A little background, my husband (27) and I (30) booked this cruise about six months ago. After reading such wonderful reviews about the ship, we had to give it a try. We booked a regular aft balcony room through NCL. This was my second cruise and my husband's third cruise. I've only been on Norwegian so I cannot compare it to anything else.
Night before the cruise
We flew into FLL and took SAS Transport to the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. Wow, this is a stunning hotel! I honestly have never stayed anywhere this awesome before. Our honeymoon suite in Mexico comes close, but this place was amazing!! Our room was on the 34th floor overlooking Biscayne Bay. Peaking though the buildings you could see the cruise ships. There was a tv built into the mirror in the bathroom. You could relax in the tub and watch tv at the same time, awesome. The bed was super comfortable; I wish they had JW beds at regular Marriott's! The room was super clean and looked brand new. There were two chocolate suede chairs with matching footstool, a huge curved glass desk with a computer! The room also had a large flat screen TV.
Using Yelp! I found a great restaurant for lunch; it was so wonderful we went back for dinner! We went to The Filling Station and Garage; it is a short walk from the hotel. They have pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, chicken, salads, and all sorts of fun stuff. The pulled pork was fantastic. Everything comes with a side of seasoned tater tots which are also excellent. I highly recommend trying this place out.
For breakfast we walked over to Cafe Bastille, a small French cafe. I had the French toast with berries and my husband had the eggs benedicts. Everything was wonderful and the service was also great.
We arrived via taxi from our hotel. It took less than 10 minutes to get to the port and the taxi cost $13. We got to the port around 10:45 am; there was virtually no line to get though security. The latitudes line was longer than the regular check in line so we opted for the regular line. We walked right up to the counter and about 5 minutes later we had our key cards in hand and upstairs we went to wait for our boarding group to be called. At 11:15 they were boarding the ship and by 11:30 we were on the boat!!! Washy washy happy happy greeted us.
We booked the corner aft balcony room 12310. The layout had the couch by the sink and bed by the balcony. I am glad I did my room research because we were able to see a cabin just like ours but with the bed near the sink and it was not a good layout. There is so much storage I didn't know what to do with myself. Our room never looked lived in because I was able to find a spot for everything. One thing I don't remember reading about was the storage behind the back of the couch. There was lots of space to cram things in there and plenty of deep storage bins under the couch (which I read about). The corner balcony does not have any more space than the other balcony's. I was happy to see there was a lounge chair, 2 tables and 2 chairs on our balcony. I was prepared to ask for a lounger but I didn't have to. Yay! The bathroom set up was no big deal to me. I actually liked having everything separate so one person could shower and the other could use the bathroom at the same time. If I was traveling with friends I might not like the set up as much but there is a privacy curtain to use so in the end it would not be a deal breaker.
I loved our room, however, I would not book an aft room on the Epic if I were to sail it again. The reviews you read about vibrations and noises are TRUE!! You do not need to set an alarm clock for port days because the ship will wake you up. I had a hard time sleeping with all of the movement of the ship. I don't know if part of the movement is just how the Epic is, I can only base my cruise experience off my 4 day Sky adventure that was in a mid ship balcony room and I didn't really notice the movement. My husband didn't seem to notice the movement as much as I did. You could also hear the bass from all the parties going on at Spice H20. It did get annoying at times but if you don't have super bat hearing like me, then it might not bother you.
We ate at Taste, Manhattan Room, Wasabi Sushi Bar, Cagney's, Moderno, O'Sheehan's, and Garden Cafe. I thought just about everything was really good. I don't know what is with all the reviews complaining of all the horrible food? The buffet offers a lot of great variety for lunch and dinner (never ate there for dinner but we did peak around just to see).
We ate breakfast at Taste once and the rest of the days we ate at the buffet. If you scout out the buffet you will find one half is less busy than the other half. I really enjoyed the French toast, sausage, and hash browns. My husband usually had a made to order omelet or eggs benedicts. I tried the pancakes and wasn't a fan, they were a bit dry, the waffles were decent. We both did not like the taste of the bacon. I don't know if it's something it's cooked in or what the deal is, but it has a strange taste. However, it did not stop the rest of the crowd from taking the famous plate full of bacon.
