Nor. Epic is a large ship but except for the pool deck (deck 15) and buffet, you don't know it's got so many people. We were a family of 4 (two teens) in adjoining balcony staterooms. Deck 15 was packed as were the small pools and water play areas. Found a quiet spot all the way forward on Deck 16. A Med cruise, there were lots of non-US citizens. Passenger manners were few and far between - seemed to be a lot of pushing and shoving. One woman pushed a stroller into an elevator with about 10 people without hesitation.
CHECKIN: Was a little crazy as we waited in line for 45 minutes before getting to the counter. I have no idea what was taking place watching some of the animated conversations at the counter. We checked in, the agent checked out our passports, took our pictures, and gave us IDs. Maybe people were trying to upgrade? One family was at the counter for almost 30 minutes.
FOOD: Free style is great. If you want to avoid the crowds in the buffet (I recommend More
avoiding) hit the Manhattan Room. Pants and collars required, but many are not inclined so the clientel is nicer, better behaved. Seems like more senior wait staff is here, too. Go before 7:30 as the post-show crowd forms a queue. They had couples doing cabaret each night from 7 to about 7:40 as well. We always dined before 7 and never waited. Taste restaurant is also sit down, but no dress requirements so a little more rowdier. You can get an alcohol plan for $49 per day. A beer/wine drinker, that was about 9 drinks a day to break even. I don't recommend it.
EXCURSIONS: Per the user name, we generally avoid the ship excursions as they are 3 to 4 times what you can do on your own. If you are mobile, a little adventurous, and can plan, most of the excursions are not needed. FOr Western Med in August, plan on 95 plus degrees. Naples was about 100 degrees F, Rome 95 F. Below are the key ports.
NAPOLI: This is the only port where you can walk off the ship into the city. We negotiated with a cab driver at the gate for the DAY! Drove to Ruvello (nice quiet mountain top town), Amalfi Cooast, Amalfi, Sorrento (lunch) and Pompei ruins. Don't try to drive the Amalfi coast. With other cars, buses, cliffs, scooters, bikes and beach goers - its like a sick video game. Trust a veteran driver. Our cab driver stopped for an hour each in Ruvello, Amalfi, and Sorrento (1.5 hrs) with a few stops at scenic overlooks for pictures. Then 2 hours in Pompeii. Probably not enough in Pompeii but enough for a flavor. If you can swing it, I recommend a driver. A similar excursion would have been about $1400 for a family of 4.
ROME (CIVITEVECCHIA): There's a free shuttle to the port gate, then a 10 minute walk to the train. 10eurs gets you round trip to Rome. We bought Vatican tickets on line before the cruise, then took the train, walked, took cabs in Rome to the sights. Rome Termini station is by the coloseum, San Pietro station is by the Vatican. Rome in summer is like Washington DC on steriods. Be prepared for crowds. Your coloseum ticket is good for the coloseum AND the forum, so skip the forum ticket line. Trains back are every 30 minutes and you may have to stand for part of the ride as it fills with commuters.
FLORENCE (LIVORNO): We planned on negotiating a cab, but it was too high; Or doing the train on our own; however, Avis and Hertz had kiosks set up by the ship. We rented a car (90euro) and full insurance (40euro) for the day with GPS. They even gave us an automatic. Drove to Florence (100km) and parked and walked. Again, we bought Uffizi and Academia tickets on line before the cruise. As entrance is timed, the Uffizzi queue was for the NEXT DAY! Just plan your time for ample time to walk. Academia to the Porto Vecchia is about 20 minutes, with Uffizi and Duomo in between. Didn't go in the Duomo as the line was too long - just looked from the outside. Plenty of restaurants for lunch. If you have time before the cruise, then see "Medici, Godfathers of the Rennaissaise", available on Netflix. All you need to know about the early history of Florence and the sites. We took a different route back through Tuscany and the village of San Gimignano, a little walled town with no room for vehicles. I recommend it. Obey the speed limit, they have cameras. A comparable excursion was about $1600 for 4.
MARSEILLES and MALLORCA: We took excursions to Aux en Provence and Soller. Not really any way to see much else in these ports.
CONS: $12 per person in some ports for a shuttle from the ship if you are on your own. Factor that into your comparison for excursions. There is a 10% gratuity added to all food/alcohol purchases. With the $12 per day per passenger gratuity and 10% add on, I think no one tips. We tipped our steward daily and added a gratuity when buying wine at dinner. Servers at dinner were VERY grateful. No onboard passenger laundry. There is laundry available for a fee, but pricey. If you are US citizen, figure out the tipping in Europe. We were turned down several time at meals. Go figure.
ENTERTAINMENT: Blue Man Group always fun. Also saw Meastranza Spanish Ballet. Nice, tight group. A good performance. Sign up early as seats fill up.
NOTES: The open cabin was not an issue. Toilet and shower compartments are well frosted, with a curtain across the area if needed. Sink outside the area is odd as it can be messy. Garden Cafe (buffett) food was good - lots of variety - but crazy at times with running children, pushy passengers, etc.
13157/13159 adjoining: Under the kids rec center but not an issue. Never heard anything. Probably a plus, but we were midway between fore and aft stairs/elevators, probably limiting the walking traffic.