Cruising is not just an adventure, its an attitude. The EPIC was out 13th cruise, and we booked it because of a friendship we developed with a crew member from our 2012 cruise on the NCL Star. Our outlook: a vacation on a cruise ship is the proverbial cat's meow. We don't let little things like carpet stains, smoke in casinos, and elevator waits longer than a minute bother us. So for the most part, this review on the EPIC will be very truthful AND positive.
Precruise: We stayed at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. They have a housekeeping problem. We arrived at 1:30pm, checked in and was told we had to wait until 3pm before getting our room. So at 3:30, along with another 30-40 people, we were all waiting for our rooms. You might consider another option.
Embarkation: Excellent in that we arrived at the port around 10:45am. We were one of the first ones in line at the Latitudes checkin, but had to wait for the clerks to boot-up their laptops. That took all of 5-minutes, horror of horrors.... We got our cards and proceeded up the escalator to the waiting area, getting "group 6" cards for boarding sequence and bypassing the ship photographers trying to get virtually everyone to get their picture taken. Its ok folks, you can walk right on by if you want, no hassles. Boarding started at 11:30, and we went directly to our cabin, which was ready. The crew will try to steer you to the Garden Cafe (the buffet area), but we went to the pool deck to look for our friend who was a bartender at the Wave Bar by the pool. Not bad for a 60-minute embarkation...nice process NCL!
Cabins: We had a mini-suite, 13048. Folks, the EPIC has different cabins. They are wavy in design, deal with it. As we conducted a cabin crawl for our CC group, we got to see 6-different cabins, from the studio up to the Haven suites. Our cabin had the couch nearest the door and the bed closest to the balcony. This is the best configuration as the entrance is to an open area as opposed to walking smack into the bed as in some other cabins. Plenty of room for storage (3-floor-length closets), including cabinets along the ceiling over the mirrors, cabinets below the counter tops, cabinets next to the bed, and even hidden storage behind the couch (the couch backs swing outward). The lighting is nice and soft, and the reading lights are an excellent touch to allow one to read while the other sleep. Overall, an excellent design.
Public Areas: The designers definitely did their homework in balancing the public space ratio with the passenger count. Except for the muster drill and when the Blue Man Group show ended, we never had to wait more than a minute for the elevators. We ate at the Garden Cafe several times, no lines, easy to find tables. Honestly, I don't know what other reviewers were complaining about, and we had a full ship with 4200 passengers. It was relatively easy to walk through the casino, and folks...its a casino, people smoke. Don't like it, use decks 5 or 7 to walk from one end to the other.
BIG TIP: Lots of folks complain about not being able to figure out which side of the ship their cabin is on... Odd cabin numbers have BLUE numbers and blue carpeting, Even number cabins have RED numbers and red carpeting. From a sailor's point, red is port (left side), Blue is starboard (right side). Hope that helps...
Entertainment: Blue Man Group was interesting, though Pebbles came away with a headache due to all the pounding/drumming, but she still enjoyed it. The funniest part was the audience participation - the lady they picked was incredibly funny and a really good sport. TIP: Go early to get a seat - and if you sit in the first two rows (center), you will get wet. Cirque Dreams was also very good. The meal was a steak and shrimp, small in size, very good flavor. The entertainment started right after drinks were served and lasted throughout the meal (90 minutes or so). Premium seating was on the main floor, regular seating was in the balcony above the show area (like in a tent). Yes, the ring leader had a whistle and for some of the "skits,", he got a little carried away. Cirque is a french based theatrical experience, and during the pantomine acts, there is no talking, so the ring-leader "talked" by manipulating the whistle. He's very good at it, though a little annoying at times, but always entertaining.
Dining Venues: Honestly folks, we didn't have a bad meal anywhere. We ate in the Taste DR on the first night, got plenty of steak and lobster tails and very good service. We also ate in the Bistro, Cagneys, and La Cucina, all excellent meals and service. We ended up eating in the Manhatten (main DR) only once, music was fine, meal was great, service was very good. I truely believe folks who are looking for negative things will find negative things. We had good friends on the cruise with us, we always ate together, and we truely enjoyed meeting our servers and learning about their country. Show some interest in the servers, and they will keep you happy. Try it sometime. PS: The chicken fingers in O'Sheehans were very good!
The EPIC: Well GOLLLLY, she's a big 'un. Clean, easy to navigate one you figure out the blue/red carpet trick. There is just too much to see and do in 7-days. The SPA was on deck 14 aft, and very well staffed and plenty of space. The fitness center was the largest I've seen at sea, and though the access fee for the steam room/pool lounge area was pricey ($149), I thought it was well worth the quiet space. Spice H2O (Aft pool area on deck 15) was a welcome retreat, but by 8:00 am on sea days, all the chairs were "reserved" by the chair hogs. Oh well, we'll find another place to lay out...we're on VACATION...
And now the best for last...
The Crew: Like I said earlier, we booked the EPIC because of Lorelie, the bartender in the Wave Bar by the pool (daytime) and in the bar at the end of the casino (near the theater). We also had the fortune of meeting the Hotel Director Kaj while we were embarking and he told us how to find Lorelie. When we told him we booked the cruise because of her, he asked if I would write a story about her and that he would send it to NCL HQ to be put in their newsletter. All week, he sent strawberries, snacks, and candy to our cabin, along with priority disembarkation luggage tags. Wow... But that wasn't all. We had a lovely chat with the waitress in the Manhatten DR, listened to a fascinating story about the huge migration for their river baptism going on in India from the Taste DR waiter Arun, and had a very humourous time with the waiter from Turkey who spoke Italian as he work in La Cucina. The bar staff was always smiling, the photographers didn't get pushy, and our cabin steward was just so nice and cheerful. One of the best crew, overall, we've ever had the pleasure to sail with.
Disembarkation: We were fortunate to get "Priority" luggage tags, so we could leave anytime after the walk-offs were gone. We chose to disembark at the first color after walk-off as we still had to get to Fort Lauderdale for our flight home. From the time we walked off, got our bags,and went through Customs, it was 20 minutes...max. Unbelieveably easy folks. A little bit of a line to get through Customs, but a breeze for sure. Once outside, we had booked with SAS Transportation to get to Ft. Lauderdale, and he came by about 10-minutes after calling. It was $15 p/p each way and very uneventful.
Summary: If you want to find negative issues, I am sure you will. We choose to be happy and enjoy our cruising. Sure there were some little annoyances, but really, not worth reporting. Will we return to the EPIC, probably not (surprised?) as we both agree that we like smaller ships. However, Lorelie mentioned that she might be moving to the NCL Getaway in April, so we might book that trip to see Bermuda, and to visit with out favorite crew member, again. Cruising, its an adventure AND an attitude....