First comment to the last reviewer - danfitz, I am SO glad to hear you are ok! I was on your sailing and the night of the airlift, I could tell something was amiss due as at about 10p or so at night there were a ton of lights in the distance and a glow that only comes from a large city. Without even checking the navigation channel, I knew we were close to Puerto Rico, but thought that we diverted due to rough seas. when I went to bed not too long after, I thought I was dreaming when I heard the faint sounds of a helicopter. It was not until the following morning at Bingo did I hear the unfortunate events for you and the other traveler. Just on behalf of myself and other travelers--I heard no rude or selfish comments just a lot of people commenting that they hoped that both travelers were ok.
Now on to my review :)
I am extremely greatful for this sight and reading so many of the previous reviews. I am not sure if NCL has made some recent changes or what but many of the more recent reviews have been quite positive and I am SO relieved that we had a similar experience!
We have only been on two previous cruises both on Carnival. I booked the Epic on a whim last April and discovered this site a few months later and I was very excited but VERY nervous due to so many negative reviews. Huge relief that we had a blast and loved the ship.
WOW super easy! We arrived at the port around 1115am. Within 5 minutes we were through security and no more than 15 minutes after that completely checked in and in the waiting area. We were group 10 and they just called group 1 to board when we walked in so thought we were in for quite a wait. To my relief and that of my husband and kids (9 and 7) it probably took only 15-20 minutes--just long enough to read through the first day's Freestyle Daily and get a peek at all that was going on.
I will agree with the other reviews I was a little let down over the lack of WOW factor walking in to the ship. I am limited on experience but I can say that the wow I have had on both Carnival ships with their grand atriums really helps built the excitement of what else is in store. Fortunately impressions from here on out improved for the most part! Like gullable fools we took the advise of the check in agent who said check out deck 15 for the Garden Cafe! The food honestly was very good and really exceeded my expectations but it was a little chaotic being lunch time but we found a great window seat so all worked out in the end. While enjoying lunch, they announced that the rooms were ready, it was maybe all of 1245p! We left to check out our room and while there, the luggage was delivered! Way to go NCL!!
The rooms yes small, we had a family balcony and it was smaller than the small that I had imagined. With the pull down 4th bunk it felt even smaller. Balcony was my favorite place for the whole cruise--I found myself waking up at 5-6a just to sit outside and watch the ocean and I am not a morning person at all! But back to the room, very nicely decorated, absolutely no issues with the bathroom set up and no water issues with either the sink or shower. I was very worried about the shower during the last sea day as it was rough sailing but no issues. And storage--tons and tons of storage, way more than what we needed but was great! I really loved the towel bin under the sink--so much better than a pile on the floor like at a hotel!
Rest of the ship--great! Very clean and the opportunities and list of things to do is really endless. If you are bored or say that there is not enough variety I don't know what would please you because there is something for everyone. The pool deck was busy but I never had an issue for a lounge chair. Spice H2O looked great but I never got to use it as the kids did not want to hang out in the kids club because there was so much else going on.
Casino, yes even on the first day when walking through it did have a slight stale smoke odor but it wasn't obnoxious. It was odd that I noticed it more on that first day before we set sail when no one could use the casino than any other day on the ship when the casino was packed and yes it was constantly busy. So they clearly have made improvements on the smoke issues. I did see many areas of the casino were marked non-smoking and the same for the pool decks I only saw one small smoking area and that was it. Rest of the ship was smoke free.
Main decks 5-7 were great, sometimes hard to tell where one restaurant/bar ended and the other began as they were one right after another but all were very nice. Martini tasting was one of my favorites and the best deal of the week for only $15 for 4 martinis!
Dining - only specialty item we did was the Second City Mystery lunch which was entertaining even for all ages. The main course was pretty good, the desert not so much, was a creme filled eclair which tasted like the frozen kind you can by at Sam's Club and thaw on your counter. We other wise at at all the included options, the Garden Cafe was really very good and huge, huge variety. Taste - very good as well and the service was great. We dined early before Blue Man and was quick service for all courses. O'Sheehans was my least favorite. Everything we ordered came out a little too fast as in there is no way they made fresh hot wings and artichoke dip in less than 5 minutes. Same with the fish and chips...we hadn't even finished the super fast appetizers and it was out. Can't obviously complain about the service though!
Entertainment - Blue Man Group was awesome! LOVED every minute! Legends we should have skipped, I hope they really fix this show or they better replace it with something else it was that bad! Michael Jackson was the best part and on this sailing one of only 2 parts! The other "Legends" were Jimmy Buffett and Whoopi Goldberg who was terrible and I'm sorry Legends is suppose to be a music review and she does not qualify as a Legend in that category! Show time start to finish was 45 minutes with the majority going to Michael! I did not make it to the Cirque dinner show and am bummed about it now. We had it booked for standard seats for the last day. We had the mystery lunch the day prior and when we sat in the standard booth seats and saw the view I didn't seem worth it and pretty obstructed and the premium was sold out. My advice--pay the premium if you want to see the show.
Ports - loved both St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Did our own excursions in both, a 4hr snorkel trip on St. Maarten through Captain Alan's and found a taxi and did a island tour of St. Thomas. I originally really wanted to go to a beach on St. Thomas but did not apply sunscreen frequently enough on St. Maarten and well was more red than a lobster so sun was not an option. Nassau - due to the earlier mentioned medical emergencies we did arrive about 1hr late into port. The captain and crew did the best they could and made up as much time as they could to minimize the delay. We went to the Atlantis but on our own and purchased tickets at the casino which worked out great. Yes we didn't have a ton of time to enjoy but made the best of it. It was already the shortest port visit on the itinerary so it is not like that hour really made a huge difference.
I am not a repeat traveler I like to try something or some place new every time I travel, but I would not hesitate to sail Epic again! I am so glad I tried NCL and loved it, I am very, very tempted to book either the Getaway or Breakaway for our next spring vacation as both look incredible.