We arrived at Miami around 10:45 a.m. Embarkation was one of the nicest we have had. They took our photos at the counter which saved another line and you can board the ship from 2 locations to make it easier for the over 4000 guests. They started boarding approx. 11:30 a.m. and we were in the 2nd group. We were some of the first to have lunch at O'Sheehans and enjoyed our lunch. Then off to see our cabin.
Cabin - We arrived at our cabin and had a wonderful surprise of fresh flowers and champagne we received from very good friends. What a nice way to start off a cruise! We liked our cabin for the most part. It was much smaller than what we were accustomed to in a balcony and the layout was a bit strange with the wavy walls and split bathroom. The closet was by the bed and drawers were by the balcony. Our cabin had the bed by the balcony and this configuration is much more preferred. Our travelling companions next door had the bed by the bathroom and hated it as they kept running into each other. There was plenty of storage all around the room and we kept finding more and more storage space as the week went on. Our cabin steward was adequate and provided what we asked for if anything was needed, but wasn't exceptional. I thought the decor was nice - I loved the wood look throughout the ship. The shower was spacious for a cruise ship, but toilet area was a bit un-private. We loved the 32" flat screen TV - largest we have ever had on a ship and we enjoyed many free movies in our cabin, although there could be a little more movie selection. Also loved the coffee maker in our cabin. Warning - back of Deck 9 cabins do not have cover! This can be good and bad, but we prefer our balcony to be covered to protect us from the rain and from people throwing things off the ship. Our balcony got "presents" each day of ping pong balls, cigarette butts, and disgarded drinks.
Dining - We hadn't sailed NCL in several years and we decided to try the 3-dining package at 3 specialty restaurants. Our first night was lobster night in the Taste (free) dining room. We had a wait to get in (our travelling companions did not like waiting), but NCL provided free champagne for our wait (a nice perk). Lobster was wonderful, steak was good, and service was a bit slow. We also tried Cagney's which was very good, Le Bistro where we received the best service on board, and La Cuccina where our travelling companions thought the food was overcooked. We found the dining on board to be "hit or miss." The buffet was pretty good overall, but the food and service in the dining rooms was either very good or poor. We learned later that several of the staff were new and many staff had already left to go to the new NCL ship. We enjoyed the Manhattan room 2 nights, but service and food was spotty there. I really liked the atmosphere in the Manhattan room with live entertainment and a supper club atmosphere. Breakfast room service was very good and we felt that the croissants and muffins were great, however, fruit was under-ripe. Overall, we had some very good meals and some were just OK.
Ports - This cruise went to St. Martin, St. Thomas, and Nassau - we had been to all the ports before and enjoyed re-visiting them again. I want to add that Epic has 2 areas to board the ship making the lines shorter. NCL also has tents up in port with towels and shade to rest if needed. When we were in port in Nassau, we looked at the Carnival ship and the very long lines to get back on board and I smiled (we've been in those long, hot lines - UGH).
Entertainment - We went to Blue Man Group which was great, Legends in Concert (again great), and Second City (OK). We found entertainment on board to be a highlight of the ship. However, we booked these shows in advance which kind of took away from the "Freestyle Cruising" concept as we had schedules to follow with the specialty dining and shows! The casino is the largest we have seen on a ship. It was huge! The Epic is definitely a floating "Las Vegas."
Disembarkation - They actually called our tag color 20 minutes before the time on the sheet! I'm thankful we were ready to go! We were off the ship in 20 minutes - VERY FAST! WOW! Way to go NCL! I think it was the easiest disembarkation ever!
Overall - We enjoyed our cruise very much. We got a great chance to relax and experience the NCL Epic Difference in cabins, entertainment, crowd handling, and dining. We heard several complaints that some people preferred better laid-out cabins and more personal service/set dining times of other cruiselines. I think it all depends what your expectations are and how flexible you are. Epic is definitely a different cruise experience in comparison to RCCL, Carnival, Princess, etc. - we enjoyed the change of pace and not having to get dressed up formal for once...it saved on my dry cleaning bill! ;-)