We usually ate lunch at O'Sheehan's. There we tried the spinach artichoke dip, mozzarella sticks, spicy buffalo wings, angus burger, hot dog, chicken pot pie, chicken sandwich, tuna melt, bangers and mash, corned beef on rye, chocolate brownie sundae, apple pie, root beer float and vanilla malted milkshake. Everything was great; the tuna melt was a bit salty, but other than that yummy!! I really loved the chicken pot pie. The french-fries were nice and crispy, the buffalo wings were awesome, and the service was great. One day we showed up with our cans of Coke and the waiter brought us glasses with ice and a straw without us asking her.
The first night we ate dinner at Taste. This was lobster night for all you crazy lobster eaters. I didn't order it and neither did anyone around us. I ordered the roasted strip of beef with mashed potatoes, green beans, garlic mushrooms, and beef gravy. My husband ordered the penne pasta with creamy bacon carbonara. We both had french onion soup for an appetizer and for dessert we had warm bread and butter pudding with caramel sauce. Everything was delicious and well seasoned. The service was also great.
We ate in the Manhattan room twice, I had the pork spring roll and my husband had the Mexican mushroom and tortilla crisp for an appetizer, and we both and wild mushroom in a three cheese sauce for dinner. He had kahula tiramisu cake for dessert and I had the signature cheesecake with strawberry compote.
The second dinner I had potato and leek soup and a garden salad, and my husband had the broccoli cheddar soup and a cesar salad for an appetizer. I did not like the garden salad because it has lots of weird lettuce in it (rabbit food). The soup was pretty good but it had a strange texture to it. I was expecting chunks of potatoes, not pureed potatoes. For dinner I had pork tenderloin with smashed sweet potatoes and apple compote, and my husband had the regional chief special which was snapper. I tried a bite of his fish and thought it was chewy and fishy, but he thought it was okay. We both had the southern pecan pie with ice cream for dessert and it was amazing. I could go for another slice right now!
At Cagney's for appetizers I had the jumbo lump crab cakes and my husband had the Portobello mushroom with blue crabmeat. Both appetizers were good; however, I wouldn't call the crab cakes jumbo lump crab cakes. I now live in Maryland and those would not pass as a crab cake here! For dinner I had the rib eye with mushroom sauce and my husband had the prime rib. For sides we shared the Cagney Fries and sauteed mushrooms. Everything but the fries were excellent. They fries do not taste the same way as the ones from the Sky. They were just okay. For dessert I had the espresso brownie with ice cream and my husband had the raspberry crÃ¨me brulee again, yummy!
We ate at Wasabi for a quick snack, I had the Godzilla roll and my husband had the red Hokkaido roll. The sushi was pretty good, the nori was a bit too seaweed tasting for me, but the rolls were a good size and about the same price as our favorite local sushi restaurant. The service was very slow.
Moderno we ate there with 4 couples from our Meet and Greet, making it a table of 10. Even though it was such a large group our waiter was really nice and made sure we always had something to drink. I loved the salad bar! It was incredible! I think they should just offer the salad bar as a meal because I would go there all the time. The meats were pretty good; I didn't care for the pork rib or chicken leg. No one could tell which sausage was which either (I didn't try them). If you wanted a specific meat all you had to do was ask and they would send someone over with what you wanted. Dessert was disappointing, it was the overall group opinion that it was a letdown. The mango rice pudding was probably the best out of the group, the papaya cream had no taste to it and it was a weird texture, and the coconut flan didn't taste like coconut. It was a sad way to end a great night.
