A special occasion such as this is supposed to be unforgettable. I believe that this cruise proved to be unforgettable, for many right, and some wrong, reasons. The good, fortunately, outweighs the bad.
Day 1 - Embarkation
Our flight from Newark to Miami left at 6:10 am, so that guaranteed a brutally early morning for us! We arrived at Miami at 9:05 am, and had to wait around until 10:30 for the NCL shuttle to take us to the ship, but I suppose that's better than being delayed en route by weather and having to rush to the ship from the airport. We had paper luggage tags for our suitcases, so I put those on our bags while we waited for the shuttle. Little did I know how fragile those tags would prove to be!
The embarkation process was as smooth as can be expected, considering how many passengers they had to process. We decided to go to Taste to decompress and have lunch, while we waited for permission to go to our stateroom. We were told around 2 pm that we could go to our stateroom, and that our bags would be there for us. Three suitcases were there waiting for us ... the only problem was, we packed four suitcases! Where was the other one? We found one of the paper luggage tags on the floor outside our stateroom. We finally tracked down the last bag in the customer service office, later that evening.
The fun did not end there. When you buy luggage locks, you have reason to assume that the key supplied will open the locks supplied. Wrong! That assumption not only nearly made you know what out of my wife and me, but it led to much exasperation on both our parts, as we could not get into one of my wife's suitcases. We had to ask our cabin steward to see if he had a way to break a luggage lock. Thank God he did!
Lesson 1: Make sure the keys supplied with your luggage locks work, BEFORE you leave on your vacation!
Our meals on the ship this first day were lunch at Taste (good, not spectacular, not expected to be spectacular), and dinner at Cagney's. The manager at Cagney's bent over backwards to make sure that we were satisfied with the food we ordered. We got delicious steaks, fresh and tasty salads, well-prepared side dishes, and mouth-watering desserts, all for just $25 each. Not a bad deal! Neither of us really noticed any long line ups when we went in to these restaurants; both times, we got seated right away, and had our orders taken reasonably quickly.
Some people on this board have also mentioned the dearth of electrical outlets in Norwegian Epic staterooms. We found this out the hard way, when we tried to find spots to plug in our phones and laptop. Again, Marlon Dancalan, our cabin steward, earned his tip and a Vacation Hero nomination from us by lending us his three-in-one extension cord for as long as we needed it.
Lesson 2: Bring a power bar -- not an adaptor, but an actual power bar, if you have more than one electrical product to plug in. The outlet is close underneath the counter, and an adaptor will not fit.
Day 2: At sea
We went to a seminar led by the port shopping consultants, Johan and Marissa Moolman. Their presentation was in essence a sales pitch for Diamonds International, Effy Jewelers, Del Sol and Cariloha. As it turned out, it was not to be the most useful way to spend our time. The Manhattan Room, where we went for supper, was very satisfying. The Blue Man Group, which we saw that night, was a magnificent display of creative uses of marshmallows, breakfast cereal and paper.
Day 3: At sea
During these first two sea days, we missed opportunities to thoroughly enjoy everything the ship had to offer, especially the water areas and the fitness area. We did spend time in the casino. Some folks I heard complained that the casino was a real clip joint, but I found it to be reasonably fair. We also spent much time on deck 7 shopping. The prices were higher than many places, but reasonable considering they have a captive audience on the ship. That night, we went to Cirque Dreams and Dinner, which was absolutely awesome. The ringmaster and his ubiquitous whistle made the show, as he had to ad lib a lot, and I mean A LOT, with some of the least co-operative actors in history, selected members of the audience. The gymnasts performed stunts that would have landed any of us in six weeks of traction. And, the food was wonderful too.
Day 4: St. Maarten
See the port review. That night, we went to La Cucina. The restaurant's portions, prior to the main course, were rather lackluster, but the main course was satisfactory. Considering the surcharge was only $10 a head, it didn't turn out so badly, but we decided not to go to La Cucina again during the cruise.
We also saw Legends in Concert. The first part of the show was, in my opinion, a disaster. The same performer impersonated both the host, Whoopi Goldberg, and one of the legends, Donna Summer. This performer was thoroughly unimpressive. The performer who impersonated Jimmy Buffett tried as best he could to get the audience involved, but to very little avail. The audience was dead through these first two acts. In my opinion, "Buffett" made matters worse by playing a song that really should not be played on a vacation, "Come Monday". This song reminded me, and I'm sure a lot of others, that this vacation was going to end at some point, and we had to go back to our everyday lives in a few days.
The show was saved, and probably then some, by the performer who impersonated Michael Jackson. His renditions of "Thriller" and "Billie Jean" absolutely blew the lid off the Epic Theater. He earned the only standing ovation I saw on any show on the ship.
Day 5: St. Thomas
See the port review. In port, we purchased a blue diamond for my wife's engagement ring, and the folks at Diamonds International said they would be able to get it set by the time the ship left port. They did, but the job they did was very amateurish. Sol and Marissa, port shopping consultants on the Epic, earned a Vacation Hero nomination when they advocated on our behalf to get the setting improved at the next port of Nassau.
Lesson 3: Don't be shy about having the port shopping consultants advocate on your behalf, if you think you received inferior products or services in port.
That night, we ate at Cagney's and once again enjoyed it. We figured, where else in the world can we get steak, salad, fries and dessert for $25 a head? We also had the daily special, a vodka concoction called the "Blue Lagoon", which was wonderful.
Day 6: At sea
We nearly missed the Second City comedy performance, which proved to be rather ordinary. Their show is heavy on gimmicky stand-up comedy and one-liners, which proved funny to many in the audience, but not so much to us. There are only so many "185 whatevers walk into a bar. The bartender says 'We don't serve whatevers in here.' The whatevers say ..." jokes you can stand.
That night we went to the White Hot Party. We expected a lively atmosphere, and that expectation was met and then some. The music was hot, and from what I have heard and read from others, the party kept roaring long past the time we went downstairs to bed (around 1 am). Even though the party was raucous, its noise did not disturb us at all in the cabin.
Day 7: Nassau
See the port review. Sol and Marissa came through, as my wife's ring came back from Nassau's Diamonds International in perfect condition. That night, we went to the Moderno Churrascaria, where the essence is that they keep feeding you so long as the green card showed. Sometimes, though, they tended sometimes to blow right through the red card that said we wanted to slow down. The cuts of meat they offered were tasty, but we had to ask for them to be better done (they came to the table medium rare).
Day 8: Disembarkation
The process of disembarkation was relatively smooth. Our checked bags were taken the previous night, and we got off the ship, through U. S. Customs, and onto the plane home.
Lots of folks on this board have spoken about the elevators being really crowded. We didn't find them to be that bad. Sure, some were full, and we had to bypass some because they were just too full, but it wasn't a recurring theme all the time. As I said earlier, we didn't do the water slides and pools as much as we probably could have, but we didn't find that much of a line-up when we did go. As for chaise lounges, we went on the top deck and always were able to find plenty. We got good drink service at those lounges, too. They were as quick as reasonably possible, considering how many people they had to look after.
We found out that the next time we plan to go on a cruise, which will likely be the fall of 2014, the Epic will be taking the Western Caribbean route, leaving its current route to the new ship the Getaway. When the time comes, we plan to cruise with Norwegian again, although based on its new itinerary it will likely not be on the Epic. The question will be, is that cruise to be on the Breakaway, sailing from New York, or on the new Getaway? Time will tell. Time, however, will not dull the wonderful and fun memories of our silver anniversary cruise.