Just got back from a week on the Epic and although we had a good time I don't think we would choose the Epic (or NCL) again.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad and it does what it says on the tin but having been on about 20 cruises now on all sorts of sizes of ships this was the biggest yet and not really our scene.
We splashed out a bit on an aft facing suite as it was our 25th anniversary and we had left our daughter behind. Glad we did because we got all the privileges a suite on the Epic brings - most notably access to the whole Haven area of the ship which really was a haven as the rest of the ship was absolutely rammed. We did feel very privileged to be able to go up to the Haven sun deck whenever we chose and take our pick of the very comfy sunbeds up there. Not such lucky people clearly had to stake their utility beds before breakfast if they were going to get a space, it was so crowded. We also had access to an exclusive restaurant and bar - again both calm and spacious compared to the heaving crowds in the rest of the ship. Was it worth the extra for a suite? Yes, but only because it looked like a bit of a grim experience outside the suite privileges. Probably our age - if you like lots of noise and crowds then it wouldn't be a problem.
All in all we had a nice holiday - good weather, nice rest, well looked after and well rested. We only did one excursion - to Avignon and Aix en Provence which was well worth it - both lovely places to visit and see a bit of Provence. At all other ports I managed to visit Zara (yes, Europe tour of Zara, could be a whole new cruise experience for sad shoppers) and bought some nice bits - if you thought they had the same stock and prices across the Med, think again! Also at all other ports we had a wander round, nicely rounded off with the local tipple and a bit of people watching, part of life's pleasures if you ask me.
What was good about the cruise - service from most staff excellent. Exception was our 'butler' and I use the term loosely! Never had a butler before and we are not the most demanding of people but he was conspicuous by his absence. By the end of day two we phoned the butler hotline to ask him if he could show us how to work the coffee machine which took capsules. We're not stupid but there were no instructions whatsoever. When he turned up he told us it was our fault as we had pressed the 'help' button on the machine and only he could press that as he had the programming key. Doh! - fancy us not realising that? His solution to the blue lights which were on all night above the bed was to put some sticky tape over the top of them. He blithely promised to get the sensor in the loo fixed and to descale the coffee machine (kept giving message it needed descaling) but nothing happened to either. In the end we got used to the strobe light effect of the light in the loo going out every time you sat down. I found if I leaned slightly to the right and waved my hand in the air it would come on momentarily - top tip for any prospective suite guests going forward! To be fair our butler did leave a plate of something everyday in the suite - chocs, canapés etc but we never saw him again, presumably he is still looking for that descaler...
Anyway, I digress, back to the good points. great view from aft cabin, loved watching the sail in and away from port, Haven areas all lovely, great to have an exclusive restaurant with lovely food (fresh berries every morning for breakfast and always a seat by the window). Only thing about this restaurant is that it is the same menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day with the odd special. However nice the menu is, nice to have a bit of variety. Teppanyaki was great fun and the food was delicious - well worth the extra cover charge. Shows we saw (Blue Man, Legends) of good quality (Blue Man a bit weird and overlong as someone else said). Ship very efficient at port - always very quick embarkation and disembarkation.
Downsides - too big and very, very crowded, all the bars seemed full every evening. We like a modest bet at the roulette table but minimum bet of $10 a time meant we didn't bother; most its been on all the ships we've been on. I found the entertainment limiting. Although the shows were definitely a cut above many we have seen elsewhere the same choices were available every night so didn't find much choice.
Drinks; now to be fair we didn't find drinks as expensive as some we could name (Yes, you Royal Caribbean and Celebrity). A decent bottle of wine was about $30 so that was reasonable for a Malbec or similar but of course not only have you got the ubiquitous gratuity on top what you have to remember if you do a round trip from Barcelona is that you are charged Spanish VAT on top of that as well so it soon racks up. We actually took 6 bottles of wine on board with us and elected to pay the $15 corkage each as then we could choose some decent wine and have a glass in the cabin or even up in the bar. Bit tight not giving ANY leeway on bringing wine on board without charge but we took the hit and it was worth doing.
Now for cabin design - I know there have been lots of comments about style over practicality before and I would have to agree. Our cabin looked fantastic with a circular bed but if you pulled out the side table on the bed on the left side you had to climb over the table to get to the bathroom behind the bed. the lack of privacy didn't bother us but the on/ off lighting I have mentioned drove us to distraction. Nicely appointed bathroom though, lovely bath and shower, nice cosmetics, etc.
Well , think that's enough moaning. Last gripe was that just before we went away they reduced the 2 bedroom haven suites to less than we had paid for ours. I asked if I could swap - didn't want a refund of the difference or anything and it wouldn't have been difficult but was told if I wanted to swap I would have to cancel the whole holiday (and all the payment) and make a fresh booking. Not exactly a very constructive suggestion and one which means on balance don't think we will be going NCL again. I would rather not have a suite but go on Celebrity, Cunard or similar where the ships felt spacious and not quite so tacky. I guess its a demographic thing - if you are into white hot discos and similar you will probably love it. Afraid we are getting like our parent, OMG.