We traveled with 29 people (ranging from age 7 on up to grandparents) and had 10 staterooms mostly on deck 14. We have cruised with Disney and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines before.
Overall, we had an amazing time because of the company we were with, the beautiful islands we visited and the excursion we went on. However, Norwegian Epic was a disappointment. Next time I will cruise Royal Caribbean.
BOARDING: Boarding the Epic at Miami Port was quick and painless. We arrived around 11:30, shortly after boarding had started. We had a little bit of a wait getting through security, but once inside we were able to check in fairly quickly and walk right onto the ship.
Once on board, we were disappointed by the lack of a welcome by Epic's staff. Royal Caribbean and Disney greet you like royalty upon boarding and direct you to an incredible welcome buffet. NCL takes your photo and sends you inside. We weren't sure where to go once inside and had to ask where we go for food. We were directed to the regular restaurant or the buffet at the top of the ship. The buffet was nothing to write about and somewhat of a disappointment.
Thankfully we were able to go to our rooms immediately.
STATEROOMS: We stayed in stateroom 14069 Category B2 Family Balcony. I chose this room due for its proximity to the elevators and pools/buffet. It also has a larger balcony because of the ships bump-out.
The new wave style room looks cool, but was poor planning on NCL's part due to lack of functionality. This room does not work for a family of 4 (2 of them were little girls). It was impossible for us to get ready at the same time. The bed in our room was closest to the bathrooms and exit. However, the rooms alternate layouts. The cabin next to us had the bed near the balcony, which seemed to flow better. Lighting in the room is poor, especially over the makeup mirror. They do provide you with a decent blow dryer; however, it shuts down when it overheats (which it did often) PROS: Plenty of storage space. TIP: put suitcases and life vests under the bed.
THE BATHROOM (OR LACK THEREOF): I dislike not having a private bathroom to retreat to. Some mornings I get up earlier than the rest of the family (get dressed, teeth brushed, etc...) and head out for a morning walk. Without a separate bathroom, this is not possible to do without waking everyone up. Also note: Have plenty of towels ready when using the sink. It is impossible to wash face, brush teeth or shave without water splashing all over the counters and floor. PROS: You can see who is at your stateroom door when sitting on the toilet. You can brush your teeth in bed.
SLEEPING: The beds were comfortable, but my 6'4" hubby's feet hung off then end. When the top bunk is pulled down it is difficult to get to the balcony, closet, or dresser drawers
Room TV has very few channels, and no free movies. Not really a big deal unless you have a little kid that naps or goes to sleep early and you are stuck in the room with nothing to do.
KIDS CLUBS: Having two girls, ages 7 and 11, one of the things we love most about cruising is the ability to spend time as a family but also have adult time. The kids clubs are a place where they can go to hang out with kids their own age and have fun while mom and dad go out and have fun. We are not the type of parents that dump our kids off at the start of the cruise and pick them up at the end. However, we do like to have a night or two without them and a day at the spa or adult pool. That being said, we were all very disappointed in the Epic's kids clubs. My daughters were in separate groups and both reported back the same: it was boring and the counselors were mean. The entire group would be placed in "time outs" for being too noisy and the "time outs" were extended anytime a kid made a sound. Our kids did not want to go back in. On other cruises, they never want to come out. We heard the same complaint from many other parents.
SPA: BEAUTIFUL! I purchased a day spa pass for $30.00. Well worth it. Friends of ours purchased the couples spa pass ($253 for the week) and used it daily. This was one luxury the Epic got right. Enjoy the Hydrotherapy Pool, Jacuzzis, Saunas, Steams, Heated Beds and Veranda. Very Relaxing.
My daughter did the kids spa night but was disappointed. For $89 plus tax and tip they automatically include, she got a mani, pedi, mini-facial, neck massage, and hair treatment (I assumed that meant a conditioning treatment, I was wrong... they braided her hair). Once again, the staff was unfriendly and a little rude.
FREESTYLE DINING: TASTE/MANHATTTEN Good in theory; however, there was 20-30 minute minimum wait to eat every night when we went. If you want to make a 7:00 pm show plan to eat afterwards (or grab food from the buffet) because you will never make it in time. A few of our servers were very nice, but most of them were slow, forgetful or just plain rude. Food was nothing memorable and most of the desserts were a disappointment (I'm a big dessert fan).
GARDEN CAFE BUFFET: Noisy, crowded, never any ice in the ice machine, hard to find seating, food was mediocre at best.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS: We had better food and service at the specialty restaurants.
Shanghai's Noodle Bar - Pricing was a la carte (around $5), service was wonderful, food was delicious.
La Cucina - $15 pp, $7.5/child when ordering from children's menu. Beautiful ambiance, great service, decent food.
Moderno Churrascaria - $20 pp Different and fun place to eat. Salad bar, unlimited sides (rice, beans, potatoes and delicious fried bananas), 10 different meats brought to your table side to sample. Service was a little bit slower and they kept forgetting to bring us certain meats, but the staff was very friendly and apologetic. Worth the experience.
O'Sheenans -- free. Good appetizers, burger, salads, milkshakes (those aren't free, but yummy), etc...
Nickelodeon Breakfast -- Don't waste your time or money. We left early and went up to the buffet to get more food.
SHOWS: Entertaining but nothing special.
FAMILY KARAOKE NIGHT: They same 3 people sang 9 times (mostly adults), the kid in our group never got a chance to go. Poorly organized.
ELEVATORS: Good luck trying to get one during dinnertime or in port.
PHOTOS: I like to get professional photos from all our cruises; however, most of the photographers were rude. By the third night, I refused to take any more.
ST. MAARTEN: We walked to the shops in Philipsburg (15 minute walk) then sat on the beach right by the shops. We've been there before and have done Butterfly Farm Excursion and Le Galion Beach (worth the trip!).
ST. THOMAS: St. John's Champagne Catamaran Sail & Snorkel -- Well worth the money. The crew is fantastic -- very entertaining, the catamaran was beautiful -- very spacious, the water was wonderful. This excursion was one of the highlights of this cruise. Note: you take a 20 minute bus ride to get to the catamaran first (which was... interesting)
POOLS: Very loud and crowded as expected, but we always found a place to sit. We found quieter seats on upper decks or further away from the pool area. Slides were fun, but expect a wait. Port days the pools and slides were emptier.
STAFF: Our stateroom attendant was cordial and did a great job at keeping our room together, but overall we found the staff to be unfriendly and some even rude. Royal Caribbean and Disney were ALWAYS so happy and friendly and would go out of their way for you for even the littlest of things.
DEBARKATION: We grabbed breakfast from the buffet at 7am and walked off the ship with our luggage at 7:45. Getting off this ship was easier than any other cruise I've been on, but I've also never wanted to leave any other ship like I did this one.
We booked this cruise because it was new and different and we got a great deal on our initial price. However, they end up nickel and diming you on everything else so it balances out pricewise. I enjoyed this vacation because of who I was travelling with. However, I will NOT cruise NCL again. Our next cruise will definitely be Royal Caribbean.