecting to have different choices. All in all, though, the food was good. Would have liked to have a poolside bbq.Poolside: It feels like there are a million people milling around. Lounge chairs were literally touching each other with little to no room to move around. But I spent most of my days on excursions so it wasn't too problematic for me. If you plan on sunning, plan to go out by 10am the latest to ensure a good spot. It seems that NCL's main goal is to ensure that the ship is jam-packed to capacity at all times as they pick with passengers in Marseille and Rome as well. (Don't expect any cabin upgrades)
Summary: Rooms are fabulous. Studios awesome. Staff was cold. I felt like I had to have everything planned in advance or I would not have been able to enjoy this cruise. Make sure to reserve entertainment and excursions arriving. Get the premium seats for the Cirque du Soleil. Get to the Spanish Ballet early to get front row seats. Be prepared to wait for dinner. The only port that was not way out was Cannes. You have to reserve tender tickets for Cannes. You have to pick up your tags for disembarkment on Friday as early as possible so that you don't end up leaving at 7:15am. If Royal Caribbean had better looking cabins, I would prefer to sail with them. However, I would take another cruise on the Epic. I just wouldn't get my hopes up regarding the staff and would plan to be reserve EVERYTHING except dinner. I would have loved an extra day at sea.