My husband and I just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Norwegian Epic. We have only cruised one time before, which was 10 years ago. That cruise was more like a Chevy Chase vacation, so it took us a full decade to try it again. We are so glad that we did. We had a wonderful experience on the Epic. I will probably make this review long, since so many people have had negative reviews on here. I want to make sure you get to hear all good things Epic has to offer. When we first pulled up to it, we were shocked at it's size. The ship is extremely impressive looking. It makes most other ships look small by comparison.
Lets start with day 1 and all the Pros: The entry onto the ship was so painless, it is hard to describe. We came on a shuttle from a hotel we stayed at the night before. From the time we pulled up in the shuttle, until the time we were on the ship was no more than 20 minutes. We arrived at the port around noon and we were in our stateroom by 12:45pm. They have this process down to a science.
We stayed in a Spa balcony cabin on Deck 14. Included in this room was access to the spa area where there are plunge pools, waterfalls, heated tile loungers, a private balcony with cushioned loungers overlooking the ocean, female and male locker rooms that each had a steam shower and sauna, there is also a co-ed steam shower in the main area as well as 2 fantastic sauna's both overlooking the ocean. This was an absolutely fantastic addition to the vacation. It turns out that the Epic is the largest Spa at sea. We did also get a couples massage, which is a little pricey at $158.00 per person, but I have to say, it was a great massage. Our stateroom was great. Yes they are a bit small, but your on a ship...how much space do you want them to take up in a space your not in very much?? There is a ton of storage..2 big closets, 3 large drawers, a large oval 3 shelved cupboard where the safe is, a medicine cabinet over the sink and a draw under the sink. There is even a slide out hamper under the sink for your used towels. We had 2 checked bags, 2 carry on bags, and 2 personal item bags that all fit under the bed. I did read on a review that there are not enough hangers, so I packed some, which I was glad I did. Jennifer, our cabin attendant was fantastic. There is a fridge with different mini bottles of alcohol, soda, water and coffee creamer. I left her a note and asked for extra coffee creamer and she made sure I always had that for the remainder of the trip. We NEVER had to ask for towels, washclothes, coffee, or anything. She was wonderful. The layout of the cabin, we thought, was good. When you enter the room, to the right is the shower, to the left is the toilet area. They are both cornered and have a curved glass (not clear at all, you can NOT see through the glass) doors. Right in front of the shower is the sink. There is a curtain that can pull that will completely close off the entire shower/toilet area from the rest of the room. Then there is a small sitting area (a couch that would be a bed if there was a 3rd person in the room). Then the bed area, then the balcony. We had no issues with space and found the bed to be extremely comfortable. The balcony has 2 chairs and a small table on it. There is a coffee pot in the room as well as a full sized hair dryer. Our room came with the shampoo/conditioner and lotions that are used in the spa. I brought my own and never used it. I loved the ones they provided. The fitness center is like nothing we have ever seen on a vacation. We belong to LA fitness where we live. They have the same equipment here. And it is HUGE!!!!!
The recreational areas:
There are 2 pools, 5 hot tubs and 3 waterslides on the main pool deck. There were as many adults (if not more) than the kids on the slides, they were alot of fun. On H2O deck there is a tiny adults only pool with 2 hot tubs. We didn't use this deck at all. We never had an issue getting a chair at the main pool deck, and there were days that we didn't get there until after 10am. The drink servers were attentive on the pool deck.
There are 2 three lane bowling alleys on the ship. We did bowl one time. There is a fee of $5.00 (make sure you have socks on, or they won't let you bowl). It was funny trying to bowl on something that is moving. :)
We went to Blue Man Group. We have seen their show 2 other times, very similar to what we have seen, but we always enjoy them. We find them hysterical. We also went to second city, which was also good. Unfortunately, we waited too long to reserve Legends in Concert, so we were unable to see them, but according to other people on the ship, the Michael Jackson impersonator was fantastic. A guy told us he hated Michael Jackson, but LOVED his performance. There are other fun events happening. They do a "deal or no deal" game in the atrium on a huge screen that was alot of fun. Many other things as well. You won't be bored.
We enjoyed the food. The breakfast buffet will please the pickiest person at breakfast. We ate at the Manhattan room, Taste and O'SHeehans (all included). We made reservations at LaCucina and Cagney's prior to the cruise. Both were great. We did not use the room service and did not order pizza, so can't comment on this.
Shore Excursions: we did the Sea Trek Helmet dive in St. Maarten. This is by far the coolest thing we have ever done. We have snorkeled many many times before, but this is completely different. It is like walking along the bottom of a 20 foot deep aquarium. The guides on this tour were top notch. Before our trip we purchaed the Go Pro Hero Silver camera. The pictures and video from this excursion are absolutely fantastic. The one guide saw that I had this camera and he spent so much time pointing things out for me that I almost felt like I had a one on one tour with him. Nice bonus to a great day. We did a power snorkle at Turtle Cove in St. Thomas. This was also awesome. The sea turtles were awesome. We did have a snorkeling excursion booked in Nassau, but the winds were too high and this was cancelled. Getting off and back on the ship in the ports was as easy as the Port in Miami.
Now for the Cons: Unfortunately, I do have a con to add to what was a very enjoyable week. The wait staff in the restaurants looked absoluetly miserable and just didn't have the service level that we thought such a wonderful ship should have. The waiter in cagneys was fantastic. Other than that, it really was nothing to get excited about. Gratuities are charged at the end of the cruise at a rate of $12.00 per person per day which is split up among most of the staff. The staff that is not included in this are the child care workers and the bar staff. (but all drinks had a 15% gratuity added to the bill). So other than the waiter in Cagneys, we did not add gratuity to any wait staff. Jennifer, our cabin attendant was so great that we gave her a $5.oo tip each morning and left her $20.00 on the day we left. She was definately a great bonus to have with us for the week. It's unfortunate that this con has to be here. We have been traveling all over the Caribbean at all-inclusives and the service staff at all of the resorts have blown away the wait staff here.
In conclusion: We were prepared for some unpleasant experiences during the cruise and really didn't have any (other than the wait staff). I think you get out of a vacation what you put into it. If you are a negative minded person, you will complain anywhere you go. Nothing is perfect. If you are looking for perfect, stay home. I feel my husband and I have high standards on vacations and were were very pleased with our choice to cruise on the Epic. We left this week with only one regret...that we were unable to stay longer. Epic is a beautiful ship, the weather was perfect, the ease of getting on and off the ship was awesome, our cabin was perfect for us and the stops along the way were great. We will definately travel with NCL again.