My husband and I just got back from a Caribbean Cruise on the Norwegian Epic from April 6-13, 2013 and as this was our first cruise and we didn't know what to expect I wanted to write a review to help out others in the same boat (no pun intended ?).
We flew into Miami the day before boarded the ship and stayed in South Beach at the Wyndham Garden South Beach. If customer service is important to you, I would say do not stay in South Beach at all. The concierge at the hotel acted like she didn't want to be there and was rude when checking in. In the restaurants and shops we went in again people just acted like your presence was a huge inconvenience. On the streets and beaches you're asked for money almost every block. They ask you where you're from and then say they used to live there or nearby. We're from Calgary, Alberta and one man apparently couldn't remember the city he lived in that was north of Calgary. We said Manitoba and he said "Yes, beautiful city!"
Major money grabs on the ship:
The casino is huge and unnecessary. If you're not a gambler it's almost impossible to get away from it and you're allowed to smoke in the casino (which is inside) so the air quality is really bad.
Beverages: I saw on a review online that they had liquor packages but when we got on the ship and inquired we were told not on that cruise. There was a wine package and a soda package ($50 per person). We bought the soda package but it was a waste of money and the bars are the only place you can get the soda (costs extra to order with room service). The buffets have iced tea (unsweetened cold tea for fellow Canadians), fruit juices, coffee and tea and we used that more than the pop. If you drink high balls they cost around $5-8 each plus the automatic 15% gratuity.
If you want to go to the Cirque Dreams and Dinner show (which was really good) try to get seats on the balcony.. Our "premium seats" were useless when all the action was in the air and we couldn't see it.
Shopping on the ship was ok. I suggest waiting till near the end of the trip because different things go on sale. Service charge is $12/day/person, which I understand why, is for crew members that don't get tips. Excursions are way overpriced!
Except for the buffet (your same old buffet food that was good but nothing spectacular) the food was pretty good! We paid the cover charge (no charge for the meals) and went to Shanghai's (Chinese), Lu Cucina (Italian) and Moderno Chub-something (Brazilian BBQ). The Brazilian BBQ was amazing! Unless you're vegetarian --do not fill up on the salad bar because for the main course they bring around all kinds of meat with a couple of sides -- so good!
Our steward was really nice and helpful but other than that customer service on the ship was just ok.
The pools deck was so overcrowded we didn't spend any time there or even in the tiny pools.
We thought in general the ship and rooms were very nice, except that the bed is hard and very uncomfortable. The ship was really big and with a capacity of 4000 people it's too crowded, busy and loud. I don't know if we would ever go on a cruise again, especially one this big. We spent a lot of time on our balcony or in our room which was kind of sad.