The funny thing is I wanted to rush home to write a review and post photos but as with most things I think it's better to wait a moment and try not to make knee jerk reactions. So after being home a week from my cruise I think I can give my review. This was my first NCL sailing; let's begin with the ship. The Epic is a huge ship and from the outside it looks somewhat funny with the big black tinted windows at the top. Check in for the cruise went extremely quick, I think it took longer to board the plane to Miami than it did to get on the Epic. The staff here was friendly and seemed happy that we (and not them) were headed on our vacation.
There were 12 family members in our party and we stayed on various decks, with my cabin being a studio suite on Deck 12. Great idea...sort of. A room for a single traveler is an awesome idea. The rest were on Deck 9 towards the front of the ship. My studio was nice, clean and modern just like the photos. Two things I didn't really dig were the lights and the TV info system (which didn't work until day 3). In order to keep the lights on in your stateroom, you have to leave your room key in the slot next to the door. (Which I wouldn't have known without my roll call family.) The lights switches are in various places around the room, some easy to spot, some... not so much and if you can't find the switch for the light over the sink it will just stay on until you find it again. For me it was two days n to the trip. Having to keep the key in the slot is kinda silly because I locked myself out a couple of times and that wouldn't have happen had the key been in my pocket. Not to mention, the door to the studios is locked and your need your key access the area. Then once inside you have to find the Steward to open your cabin.
Which is another thing that drove me nuts, my Steward situation. It seemed like there were two stewards for the entire studio cabin area. I never got the names of my Stewards mainly because I saw them very sparingly. This was my 15th or so cruise and on every other trip my Steward for the week went out of the way to find me and make sure I had everything I needed. I had to find my Steward or call housekeeping way too much to get my room turned down or to get clean towels. Also, my Stew seemed not to know what trash to toss out and what to keep. I found out on the 2nd to last day where the trash can was, several times he left empty soda cans about my cabin, which I would have put in the trash had I known where to put trash. BTW way it looks like a file cabinet near the shower.
Also it took them a while to remove the plates and trash from the hallway after people were done with room service. Not a big deal the hall is really narrow, so it's an issue...if two people are walking down the hall, with the cleaning cart in the way, plus the trash, so it can get tight. I have a theory why the Stews on the Epic were seem less engaging and it's the same reason the waiters in the dinning room were less attentive.
Which brings me to the food and dinning experience on the Epic. One of the things I looked forward to were the alt dinning options. I love the fact that there were so many options and I tried them all. I ate in the Manhattan main dinning room the first night because it was steak and lobster night, another fact that my roll call peeps put me on to. My family and I would have missed it had I not known and had we missed it there would have been 12 upset people as this is one of our favorite nights. The wait staff was nice and did their best to accommodate the entire dinning area. The first thing I noticed was there was only one waiter for several large tables, including the 11 people with me. On other cruise lines with formal dinning, there's like 6 people waiting on you, the Maitre d', Waiter, the Asst., the Drink/Sommelier, his Asst. ...there just seems like a lot of people and because you sit with them every night you get to know these people, which in a funny way make's the trip more enjoyable. Freestyle seemed more like free-for-all. It's not a knock on the staff, but more that they don't have enough help to get the job done.
My mother insisted that we all eat in the Manhattan room for Thanksgiving, which I thought was somewhat crazy because Americans like Thanksgiving and turkey, which was evident by the amount of people that showed up that night. THE STAFF IN THE MAIN DINNING ROOM WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS and neither was NCL because they were handing out free drink tickets to people in line because the wait was so long. If nothing else, people were going to show up to get turkey. The funny thing is the food was not that good (turkey was suspect to say the least) and took so long that some of us left early because one of the shows was about to start. I was on RCCL last year for Christmas, and let me tell you, Turkey and Christmas dinner was the best of the entire week. My thought behind this is, NCL wants you to eat in the specialty restaurants and not the main dinning room, because they get the extra $15 when you eat in a specialty restaurant. And thankfully so the food is better. We ate in Moderno Churrascaria, Shanghai's Noodle Bar (2x), Teppanyaki, each place had great service and lots of food for the price, and you couldn't get the amount of food they serve on land without a bank loan.
Tips are included the second you step on the Epic and with that the Staff knows they're getting paid so they can slack a little. On other lines, the Staff knows they gotta work hard, be friendly and just plain old be around or they might not get paid. Which is why I didn't see my Stews as often and the main dinning room was overwhelmed I guess. Oh and why I didn't tip extra like I normally would. It's difficult to stiff someone knowing they bent over backwards to make sure my trip was awesome.
So far it sounds like a bad experience, but that's not the case. There's so much to do on the ship and let's be honest that's the big draw in the first place. With 12 of us, we covered the ship and did all the Epic had to offer. I got to get my drink on ( the ice bar is awesome), swim, ride the slides... multiple times (yes, the lines are long but that depends on when you ride them.), catch the Blue Man Group, play pool side games, hang out the adult only Spice H2O, run with the CC roll call friends. My Grandparents, an Aunt and Mother got to gamble, eat, and have drinks. My two female cousins and other Aunt used the GYM, Spa, eat and drank. My pops and my cousin Jeff did what ever it is they do, which I assume is fun because they did it a lot. We all got to dance, listen to the band while enjoying the sun. We seemed to meet a lot of people this trip and I think that's because of this freestyle nature of the cruise.... we did some partying and dancing like no other. Oddly enough we spent a lot of time on the outside deck while at sea and so did everyone else. However this didn't seem to bother most people. If you wanted the slow quiet deck, you could hang in front of the ship on the sweet deck cushion chair/ mattress things. I feel asleep up there a few times.
There were a lot of kids but that's to be expected during the holidays, if that bothers you then you should go at a different time. The last thing I will say is this and it's HUGE if you're traveling with a child/teen that has special needs like we do. My 15-year-old cousin Liz is blind and needs a wheel chair at times. However, this should not impede her ability to hang with the other teens, it never has before and this is her 4th cruise. For the first 3 days, she was unable to hang with the other kids because NCL didn't have anyone that could stay with her at all times. Which is somewhat understandable, but we offered to have a one of our family members take turns watching while she hung out with the other kids. NCL said that under no circumstances are there to be adults in that area other than NCL Staff. NCL was aware that she'd be on board and said they make special arrangements to make sure she could hang with the others. They didn't, it was a huge issue, and it went all the way to the headquarters before they found a dedicated person to watch over her while she hung with the other kids. Now some of you might say that's not NCL's problem, but it is, since they said it wouldn't be an issue prior to boarding. When we went on RCCL last year, they didn't have a dedicated person when Liz showed up but the teen cruise director took it upon herself to watch over Liz the entire week/ and found more staff to help. All so Liz could have unforgettable cruise as well. Nobody asked the RCCL Director and her staff to do so; they just did it. No extra tip, no extra paper work, no nothing. They treated Liz like any other teen on the trip, which let the rest of us have time to relax and do other things too...making everyone's trip that much more enjoyable. NCL made us jump through hoops.
For me the people passengers and crew alike on the ship that adds to the experience. Most of the crew was good. Passengers were awesome
In my opinion it's the small details that NCL failed at that prevented this cruise from being the best trip we've takken. That said, I need to try NCL again before crossing it off the list a 100%. I'd give it a respectable B, because bigger is not always better.
Check out some photos....