After 10 months and Super Storm Sandy we were ready for a vacation. My review may be slightly jaded as I have been breathing in saw dust and sheetrock dust for two months. Obviously, we needed a vacation.
We had a great flight and arrived at our hotel the night before embarking on the Epic. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites Miami-Airport South. They provide a free shuttle that runs until 1am to and from the airport. Additionally, I saved some $ by using my Hilton Honor pts to get the room for FREE! I sound like one of those Coupon Crazies.
The hotel makes arrangements for those traveling to the port to take a shuttle from their location. It was a $10 pp fee and was a great and roomy ride to the port.
The Port of Miami is tremendous, in my eyes. Yet the boarding process went smoothly.
We brought 6 bottles of wine on board and we were prepared to pay the corking fee of $15.00 per bottle. Lucky for us they only charged us for two bottles. (We still purchased two more bottles on board with two of our dinners. I don't care for the fruity, sweet drinks and so I always made pitchers of red or white wine spritzers, with fruit, that I took from the breakfast buffet, back to our cabin. )
We were on board by 11:30am and headed to lunch at Taste.
While you explore the ship, you can drop your carry-on luggage, at Headliners Club, and we used this until pick up time at 1pm.)
Taste had very good food and the wait staff was excellent. We did Taste one morning for breakfast but it's all the same food from the Garden Cafe breakfast buffet so we didn't go to Taste for breakfast again.
Our luggage arrived early and we were able to unpack and get the room settled fairly early.
Cabin 9034 was an inside cabin and I had never cruised inside and was worried about claustrophobia. No such thing. Our cabin was 128sf and you would never have known it was that size. There was plenty of closet space, plenty of room for toiletries, plenty of draws for clothes, multiple hooks throughout the room and all of our luggage fit under the bed. From me, there is great truth here, because I packed heavy...let's just say I brought 12 pairs of shoes. Enough said?
Bottom line was we spent very little time there so maybe that had something to do with our opinion.
Our cabin steward Jaime learned our names immediately and always addressed us by our names the entire cruise. He was on pt, always a ray of sunshine and the room was perfect always. He even stayed and accepted a pitcher of water for me at the room (which he is not supposed to do according to room service). He also helped report if one of us had been to the room and left or if one of us was in the room or if one of us had asked about the other and was looking for them. It was a small little bonus from our friendly steward.
Of course he made up the towel critters each night. We actually came back to the room one night to what we believe was a monkey hanging from our wall art...we had just been to a 3 hr Martini tasting and well; let's just say the monkey looked rather risque. We were hysterical. I'll try and post the monkey picture.
The beds were pushed together when we arrived at the room, which was nice. It was very comfortable, as were the pillows and the comforter. The two twin beds never came apart when we were sleeping or throughout the cruise. I would take an inside cabin any day on Epic.
Our one problem was that every night we could hear performances in Epic and dancing music from Bliss lounge until the wee hours. Luckily we can fall asleep through that kind of stuff...thump thump thump. It was, however, remarkably loud! This is a great room for anyone that parties into the late night. Certainly Blue Man Group will be remembered long after this cruise.
This cabin was a short walk to the elevators and although on deck 9 the forward elevators took you right up to the Garden Cafe deck 15, which was great for coffee and breakfast most mornings. BTW ... you can get poached eggs at one of the buffet stations hidden in the back of the buffet toward the head of the ship. They offer up Eggs Benedict but you can ask for just poached eggs.
We also took yogurt back to our cabin refrigerator to start the day and ward off any funky viruses.
I also used some advice from Cruise Critic and left a sticky note on my refrigerator asking the cabin steward to remove the contents of the mini bar so we could use the frig for the trip. He did it right away. We tipped our cabin steward $100.00. We thought this was ok but others felt we over tipped.
Remember this tip- If the elevators are busy , you can always walk across the hallway and around the corner and find the other set of elevators that are almost always empty. It was a funny little thing to discover, at least close to our room on deck 9.
Some members of Cruise Critic gathered at Spice H2O for "Sail Away" and we were about 12- 15 total. Fun fun fun. Me and two other women decided that we would know each other by wearing feather boas. That worked out perfect ....until I met a couple that said they saw us in our boas and thought we were a swingers crowd. LOL Hahahaahaha...? No more feather boa meet ups!!!
We purchased the three restaurant package deal in advance of boarding and enjoyed each of the specialty restaurants. We ate at Cagney's, The Churascarria, Le Bistro and the Italian Restaurant. My least favorite was the Italian but the food was still good. The Churascarria has a great salad bar that included a delicious cerviche.
We tried the noodle bar too.
My boyfriend had Sushi at the Sushi Bar but he was not impressed with it at all. Other people loved it. (He knows fresh fish and some of the best Sushi.) I actually feel bad saying this because the cruise was so overwhelming wonderful and so was the food.
On the first morning of the cruise we had our Meet and Greet set up in Bliss Lounge. When I arrived all of the TV monitors had the Cruise Critic logo splashed across the screen. It was actually very impressive and this added to the excitement of meeting everyone.
The group services coordinator met Cheryle and I at the beginning and they had a sign in sheet and cards with the entire hotel staff names and phone #'s for the attendees and had even set up refreshments. 11 crew members spent a good hr. or so with at least 30 of us from Cruise Critic. We met the Hotel Director, Asst Hotel Director, Food & Bev Director, Executive Housekeeper, Cruise Director, Guest Service Manager, Executive Chef, Restaurant Manager and Beverage Manager ( everyone liked him)wink wink, and two ladies from Group Services. We learned so much from all of the staff and if you have an opportunity to go to M & G for your cruise it should be worth it. Norwegian Epic made all of us, Cruise Critics, feel very welcome and made us feel they were completely approachable.
