Took my family of four ( two girls ages 18 and 19) on a seven day cruise, leaving from Marseilles. The Epic is certainly a beautiful and impressive ship...but I digress.
Arrived at the Marseilles airport after a week in Paris. Just a twenty minute taxi ride to the port, and the ride was only about 42 Euro - not the 240 dollars that the cruise line would charge us for a transfer. It was very easy to board the ship, and the staff there was excellent.
We found the rooms on the ship to be a bit larger than we expected, beautifully appointed, and very comfortable. The bathroom/sink/shower arrangement is different than on other ships, but was quite logical and easy to use. All four of us found that making our way on the ship from point A to point B was sometimes a chore, and that there were long, narrow corridors to navigate everywhere we went. Quite a long walk to the fitness center, spa, and other areas. It was also interesting to note that, despite the open area surrounding the casino and decks five, six and seven, the ship seemed to lack the openness of the R.C. Allure of the Seas and others. The open areas continually smelled from cigarette smoke, due to being contiguous with the caisno - an aspect of the ship that was quite negative.
During our cruise we ate in the two dining rooms as well as the Garden Cafe. The opinion of my family was that the food was, at best, mediocre. Main dishes were usually dry and overcooked ( steak and chicken). The food in the Garden Cafe was ok, no better, and getting a seat at breakfast time was an impossible task. The ship is packed with staterooms up to the fourteenth floor, and the crowds can be somewhat maddening. Four Thousand guests is a bit too much. The staff in the restaurants was courteous and friendly. We did eat one evening in the Italian restaurant, and the food was superb. I find it a bit upsetting to know that, after I have paid for a cruise, I would have to spend another sixty to 120 dollars per dinner to get fine food - better than the dining room - when the food on Celebrity and R.C. was really much better.
The entertainment on the ship was truly fantastic. The best show at sea that my family has ever seen was the Cirque production - truly great. The dinner there was mediocre, but the show was great. The same goes for the dueling piano bar - really great. We missed our reservation for the Blue Man Group twice due to one of my daughters getting sick, but heard that it was excellent as well. There was a marvelous guitarist sitting each night by one of the bars, and the jazz club was very fine.
The idea of people embarking and disembarking at all ports along the way is interesting. We thought that it detracted from getting to know other passengers and sharing the cruise with them. It definitely has a different feel than when everyone gets on and off the ship at the same time. My daughters met some other college-aged girls to hang out with, but since they got on after us, and we left before them, it left very little time for them to spend together.
While we did not use the spa, it looked excellent. The gym was top notch, and we used it on four separate occasions. On our day at sea the decks were swamped with people, and upon returning from our port days the decks were crowded and the music loud and sometimes objectionable. It is a very crowded ship.
The ports are all wonderful places to tour. While we did the bike ride in Mallorca ( which was great), we did not use the other of the ship's tours - they were prohibitively expensive - really quite ridiculous. When we went to the tour desk to try and get information about the ports they were not at all helpful. The staff knew nothing, and would only try to sell us NCL tours. Went to Capri on a ferry and saw the grottos and Annacapri - fun. Toured Barcelona on our own by first taking a taxi to the Parc Guell, then to the Sagrada Familia, and then toured the old Gothic district - skip Las Ramblas, it is truly a waste of time. The ship's transfers to Rome and Florence were superior to what some others did on their own - the buses took us directly there, while other passengers we spoke with had issues with travel on the Italian trains. We toured on our own in both cities, which are incredible places, of course. You can arrange tickets to the various museums in advance so that you just go to the will-call window at the museum to start your tours. Remember not to wear shorts if you want to tour the churches.
In all, we had a very fine cruise. I will say, though, that we will most likely not use Norwegian in the future. The ship's objectives seem to be to have the passengers use the cover charge restaurants, buy the NCL tours, and push liquor - all high margin items. This ship in particular had very average to poor food,was too crowded, and too smokey.