This was our second time on the Epic, the last time 18 months ago, standards have certainly dropped in certain areas, the main one being cleanliness! on more than 3 occasions we seen plates and glasses left on deck all day, rooms service plates left outside cabins in the corridors and the public toilets were very untidy all the time. This would never happen on Royal Caribbean as cleaning is top of their priority list. Some staff never seemed happy at their work, even officers! many walked past with not even a smile or a good morning, not a major problem but it is so much nicer to have friendly staff.
We were a party of 9 travelling together, who all opted to take advantage of the All inclusive drinks package mainly as there were so many of us we thought it would be easier and fairer where buying drinks were concerned. BE WARE!!!! it is advertised as $49 per person per day with 15% gratuities to be added, there is also 10% tax, so in fact it is $49 plus 25% totalling $61.25pppd totalling $428.75 per person. Now for the unbelievable part! each person is only allowed 1 drink at a time, each person must order and pay for their own drink, so for our party of nine you can imagine the length of time it took to order and pay for drinks, so much for NCL going green! we must have used 3 trees in the amount of paper work. Note to NCL go send your staff to be trained with MSC they also use the AI package, with them when you order your drinks, everyone shows their card to him that states you have paid for the AI, 1 bill for all the drinks. This was very much an inconvenience to everyone, us and the staff who also found this tedious but had no control over this as this is how they were told they had to do it. It meant at the shows you could not order another drink to have while the show was on, as the bar closed while the performance took place and we were not allowed to order more than 1 drink at a time!!!!!!!!!!so if fact if you take the drinks package you are penalised.
Entertainment is generally good with the exception of Rhonda in Howl at the Moon who along with the duelling pianos were excellent, all entertainment is very repetitive, give us a little more variety. The FABBA night was very good at H20 (weather permitting.
We mainly ate in Taste Restaurant, as this was the more informal of the two main dining rooms, both serve the same menu, we also ate in Moderno for $20 per person PLUS 10% TAX, nice for a treat, the Garden Cafe was fine with something for all tastes.
Remember everything on the ship that you buy has TAX still to be added to the price even in the gift shops.
On the whole we did enjoy the cruise and the 3 people in our company who were new to cruising I think have been converted. The only thing that would make me book with NCL again is their freestyle dining, for us this is excellent as you do not know what time you want to dine at each evening, even for our party of 9 we didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes each evening on a table. NCL may hope the Royal Caribbean do not adopt this freestyle dining option as they will then win hands down for future cruises.