Our sailing was mostly satisfactory. There were some shining moments, and some disappointments. The Epic is a beautiful ship. The clean and sparkly decor enchants, and the rich textures invite. Embarkation through the smoky smelling Casino is a little less than magical. I definitely missed the promenade deck. We loved the split bathroom, very practical. The rich wood tones of our balcony stateroom felt chic and cozy.
On boarding, we immediately headed toward Le Bistro, to book the Chef's Table. We were lucky and pleased to find that they offer this on 2 nights. This was lucky for us, because the first night was already filled, despite our mad dash to book. We did get in on the second night. We were disappointed that the mixed drink package was not offered on our sailing. In the end it worked out better for us money wise, and not as well for Norwegian. We found the wine package limiting, as they require that you pick the wines immediately. We were not sure what we would be ordering to eat at each meal during the cruise in advance, to pair with the wine, so we passed on the package. This also worked out better for us, and not as well for Norwegian.
Lobster night was the first night of sailing, in the main dining room. This was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We found a very nice French wine on the menu, which turned into a favorite with most of our meals. Glad we didn't lock ourselves into the wine package, after finding this. We were offered a dining package prior to sailing , which we booked. The venues were limited to Le Bistro, La Cucina, and Cagneys. We dined at Le Bistro the second night. Wonderful as usual, and the service top notch. We tried La Cucina a couple of nights later. My Road King ordered the minestrone, and although the presentation was impressive, the soup was cold. He also didn't care for the lasagna. The lobster in my pasta was rubbery, and tasted like it was left over from our first night of sailing. The dinner at Cagneys was mostly amazing, although the service was slow, and my seafood stuffed mushroom appetizer was cold. Overall, we should have passed on the dinner package. It was only a few dollars less than booking individually. If we hadn't been locked into those 3 restaurants, we would have booked the Churasscaria in favor of La Cucina. Don't bother with the Sushi bar, the sushi, the edamame, and the service were just plain bad. The entertainment in the blues club was great, we had a wonderful time there.
The Chef's table was stunning. A meticulously prepared 9 course meal, the chef was a wonderful tour guide through the amazing menu. Also, this was our first meal with more cruisers from our sailing. It really made us realize that we missed traditional dining, and exchanging stories and experiences with others on the ship.
The Ice Bar was fun, a nice diversion on a Sea Day, and great Kodak moments. Don't stress if there's a long line, there are many other times when there's no line at all. Mostly we wondered why we bothered booking any of the shows or venues in advance , because we still had to stand in long lines to enter every show that we had booked. The Road King LOVED the Blue Man Group. A couple of days later we went to a behind the scenes Blue Man Group Q & A, and that was a highlight for us as well. I was disappointed that the Blue Man show, conflicted with the Newlywed Show. We had to miss out on that. The Newlywed Show is a cruise favorite, and tradition with me. The Second City Murder Mystery Show is a must see, so funny. It's hard to find the magician's show, and the show is late. Which was weird , because it is very geared to family entertainment, and uses young audience members.
And on that note, this is a fantastic ship for families. There is a teensy area on the aft of the ship, which should be adults only. Really, you folks with kids, a full 3/4ths of the pool area is kid friendly. Please refrain from setting them up in the tiny adults only area. Your kids are not all that different from all of the others. Is this the fault of the parents or the NCL staff for not enforcing? Don't know, don't care.
The NCL staff. Not so great. We were consistently disappointed with room service and housekeeping. We had to get our own coffee cups, and towels, and remind room service about our orders, which caused delays in our plans, and made the Road King grumpy. It was often hard to find service in the lounges. Room Service would muscle you out of the way in the Lido buffet to fill their room service orders. The photographers are not professional, and we purchased no pictures. We found no assistance in the computer lounge when we were trying to confirm our flight home.
We booked the America's Cup Regatta excursion in St Maarten. This is a fantastic experience and I would HIGHLY recommend it. The Road King bought me a gorgeous diamond pendant in St Thomas. The deal wasn't much better than we could get at home. But the selection was vast, and it's a much more enjoyable shopping experience for him, sitting in the "Husband Chair" and having a cold beer. Advice, bring a jeweler's loupe with you, and be sure to bargain.
And now for you Harley riders. Here is the conclusive guide to the Harley stores on this sailing. In St Maarten, the Harley shop is way across the island. Google the addresses for the shops in St Maarten and St Thomas in advance and bring them with you. We caught a cab in St Maarten. The cab driver was super friendly, and gave us something of a personal tour, pointing out the highlights along the way. The ride was $15 each way, but we paid $20 each way, and he waited for us outside the store. He even went across the street and got us some bottled water from the convenience store. It doesn't look like many cabs go by the area where the shop is located, so I think we were smart to ask him to wait. The merch in St Maarten is pricey, but I picked up one of my favorite shirts there. In St Thomas there's a Harley shop just at the end of the main drag off of the pier. They have a good selection and some good deals. But there's another shop, a short walk up the boardwalk to Charlotte Amalie, a scenic and easy 30 minute stroll. That shop's right off of the main street by the water. They have mostly the same merch as the store by the pier, and better deals. In Nassau, the Harley shop is right off of the pier. Very limited selection and kinda pricey.
Overall, we were hoping for a 4 star NCL experience, we paid a 4 star price. We feel like this was a 3.5 star for us.