There were 4 of us traveling. Good friends celebrating one couples retirement! We've cruised together before and were very excited about spending so much time on board the ship crossing the Atlantic.
We flew into Miami a couple of days early staying with points at the Marriott Complex near the airport. We decided to take an all day tour of Miami and the Everglades the day after we arrived. I planned and bought tickets online for the full day tour. We were very happy with the tour driver and company.
Saturday morning we took a large taxi to the airport, about $30 included tip. We arrived at the port of Miami around 11:10am. We dropped our bags with porters to be delivered to our room, making sure to tip a few bucks. We had one carry on each we took through security. Security was quick, no lines, my friend's Dr Pepper bottle was found and she had to drink it up or toss it out. She drank it up. I bought 2 bottles of wine in Miami and was directed to the desk to pay the $15 each to bring them on board. The charge was put on my on board account. Simple, quick, easy.
There were no lines at the check in and many people behind the desks waiting to help us. We were quickly checked in and proceeded to the waiting area upstairs. We couldn't believe how quick and easy the entire process was. When we got to the waiting area, we were handed a card that said group 18. I thought it might take a while, but no, once they started boarding, (around 11:45) the numbers were called very quickly. We were on board before we knew it, heading first to make our Chef's Table dinner reservations! Fortunately, they were having two Chef's Table dinners on the crossing. When we got to the desk to make the reservation, the first dinner only had 3 seats left. I told the woman taking reservations, we'd take the second dinner. She was unaware there was a second dinner. I had to show it to her in our Freestyle Daily we received when we checked in. With a few phone calls it was straightened out in the computer and we were set for the second Chef's Table dinner.
I noticed a very long line at reception. I found out it was guests wanting to upgrade their rooms. We were happy with our BE balcony on the 10th deck, we were next door to each other and had no interesting in any kind of upgrade. Since the ship was about 70% full, there were many extra cabins. I believe the solos were sold out, they are very popular.
Our next stop was to the SPA where we received a tour and 2 of us bought the spa passes for the crossing. $199 per person. The cost was high, but we were in there every day except the day we were in Madeira. I liked the female sauna with floor to ceiling windows that look out at the sea and the heated tile loungers! Just heavenly. We were sure to go to the huge gym daily to work off some of the food we consumed on this cruise, then we'd go to the spa. Again, I'm thankful the ship wasn't full, as there were occasionally waits for the treadmills and bikes.
We decided to have lunch in Taste. What a beautiful restaurant. The food was wonderful, one of us had the steak and fries, two of us had the salmon/crab sandwich with the most delicious sweet potato chips I've ever tasted. Another of us had the cobb salad. We all had starters as well, I think calamari. Ice tea was the drink of choice, as it was still early for cocktails.
Our rooms were ready after lunch. We were excited to see the rooms and get settled in. I was looking forward to seeing our friend's room, as we ordered it to be decorated for their retirement!!! They had no idea. When we walked into their room, there was confetti, balloons, streamers, and a big congratulations banner! The look on their faces was priceless! There was also a cake and a bottle of wine.
We didn't have to wait long for the suitcases to be delivered. After putting away some of our clothes, we decided to go up on deck for sail away and drinks. The weather was warm and humid, a bucket of beers was the order of the hour, and quickly another one. We went to Spice H2O for sail away. It was beautiful sailing out of Miami. I've sailed out of there 4 times and enjoyed this one the best. Perhaps it was because we took the tour of Miami, South Beach, etc, and I recognized some of the buildings as we were leaving.
There was a storm brewing and before we knew it, warm rain poured down on us as Miami disappeared. We met some friends at sail away, a couple from California. (we're also from California), the six of us had dinner together that first night in the Manhattan Room. There was a band playing and some super dancers spinning each other around on the dance floor. Impressive dancing, really! The food was surf and turf. The lobster tail was delicious, the steak, small and well done. We all asked for medium rare, but the waiter told me they were already precooked???? The salad was good and the pie was good, could have done without the small well done steak and had another lobster tail. I knew I wasn't going to starve on this cruise, so I didn't order anything else.
The first night's entertainment for us was Howl at the Moon, the casino, and Fat Cat's Jazz club with Johnny Love and his band. Not sure what time we got to bed........
The BE balcony cabin, deck 10 was beautiful, with lots of storage and a nice sized balcony! The sink at the foot of the bed was small and not a good idea! It splashed over all the time. You could sit on the bed and brush your teeth. Our friend's bed was by the balcony, it seemed to be a better set up. The bed was small and rounded on the corners. My husband is 6'2 and this bed was WAY too small. His feet hung over about a foot! We pulled it out from the wall to try and make it longer, but then we could barely get by.
We very much enjoyed all of the entertainment on this ship. The Blue Man Group, The Cirque Dreams Dinner, The Legends in Concert (we were lucky enough to have 2 different Legends groups), re:Voiced, the Second City, Howl at the Moon, Charlie Love, the musicians playing throughout the ship, especially the piano player DJ Daniel at Shakers, and Guitar with Jim Capik at Maltings. We visited many of these venues more than once. A highlight was the ICE BAR! What fun we had!
The staff, couldn't be better! Helpful, smiling, saying hello! Favorite staff members for us, were our cheerful cabin steward, Rolly, who kept our cabin very clean, TWICE a day. Loved his towel animals, they always made me smile. Lorilai is the BEST mixologist/martini maker ever. A real gem in Shakers. "Ice Bar Man", we saw him all over the ship, selling the Ice Bar. Of course he didn't need to sell it to us, as we had a visit to the Ice Bar on the top of our list. Big smiles from the "washy washy girls" greeting us at the buffet.
Food, was very good! Many meals outstanding! Especially the Chef's Table, number one!
Le Bistro, always good! Moderno, excellent Brazilian food. Spiegel Tent, great show, ok food. Manhattan Room good, Taste, good, and the biggest surprise of all ...... the Garden Cafe Buffet! We were shocked at the outstanding food at the buffet on the Epic.
Our favorite watering hole was Shakers Martini Bar. Perhaps because of the mixologist, Lorilai.
Our friends enjoyed the casino, I'm not sure it was very generous to them, but they had fun.
The weather left much to be desired. We had 2 days of very rough seas where the Capt had to alter the course of the ship to protect the lifeboats! Gale force winds with 30 foot swells. Lots of rocking and rolling. No water in the spa pools on 3 days. Amazingly, none of us felt the slightest sea sick. We don't take pills or have wrist bands to protect from this, the ship swayed from side to side rather than up and down. Not sure if that makes a difference?
Three of us didn't use the pools or slides, however one did. He seemed to enjoy it. Especially the slide with the inner tube. We were able to enjoy sun on the balcony maybe 4 days. Otherwise it was cool and lots of salt spray. Outside daytime temps around 55F-62F most of the trip. Temps inside the Epic, very nice, no sweater needed.
Disembarkation....we walked off with our bags and took a taxi directly to the airport. No wait to get off at 7:30am, (we were in Barcelona at 5am), no trouble getting a taxi, fare 30 euros to BCN.
This was a wonderful trip with good friends, on a great ship with a top notch crew! It helped that the ship was not full. I'm not sure my experience would be the same if we had 2,000 more people on board!!!