My sister-in-law and I cruised on the Epic the week of 11/24-12/1. We initially booked an inside cabin, but upgraded to a family balcony once we were on board. Getting on the ship was a breeze and the guest services staff couldn't be more helpful when we asked if any balconies were available. We quickly changed our cabin and set sail for our first port. I was instantly disappointed when I discovered there was no access to the front of the ship, on the pool deck, where I often head when the ship is heading out of or into port. The only access to the front of the ship is at a table in the Garden Cafe area, inside -- very disappointing. It appeared that one could access the bow of the ship through the Haven area, but, without a special Haven key, non-Haven guests do not have access to that area. I was also disappointed by the bathroom arrangements. As you enter the cabin from the hallway, the toilet was on the right and the shower is on the left -- separate, which is not a bad thing, but, in my opinion, privacy is lacking, as the doors are sliding frosted glass and not very private. For that reason alone, I will not sail on Epic again. I prefer more privacy in the toilet area and changing area. In order to have privacy for changing, one has to draw a curtain between the bed and the shower/toilet area and pray there are no visitors until you're done changing.
The ship itself was a disappointment. I did not like that the casino takes up so much of Deck 6. In order to get almost anywhere on Deck 6, one has to go through the stinky smoky casino. My sister-in-law is a smoker and there really isn't anywhere on the ship where she could smoke, except for the casino and our balcony... and I saw ashtrays on the bar on the pool deck. The pool is not all that great either. However, the water slides looked fantastic and the kids (and some adults, too!) were thoroughly enjoying them. The swimming pools, though, were very small.
The food was just so-so. I've been sailing with NCL for several years and have noticed that the quality and variety of food choices on the ships has decreased over the years. There are very basic chicken breast and beef dishes and salmon and that's just about it. The buffet actually had better quality food than the dining rooms. The fish and chips in O'Sheehan's Pub was pretty good, but, again, nothing fancy. The shrimp and steak dinner at the Cirque show was just okay... dry shrimp, but the steak was quite good. The show, however, was fantastic!
All of the entertainment that we saw was outstanding. We went to Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, Second City, a comic magician (can't remember his name) and the Cirque dinner show. Don't pay extra for the Cirque show. It appeared that there was nothing special about the $35 seats. I paid the extra $10 and was seated with those who paid $25. They're all the same seats. They just seat you wherever there is space, whether you paid extra or not. Don't waste your money on the "preferred" seats. There isn't a bad seat in the house.
Our cabin was a family balcony, although I cannot imagine having four people in that teeny tiny space. The cabins just keep getting smaller and smaller. I don't really mind the size, because I'm not in my room that long, but why bother having a vanity and stool, if there's not enough room to pull the stool out to sit on it? Really. We sat on the edge of the bed to dry our hair. The minibar remained locked the entire cruise. We never asked to have it unlocked, but I would have thought it would have been unlocked and only locked at our request. We rarely saw our room stewardess when she was needed, but our room was fairly clean and always made up when we returned from wherever we may have been.
The fitness center was not easy to get to, even though our cabin was on the same deck as the fitness center. I went every morning and still could not find my way back to anywhere easily, even on the last day. Signage is lacking on this ship. I never knew if I was at the front of the ship or the back. The floors on the top deck were slippery, as were the floors inside the Garden Cafe. I nearly broke my neck twice.
Our excursions were okay. We went on the Best of St. Thomas tour and my sister-in-law was 20 minutes late getting back to our bus at one of the stops. The driver looked for her at least twice, as did I and a couple of others on our tour. It was embarrassing, but she did finally make it back, before we left to go back to the ship. We also went to Orient Beach in St. Martin and that was a short, but relaxing stop. My sister-in-law was disappointed with the Discover Atlantis excursion. While the information did say there was a lot of walking, it did not specify there were a lot of stairs involved and she had a difficult time on the stairs. But the tour was very nice and included all of the aquariums there.
Disembarking was not bad. We participated in the "Bags" program and had our bags checked right through to our final destination in Boston. That turned out as expected and was great! Leave your bag outside your cabin on Friday night and you don't see it again until you pick it up off the carousel at your home airport. A lot of trust is involved, but it worked and I would do that again.
I think that's about it for Epic. It wasn't really a bad cruise, but it was disappointing.