First off, thank u to the reviewers that said a good attitude is the best thing to bring on the trip. I remembered this often. I traveled with my wife and another couple, both in our late 30s. We booked a flight to arrive at noon on the day of the cruise. I agree that if u have the time get there a day in advance but we did not have enough vacation time. I have read everything on this site about the epic, so my first hint is to take a taxi to the port, it is a 24 dollar flat fee, pretty cheap for the 4 of us.
We got to the terminal at 1 pm and was at our room by130.
For us we loved our room. 8024, is the last balcony room that u can look straight down and see water not a lifeboat. The room was not to far from the stairs/elevators. The location worked for us because we could take one flight of stairs to get to the main areas of decks 7-5. We only had to take an elevator to deck 15, getting on and off the ship is deck 4. Another reason I loved this room is that the balcony has no roof. The last sea day we laid out on our balcony and did not fight people for chairs. Noise from bliss was not a problem, the room is actually over the never used bowling alley. We left the balcony room open a little each night and fell asleep to the ocean. We had our refrigerator emptied. We liked the bathroom setup. Rather than having wasted space across from a big bathroom they split the length and put it across from each other. BY far the biggest shower I have had on a boat, I am 6'3 and did not have to lean down for a shower, also could dry myself in there. The balcony was good size, laid a towel out and grabbed a pillow, could lay out both ways. One negative the tv function and selection stunk. But who is there to watch tv.
We saw all the main entertainment. Cirque Dreams is a must. I've been to Vegas and have seen 4 other Cirque shows. This is unique, you are literally right next to the performers. One hint, for the 5:45 show get in line by 4:45. Buy the preferred seating. Sit right next to the center, and with an aisle leading to a curtain or door. The doors open by 5:05-10. By the way, the steak was very good. For the blue man group, get there by 9 for the 10 show, open at 9:15, you want to be in the third or fourth row to get he full effect (see facial expressions). I liked the late night, 11, second city performance, don't go if u get offended, more sketches and less improve. Legends was not as good, I have seen Vegas version two times, and this stunk in comparison. Michael Jackson is worth going for, but u must tolerate whoopi and a unmotivated jimmy buffet. Short show. The magician is a hoot, sarcastic comedy with some good magic. We stopped for 2 different nights of howl at the moon. They did not seem very charismatic. So we left. Jazz club has some cool couch areas that we enjoyed. The singer put out a lot of energy. We loved dancing under the stars, they have a neat red carpet type dance on Tuesday night, where they interview you and have pictures etc. The white hot party was fun. The entertainment was well above expected on a cruise ship. You had between 4or 5 options for each night. You can make reservations in advance (would recommend for Monday and Tuesday). Instead of doing the normal planned ship entertainment, we got to choose what fit us. We went to the ice bar, loved the Caribbean Dreams drink. We left 5 degree weather so 17 degrees for a bar was not bad. Unique experience, great photo.
After reading a lot on this and tripadvisor, decided to do our own thing at each port. St. Marteen, we went on the water taxi 7 dollars for the day. Walk towards the hard rock and you can get two chairs, an umbrella and 5 beers for 25, the beach and water was fine. When you get bored, all of the main shopping Is around there. Alcohol was cheaper here than the ship or the other two ports, example patron silver was 31 here and 36 to 43 everywhere else. St Thomas we grabbed a taxi to Megan's Bay. If u get there before 9 you will beat the crowd. We got there at 9 and there were two other groups. By noon, the beach is fairly full, but still enjoyable, awesome beach, just enough waves. Renting chairs is 12 dollars with 5returned when you bring the chair back. A slice of pizza (good) and a soda was 7dollars. Don't take the ship transportation, we beat them there by almost two hours. I am not a big fan of the stop in Nassau. Getting there at noon almost rules out the best beaches. Blue lagoon is awesome, but the last ferry back is at 4pm and they charge 60dollars. We went to the straw market, it is right next to senior frogs. There are at least 150 vendors all selling the same stuff, they expect bargaining, but these are the people that need your money. Went to senior frogs, expensive drinks, party atmosphere, fun for a drink.
Lobster night is the first night. I asked or two tails and they gave it to me. You really do not need to pay for special food. I am from the Midwest where we eat meat for snack and I enjoyed their rib eye that they had on their daily menu. The left side on the menu changes daily but the right side stays the same. We ate at the cirque show, moderno, teppaynki, and Le bistro. Moderno was ok, but had horrible desserts, the service and atmosphere was good. We did not have a very good cook at teppaynki. Hated the appetizers and dessert. Come with a good attitude and it will be fun, can get it for half price at lunch. Le Bistro is a must, ate there the last night. Great appetizers, scallions to die for. Excellent steak. Fantastic desserts. Not to miss, but the only one (besides cirque) I would pay for. Items I recommend, brownie sundae at o sheahans, strawberry cheesecake at main dining room, skewers at lunch in buffet, and French toast at buffet or o sheahans. Drinks, they do not offer a two for one at malting s anymore, they said it caused too many problems. We decided not to buy a soda card. There are two machines, one in the fitness center and one in the arcade, you can buy 16oz sodas for two dollars, no gratuity. Also they have bottled water and Gatorade. We bought some and put it in our fridge.
We really enjoyed the staff. Are there some unfriendly staff, yes. The vast majority are there to please you. We talked at length to our waitress in moderno, who has worked with ncl for 7 years. The cruise ships go and recruit these workers from other countries and they know what they are signing up for. 7 days a week, 10 hour days, cramped living conditions, 9 month contracts. They value the couple of hours they get to leave the boat on port days. They try their best to have their A personality each day. If I had to deal with some of these "cruise critics" everyday, I would go insane in two months.
Yes there is a long line if you are in a hurry, but it moves fairly fast. We carried our own bags, you are supposed to be out of your room by 830. We rolled our bags to o sheahans and had breakfast.
We loved the cruise. Entertainment was an A, I liked our room, food is good. The bad, chair hogs, small pools, kids taking up all the hot tubs.