The days we were in Port we would see the crew and staff on the dock, wishing us well for our day in Port. Upon returning they would greet us with a tent that was set up with cozy chairs, glasses of water and cool towels. They always had fun music playing upon returning and the crew was dancing away and dragging us into their line dances. This simple addition to the day made our return exciting and we thank them all for those memories. (None of the other ships in port were greeting their passengers this way.)
Disembarking the ship was never a trouble and any line we encountered always moved swiftly. We sailed with 4300 passengers, according to the Hotel Director.
I advise you to bring cash for taxis in St Thomas because the taxi service did not have change of a $100 bill and so we lost a good 45 minutes with me having to return to the ship and get change.
The last time I sailed, in 2005, we had to show our passports at the various Ports. Technology has helped keep your passport safer. Now everything is on your room key card and it is used to disembark and enter the ports. You will need a photo ID too.
The fitness center aboard the Epic is tremendous and really the size of a very large gym. I used the Elliptical machine while overlooking the ocean and then took a great stretch class. The class was led by a very professional and ridiculously flexible young man. Yes this is me....wink wink. My intentions were good but I only worked out that one day. They had additional classes including Yoga and I saw a room that had kettle bells.
Spice H2O is a kid free zone and so it was nice to hang out in the hot tubs back there. (No live music, however) The only thing, is all the action, goes down around the main pool area with the VERY Best Reggae Band "Upryzin". Their music just makes the whole experience work better. I looked forward to seeing them every day.
For the ladies....prepare to swell, if you tend to retain water. A little fact I was told, is that many people will retain water do the high salt content in the air. Unfortunately, I was one of them. Yuck!
The "Martini Tasting" is a must if you like to drink Martinis. They advertise 4 martinis at the tasting however the bartender, (if you sit at the bar), continues to replenish your glasses to the tune of 6-8 martinis...ouch. Very dangerous. We had to skip our appointment at the Svedka Ice Bar.... At the martini tasting we met people who had just arrived from the wine tasting and they were now martini tasting. They were my heroes..... until I found out they missed the Ice Bar and took turns at the porcelain potty upon arriving at their cabin after our martini tasting.
Overall, the ship never seemed overcrowded, we never waited for our dinners, had the best service, and enjoyed great hospitality at all times.
*Noteworthy-I watched one of the staff that runs the boutique handle a ridiculously irate guest in the most professional manner. As I stood there and watched I couldn't have been more proud for the manager. She deescalated the guest and her manager was there within moments to coddle and care for this guest. She apologized to me and I complimented her professionalism. These are skills that are handed down from great companies and I will always sail with NCL, my way, Freestyle baby!!
We bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue on the ship for only $164.00. This was for a gift. Just putting this out there in case you can find it cheaper in port.
Hot sauce fanatics-I bought hot sauces in every port. That was fun. See pics at the link below.
We recommend Skip Jacks restaurant in St Maarten, on the water surrounded by Yachts...Life is Good. See pics at the link below.
In St Maarten, we went to Little Bay Beach which is quieter than the other beaches. We brought our own snorkels and rafts. There is a rocky area for snorkeling and I heard the cruise ships bring their snorkel excursions there. No waves and fun for snorkeling. I'm a wimp and don't go out very far so this works well for me. It was a $10 cab ride from the port with tip and the trip took less than ten minutes to arrive. You enter by the Little Divi Bay Resort and the hotel had a beach umbrella/lounge package. See pics at the link below.
We bought 2/$5.00 beers in the Little Divi Bay gift shop.
St Thomas is amazing to cruise into. Make sure you take the time to be up on Deck 15 or 16 when you cruise into the ports. See pics at the link below.
Once again, we did a quite beach called Morning Star Beach. It was lovely but snorkeling was out of the question with the waves being a little more aggressive. See pics at the link below.
We shopped at all of the shops at the Port. It was easy and I also bought a Mystic topaz ring for my daughter. I'm fairly certain there is no real value to this stone but the unique color was perfect for my daughter. It resembles what I would imagine a crystal ball looks like. My daughter happen to say exactly that when she received the gift.
The Pirate museum was a must for us as, my BF fancies himself a bit of a pirate....he's been fishing commercially and recreationally his whole life. It was worth the stop for only $24 for two. Who doesn't love a pirate? See our pics at the link below
In the Bahamas, we recommend the local Kalik beer. We actually stopped in a local liquor store and the clerk convinced us that we could buy a beer and walk the town....???? W H A T ???"Hey Mon you are in the Bahamas"...which would explain why there was a bottle opener swinging from a cord at the front door. And so, do as the locals we did.
Don't miss Twin Brothers Restaurant at The Fish Fry in the Bahamas. They have a following and have been written about in the Wall Street Journal as well as having appeared on Top Chefs. We finally had a chance to taste fresh Conch. My bf also went behind the fish fry to talk with the local conch men. They keep all the fresh conch alive and in a net in the ocean waters behind the Fish Fry. He watched as they extracted the fresh live conch meat from the shell with a hammer and screw driver. They gave him a lesson about the males and females. Apparently, the more endowed Conch is Bahamian. I love the locals.
They urged him to taste the jellyfish like, clear spine of the conch, which they promised would keep him virile. Even with that bold promise, he passed on that tasting. You can see their pics on my link below.
To all the fisherman, we are told that they are catching Barracuda, little Groupers and rays during high tide. Make sure you check local fishing laws if you plan on having pole in water.
I repeat, I will always sail with NCL, my way, Freestyle baby!!
NCL Epic Pics