We went to the 10 pm showing of Blue Man Group. We arrived in line around 8:45 pm and the doors open at 9:15 pm. We were first in line! About fifteen minutes later people started getting in line behind us. We met two really nice families behind us in line. The girls were beyond excited knowing they would get to sit in the splash zone. I didn't want anything to do with the splash zone so I told them not to worry about us taking any of the front row seats. A tip to those lining up, once they open the doors to the theater you line up in three queues, if you want to get to the stairs that lead down to the front, pick the outer queues, not the middle! We sat in the fourth row in the middle. It was a perfect location to really see the expressions of the Blue Men. I have previously seen them perform in Las Vegas and Orlando. I thought the show was really good. A few parts were different from the previous shows so that was a nice change of pace, but overall it was pretty much the same show as Vegas and Orlando. Considering we spent well over $200 to see them perform in Vegas I highly recommend seeing them for free on the Epic.
On Thursday we went to the 7 pm showing of Legends in Concert. We got in line around 6:00 pm and the doors open at 6:15, again we were first in line. We sat in the same sport we did for the Blue Man Group. Great spot to be able to take in the stage and the expressions of the singers. Steven Tyler was really good; he sounded and looked just like the real deal. He was very lively and fun to watch. Lady Gaga, was disappointing! I was really looking forward to this performance too. I felt she was putting on the bare minimum show. It looked like she was just going through the motions compared to her back up dancers/singers. I also felt the same way about Elvis. Again, bare minimum going through the motions. I have seen Legends in Las Vegas and that Elvis was incredible!!! So overall a bit disappointing with the Legends concert.
We stopped by Howl at the Moon a few nights and it was a lot of fun. Early in the night it's a bit slow because people are shy to request songs but after the requests roll in the show really takes off. They have a very talented group of people for this show. At one point someone from the audience went on stage to perform, he works at a Howl at the Moon from Minneapolis. It was amazing how he just fit right in with the other piano player and they were just going to town on their song. It was really fun to watch.
One night we went to the Epic Karaoke Battle: Crew vs. Guest. A lot of their crew members can sing! The ones who were picked are not entertainers on the ship to make it fair. The best was the costume manger for the Blue Man Group, she was beyond amazing! Some of the guests were really good too. The best part was the battle top prize; it was between the Blue Man Group girl and a male guest. They each had to pick a folded piece of paper with a song written on it. He picked Cindy Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It was hilarious.
We missed out on the Newly Wed game because our Blue Man Group reservation was at the same time. Oops!
Overall I loved the ship. There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all! There really is something for everyone on the ship. I am indifferent to the casino issue; it is a bit of a pain to walk though to get to everything on deck 6. It can get very crowded in the casino which makes navigating around difficult. It was a bit smoky at times, but it just reminded me of Vegas. Actually the whole casino set up reminds me of Vegas, if you have ever stayed at Mandalay Bay or the Venetian you know what it's like to have to walk though the casino to get to your room or anywhere else you need to get to. Again, NCL was enforcing their new smoking policy. I saw a woman smoking near the railing that looks down at Taste and she was immediately asked to move by a staff person. I don't know if it's the Epic's design, but I thought the ship moved a lot compared to the Sky. We never hit rough seas, but did have a few windy days.
We went bowling at O'Sheehan's one afternoon while we were at sea. Bowling is a challenge on a rocking ship! I did terrible but it was a lot of fun! I highly recommend going!
One night we went to the Ice Bar. There is old information on the boards that you make Ice Bar reservations at Le Bistro which is no longer true. There is a little reservation stand outside of the Ice Bar now. We had a lot of fun in the Ice Bar. I don't know how long you're supposed to stay in there because no one ever told us to leave. I think we ended up staying 25 minutes because it started getting crowded again. It is amazing how many people they stuff in there! I didn't find it to be that cold, the Dailies said it's -17 but it didn't feel like it. I guess because there are no winds it doesn't feel like the middle of winter. The drinks were good and strong but pretty small.
On Friday afternoon they held meet the Men behind the Blue Man Group. It was well attended but still plenty of empty seats. It was neat to sit down and listen to the guys talk about their backgrounds and how they got involved in Blue Man. They open up the floor for the audience to ask questions. Be prepared for some really dumb questions. If people had listened to what the guys had said earlier in the show, they would have had the answer to their question. Overall it was still pretty fun to go to.
