I am a solo traveller based in London, England. I booked this cruise through an internet agency inclusive of flights and transfers from London. Due to connecting flights my luggage got lost , this was a stressful start especially due to the fact that the ship was leaving the next day ! I got to SOFITEL MIAMI late night ( without my luggage) so went straight to bed , instructions for the cruise were given to me at reception , staff were great and very friendly and helpful.
The hotel room itself was showing signs of age , though clean and tidy and perfectly functional. The common areas were much nicer such as the lobby and the poolside. To be honest for such a short stay it didn't really matter. The free hotel shuttle to airport came in handy as I needed to go back to the airport and find my luggage the next day. I was not able to use the NCL transfer from hotel to Port , but the NCL staff at hotel arranged for me to take their shuttle from the Airport instead which was really helpful.
NCL Epic is a truly massive ship , the third largest at the moment I believe. Looks really impressive from a distance on approaching the Port of Miami. Check in was a little slow and the lines were fairly long , all in all I don't think it took more than 45 mins or so. Once checked in , the cruise terminal was fairly organised and peaceful. It was strange entering the ship straight into the casino area, this does not do the ship justice , it would be far better to enter the ship on a more aesthetic looking floor , the casino is dark and not as impressive an entry as could be. The sail away from Miami is really picturesque as you sail out of the port alongside the McArthur Causeway. I did note however that the sailaways and arrivals were not celebrated as much on NCL as other cruise lines, perhaps because the outer decks are rather ' inner- centric'. You cannot walk around the entire top deck on the Epic as it is segmented at either end with higher decks .
The solo/studio cabin was such a pleasant surpise , it was full of clever storage spaces and was very funky and modern in every way. Every space had been made use of , in fact there was more storage space than needed. The mood lighting was different and clever, there were ample power sockets and a seperate toilet and shower cubicle, and the cabin was spotless. Everthing had been thought of -- even a cover on the bed to protect the bed from luggage whilst unpacking. The studio lounge was great, what a brilliant place to meet other solos and plan stuff together.
There is a dedicated solo coordinater who holds a meeting every evening and can help out with tables for diner etc , though admittedly for me the group dinners were way too early at 6pm , I don't know why the solos were able to dine together at this time only-- there were other large groups travelling who were seated easily at other times. NCL needs to look into this. Perhaps our solo coordinator needed to free herself up for other duties as they do multi task a lot ,but we would have appreciated her just making the booking on our behalf as we didn't need a chaperone as such. Due to this early dinner time I hardly ever ate with any of my solo companions.
The technology side of things was impressive, the iConcierge app is really handy as you can view your account and the activities, restaurants etc all on your smartphone, you can even talk to other passengers on their smartphones at no cost. You can make reservations etc via this too as you can on the smart touch screens all over the ship.
Dining was fine , I didn't try the speciality restaurants as there was so much choice available otherwise. Taste and Manhattan have the same menu but both venues are nice. The garden cafe is also nice and handy for when you cannot be bothered for a proper sit down restaurant meal. Plenty of choice buffet style , plus outside buffet on almost constantly by the pool. The Irish Bar had good food too and was one of the complimentary venues.
I did not use any of the Port or Shore Excursions , neither did I take part in activities.We tried bowling one day but were told that there was a wait to even get on the wait list! Due to Spring Break the ship was very crowded with children on Deck 15 , and it was hard to find a spot to relax in peace. There were some quieter areas higher up but seemed a bit of a hassle. I would never book a cruise in the school holidays again. The Spa seemed astronomically expensive , I didn't use it at all.
The itinerary was good with a balance of sea and port days. Disembarkation was organised and fast and the arrangements for post cruise excursions were convenient, especially the baggage storage facility that is provided for those flying later in the day.
All in all the vacation was great , I made good friends and enjoyed my cruise very much. I will definitely cruise NCL again and recommend them and already bought two further ' cruise rewards ' on board to use for two more cruises!