I am just back from our 7 day adventure on EPIC and I must report that my wife and our traveling companions had a truly great experience on EPIC. I know that many reviews of EPIC are less than stellar but our little foursome found EPIC to be loads of fun and far exceeded our expectations. Between the two couples, we have a total of 10 cruises so we consider ourselves fairly knowledgeable. This review does not include any reports for our port calls of St Maarten, St Thomas or Nassau.
As many experienced cruisers will attest, the Port of Miami on cruise day is a mad house--our embarkation day included 6 ships in port. To start with, we arrived a day early flying into West Palm Beach (saving nearly $300 per person in airplane costs), renting a car (one way), overnight hotel near the airport and a free shuttle operation from the great folks at Alamo. Shuttle bus dropped us right off at our ship. It was only 45 minutes from the time we got in line until we were in our cabin and unpacking.
Yes, EPIC is big; in fact, our little group really prefers the Panama Canal sized ships but it really takes about half a day to figure out that EPIC's activities are either on Deck 15 and above or on Decks 5, 6 & 7. And, yes the casino is center stage on Deck 6 and yes, we had to pass through the casino on many occasion, but we did not find the smoking to be terribly offensive (we are all non-smokers). We did note a number of ozone type air freshers on Deck 6 used to mitigate some of the smoke smell and they seemed to be effective.
We found the staff on board to be attentive to our needs, very friendly and most really seemed to be enjoying their role on EPIC. There were a couple of glitches in the two main dining rooms (some slow service) but we attributed that to the fact that there are 4200 folks on board. The wait for a table was balanced off with some free champagne while waiting. No big deal to us to wait--our theme for this cruise was to relax and enjoy--no stress allowed.
FOOD: Overall, our group was impressed with the quality of the food and the wide variety of selections in all of EPIC's venues. We did not, however, eat in any of the ala carte restaurants on board. (It is just not our style.) We found the breakfast buffet to be just plain great--and what a super place for a dessert after a show. We found the staff in the buffet to be extremely attentive and clean. The entire ship's staff seemed to be focused on keeping EPIC's public areas clean and that is a good thing as far as I am concerned. Trash and other debris never seemed to remain on the deck for more than a few seconds.
STATEROOMS: There have been numerous comments (mostly con) about the staterooms and their somewhat quirky design. Our foursome had absolutely no problems with the stateroom design. After 40 years of marriage, total privacy is not going to be an issue. Truth is my wife found the shower space to be exceptional. The somewhat oversized shower (for a ship's stateroom) gave her more than enough space. It took only a few minutes to figure out all the light switches and we all agreed that the use of your on-board keycard to activate the lights is quite innovative. I never forgot my key leaving our stateroom.
ENTERTAINMENT: We all agreed this is where EPIC really shines. Yes, we do enjoy the large productions that most ships have on board. But, the ability to visit different entertainment venues each night was a lot of fun. We did manage to hit Blue Man Group (glad to have experienced BMG but not really sure I understood the concept), Legends in Concert, Second City (twice), Howl at the Moon (four times), Slam Allen (jazz and blues) and a magician (can't remember his name). I must single out the Howl at the Moon (dueling pianos). There is no doubt in my mind that the threesome who are part of Howling at the Moon enjoy what they do--they have a more 300 songs in committed to memory. This one is a "do not miss".
DECK 15: Keep in mind, EPIC has 4200 guest on board--she is going to get crowded on Deck 15 during your "at sea" days. Just be prepared--our little group spent most of our time on the stern in SPICE H2O, an adult only venue and the ship's staff made sure that kids were kept out of the SPICE area during the day. It is a great place to sit and read, have an adult beverage and get out of the wind. (We did have some windy days with the wind speed of 20 knots or more combined with a ship speed of 20 knots or so--that produced an over the deck wind speed in excess of 40 knots). SPICE H2O blocked nearly all the wind.
I want to make special note that in previous Norwegian cruises, my wife and I almost always felt pressure to buy stuff (drinks, pictures, bingo cards, pull tabs)---there always seemed to be a constant barrage on other Norwegian ships but not on EPIC. We were not pestered by ship board photographers either on board or during port calls. The wait staff in the lounges and bars would only approach when we asked for service and never once during any show were bingo cards or pull tabs pushed on us. That was a really pleasant surprise.
ICE BAR: Normally, we would not have tried the Ice Bar but having spent time in Alaska during 2012 summer and having visited an ice bar near Fairbanks, we decided to try this one out. A little gimmicky--yes!! Worth the money--tad bit on high side but remember that drinks on board can run $7-8 so what's a couple of more bucks in the scheme of things.
ON BOARD HYGENE: I do not think that any cruise line pays attention to cruise passenger health better than Norwegian. Hand sanitizers are everywhere and you can not enter a single food venue without the mandatory hand sanitizing. Restroom doors are blocked open so that you do not have to touch a door handle when leaving a public restroom. You can not board or reboard any Norwegian ship without hand sanitizing. And, we saw many members of staff wiping down public surfaces throughout the cruise. My wife is a nurse and Norwegian's efforts drew strong praise from her on this matter.
DEBARKATION: I have just a couple of thoughts on debarkation. Again, EPIC is big, really big and getting some 4200 passengers off the ship in a timely manner is a daunting task. We did the "walk-off" and while a long line met us when we got off the elevator in the casino area on Deck 6, we were in line for only about 15 minutes.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: Our foursome enjoys cruising and the truth is a vacation is what you want to make it. We left home planning to have a great time; we had a great time on EPIC because we knew going in that she is big, had few quirky design features and that she was going to be full. Am I glad I cruised on EPIC--yes! Would I cruise on EPIC again, probably not but that is not a commentary on EPIC--we just prefer smaller ships.