The slides are so much fun! There are very long lines during sea days but if you go on port days it is almost empty. The pools are also very crowded during sea days along with the pool deck. The chair hogs are out EARLY!!! So if you want a chair be prepared to get up early to get one. I think we were outside on sea day 2 at 8:00 and we were lucky to get two good chairs in the shade. We watched as all the reserved chairs went unoccupied for hours. Only once did we see the pool staff enforce leaving your lounge chair unattended for an hour. We saw the staff member walk by with some towels, a book and a hat. It would be nice if NCL enforced the chair hog policy better.
I found everyone to be super friendly and eager to help out. We had great service at all the restaurants except Wasabi. I found the service to be very slow there and I feel the waiters pretty much ignored everyone there. We and another patron had to flag someone down to get our bill. Our room steward Emerson was wonderful. After the first night he remembered our names, always put chocolate on our pillows at night, and made some really fun towel animals. On the first night we asked him to empty the mini bar, which he did, and without being asked, he filled our fridge up with the bottled water we had in the room. Also, on the first day I was sitting on the balcony when the next person over came out on their balcony and started smoking a cigar. I hate smoking and I really hate cigar smoke. Thanks to Cruise Critic, I knew NCL had just put into action their new smoking policy that prohibits cigar smoking on balconies. I went to Guest Services to let them know what happened. By the time I was back to my room, the situation was being handled. Someone from NCL was at their cabin and confirmed there was a cigar left on the balcony. I later received a phone call from Guest Services to let me know everything was taken care of. The woman had said there is a fine if you smoke a cigar on the balcony. I thought it was just a fine if you smoke in your room? Either way, situation fixed! Thank you NCL!
We signed up for Bernard's Group Tour. We were lucky enough to have one couple from our Meet and Greet on Tour with us (Harold and Joanne). We almost got on the 8:30 am tour but there were too many people so we had to wait for the next van to arrive, which took over a half an hour. Overall the tour was okay. First stop was to see the iguana's which appear to be behind someone's house. It was a bit on the creepy side if you ask me. Next stop was to a little beach/water area where a guy will pick up sea urchins out of the sea for you to hold. I opted to go up a tall lookout structure to take pictures of the area. We loaded back up in the van to Orient Beach. The beach was extremely crowded! If you walk further down the beach you'll find good deals on beach chairs and umbrellas. I rented a nice cushioned chair with an umbrella for $5 which included free use of the bathroom. The bathroom was small (good luck changing clothes in there if you need to) but super clean. There was no sink in the bathroom and the one outside did not work. Be sure to bring some hand sanitizer with you!!! The water was beautiful and I did manage to get a few good pictures of the area. We did see topless nudity so if you're worried about that, do not go to this beach. We saw the sign for the half of the beach that is for full nudity. Unfortunately for my eyes, some fully nude people wandered off towards the not fully nude spot and saw some sights I really didn't need to see!!! Again, if you have problems with nudity this is not the place for you. I have no problem if people want to walk around in their birthday suit; it just isn't a pretty sight! After an hour and a half we were off to Marigot to do a little shopping. We spent about a half hour in Marigot, just enough time to visit the spice lady and hit up the French bakery. The bakery was amazing, full of fresh pastries and other really yummy looking goodies. After that it was time to go to Maho to watch the planes land! We spent an hour at Maho which really isn't long enough. The beach is beautiful along with the water. It's crowded but there are plenty of places to sit and watch the planes land. We saw the KLM 747 take off, and a few big planes land. I love that the pilots wave to everyone at the beach! The jet blast is incredible to watch the sand and people go flying into the water. It was time to hop on the van again and return to the ship.
I would not do this Tour again and I'm not too sure if I would really recommend it. Our van was filled with a group of 9 (it would have been cheaper for them to do a private tour) and they were nothing but annoying. I feel half the tour was spent making sure they had enough beer and rum punch to drink before we left for the next destination. Before we would leave each stop Phillip (aka Lumber), our driver, would make sure everyone had the drinks they wanted. It was nice that he had water, pop, and other drinks, but it really slowed down the tour. At one point the woman who started the whole let's start drinking rum punch as soon as the van door closes at 9 am was so drunk she was walking sideways and the driver had to help her from the market in Marigot to the van! We also did not get to stop and take pictures at Cayhill overlooking Simpson Bay marina or Great Bay overlooking Phillipsburg and harbor. We just drove by as he pointed them out. They would have made for some amazing pictures. If you would love nothing more than to drink the entire day away, this is the tour for you! I really wish we would have just taken the $2 but to Maho and watched the planes land all day.
