We were on the September 30th cruise that left Barcelona and went to 3 ports in a Italy and 2 in France. We never would have taken this cruise had I just gone by the reviews of Epic, but my cousin had done the same cruise in the fall of 2011 and loved it, so we decided to take a chance on going. We weren't thrilled about going on such a huge ship but we were pleasantly surprised that it never felt like it was enormous or crowded. On other much smaller ships it seemed like we walked much more to get from one place to another. Now on our cruise we did only have one at sea day, and did not go to the pool- it may have been crowded but we were busy going to a Cruise Critic get together for people who met on the Boards, planned shore excursions together, etc, so it was great to meet these people in person ! We also went to a language class for learning a little Italian- it was good. I would like to also say embarkation was fast and very organized. When we were allowed to get in our cabin, we met our steward, Melanie. She was very nice and kept our cabin in great shape all week - no complaints about her at all. And we even liked our cabin- very comfortable bed, lots of storage, and we liked the bathroom set up and even the sink being in the cabin. My only complaint about it is that the sink is small and the faucet handle is long and goes right over the sink and gets in the way when you try to wash your face and brush your teeth. About complaints about people smoking and having to walk thru the casino- it was no dig deal- never noticed the smoking and we aren't smokers.
We felt the dining was good - we enjoyed the garden cafe quite a few times and they did change most of the selections daily. Never had trouble finding a place to sit- fine for breakfast, lunch, or a very casual dinner. We ate in the Manhattan room and it was very good altho the tables for 2 were pretty close together. We also ate at Le Bistro, La Cucina , and Cagneys. All were good and I got a little money off for booking 3 specialty restaurants. One big advantage of all of them is that they are quiet, classy, and great for couples. Yes, you pay a little extra to go to them, which some people complain about, but in my opinion an NCL cruise usually costs a bit less than some cruises we have been on like Princess and RCI, so to pay a little more for dinner is no big deal.
The entertainment was great on this ship ! Unlike someone who did a recent review, we loved Los Lobos Ole in the comedy club - the 3 guys were hilarious ! We went to Cirque Dreams and it was very good. We paid for the premium seats and someone on one of our shore excursions advised us to sit in the balcony if we didn't want to get 'chosen' to be in the show, but after going I wish we would have been on floor level altho the balcony was ok. Some reviewers also put this show down, but we have seem most of the Cirque shows in Vegas and this was just in a more intimate atmosphere- it could not be a huge stage production. So it was more up close but the performers were just as good as in Vegas in Mystere, KA, and 'O'. And finally we went to Blue Man Group, who I had seen in Vegas and this was the same as in Vegas - great show ! And you know in Vegas it cost $100 or more per person to see them. So good deal I think !
I won't go into detail about our ports other than to say we had no problems and in Cannes where they had to use tenders to get us off the ship, it was very organized and well done. I will just say we only did one shore excursion thru the ship - from the Rome port we went to Ovieto and the tour was excellent. For the other ports we used AP Tours to see the Amalfi Coast, Shared ShoreExcursions in Italy to go to the Cinque Terre, Riviera Premium Tours in Cannes, and Provence Wine Tours in Marseille. All were absolutely wonderful !
So regarding the negative reviews of Epic, I realize sometimes people can have something bad happen but how picky can some people be ?! This NCL cruise, our first with them but hopefully not our last, was every bit as good as the RCI and Princess cruises we have been on