We meet up with another couple (Katie and Matt) from our Meet and Greet to spend the day at Sapphire Beach. I printed off instructions on how to take the local $2 bus to Sapphire Beach. The directions that I found here on Cruise Critic were not very clear and we walked too far and missed the exit. We asked a local for directions to the Kmart which is where the bus is supposed to pick people up. We made it to one bus stop but the driver said he didn't go to Sapphire so we were back on the hunt to find the $2 bus. After wasting an hour we gave up and took an open air taxi. It was $10 per person each direction. If you can get a regular taxi, take it! The open air ones feel like you're going to fly out of it at any second! The roads are like a roller coaster! Sapphire Beach is beautiful! Gorgeous white sand and clear blue water. I rented a lounge chair for $7. There is no need for an umbrella because there are plenty of trees to sit under. I read my book while everyone else went off to snorkel. My husband said the best snorkeling is to the left if you're facing the water. The water is also very calm, very small waves which are perfect for kids. I roamed around and took pictures of the beach and palm trees. I was very entertained by the little ducks that live on the beach. They are very curious, or just not afraid of people, and like to check out people's shoes and towels. They don't make any noise so that was a plus!! We stayed at the beach for a few hours before taking a taxi back to the boat. We ended up doing a little bit of shopping at the shops right outside where the boat docks. I was on the hunt for an orange watch but couldn't find one that wasn't insanely expensive. We did end up buying some shot glasses, an ornament, and some alcohol. We also picked up a 6 pack of ice cold Coca-cola, it really hit the spot! My husband and I spent the afternoon on our balcony watching all the drunken idiots come stumbling back to the ship from Senior Frogs. The boat left port late because several people had not made their way back to the ship. It was 4:15 when the last two girls showed up. There were loaded with shopping bags and just leisurely walking back to the ship. Finally a golf cart went to pick them up because they were being too slow. The girls were lucky I didn't run the boat; I would have left them and the other late people behind!
We didn't plan anything in Nassau. We wanted to do Atlantis but it was all sold out and I had read they close early in the winter (around 5) because the sunsets early. We got off the ship to do some shopping but came back empty handed. I have been looking for a specific blue diamond ring but no store had what I was looking for. I don't remember the jewelry we stopped in but the guy was super nice and right away said all their blue diamonds were heat treated to become blue. I thought it was nice of them to be honest up front, but anyone that knows anything about blue diamond's will know at the prices they are selling blue diamonds, they are certainly heat treated. With 5 ships in port it was beyond crowded so we headed back to the ship after an hour. Nassau is a great day to spend your time at the pool. My husband and I rode the water slides for the afternoon. There was no wait for the orange toilet bowl slide!
We opted for self debarkation and walked off the ship around 8:30. We used the exit that was mid ship through the casino. We managed to score an empty elevator and there was almost no line to get off the boat. If you need to call your transportation to let them know you're about to go into customs do it before you leave the boat. Once you get off the ship they won't let you stop to tie a shoe let alone make a phone call. I got separated from my husband while getting off the boat and he stepped to the side in the terminal to wait for me and one of the workers about had a fit. I don't know if they are real customs people up there right when you get off the boat, whoever they are, they are nasty and rude. Also, I saw one of them texting! It's okay that they can text on the job, but we can't pull off to the side to make a quick call? We were on the escalator and again, got separated because the guy controlling the flow of people getting onto the escalator made me pause until my husband was halfway down. He waited for me, meanwhile there was no one in front of me on the escalator, and the woman told him to keep moving, he said he was waiting for me, and she said you can't crowd in front of the escalator, keep moving. There was no one coming off the escalator! We finally made it to the actual customs line and were out of there in a few minutes. The guy we had was really nice, where was he when we got off the boat?