I cruised on the Epic before when she was only a few months old but this time I was with another senior lady and not my DH.
We arrived at the port around 12:45 and headed for the latitude line. We were on board in less than 10 minutes. We were going to leave our carry-on luggage in the Headliners bar but then they told us that our cabins would be ready very shortly so we headed down to deck 9 to find out. We were in a mini-suite # 9081 and the hallway doors were closed because they were still working in the cabins. Just as we were going to leave they opened the doors and told us that our cabin was ready so we were able to drop off our luggage (and take some pictures) before heading up to the buffet for something to eat.
Naturally the buffet was very crowded and it took some time before we got a seat and then found something to eat to tide us over until dinner.
Our muster station was in the Epic theater and that exercise took over 30 minutes.
We were going to have our dinner in the MDR but discovered that for some reason it was totally booked up for the whole evening which seemed very strange. But we managed quite well with the buffet.
The first two days were sea days so we were able to explore the ship and get some sun. One of the main pools was closed for some reason and the other pool was mainly for the kids. With quite a big sea on the water in the pools was sloshing around a lot and the parents had to keep a very close eye on their children since they were often swept off the pool ledge and into the deeper water.
FOOD - We ate a lot of our meals in the buffet and the food was both plentiful and hot. We also ate one night at Moderno and that was an excellent meal (love the cheese biscuits). We had one meal (supper) in the main dining room and it was good but nothing special. They served the baked potato with sour cream without even asking if that was our preference. The replacement came as I was finishing my meal.
We had fish and chips at O'sheehans and didn't like the fish at all. The fish was cod and I found the batter to have too much pepper.
Breakfast at O'Sheehans was much better and a quieter option than the buffet.
We had dinner one night as part of the Cirque Dinner theater and it was OK but there was a set menu and you had to take what they offered which was not to my taste. You also did not get tea/coffee with desert.
Breakfast at the Taste MDR was excellent and we ate there twice including the day we disembarked.
Overall the food was just fine and there was plenty of it all over the ship.
ENTERTAINMENT - We took advantage of a lot of the various venues. Howl at the Moon was a dueling piano set-up with the guys playing songs that were requested by the audience. Not the greatest voices but lots of enthusiasm and it was better when a drummer joined them.
Legends in Concert was very good and had Steve Tyler, Katy Perry and Elvis with great lighting and dancers.
Cirque Dinner Theater was not worth the money since we chose the "standard" seating at $29.99 a person. You were sitting in a booth at the back and could not see the upper portion of the stage area or the lower portion. The performers and show were very good but I wouldn't pay $39.99 for the better seats considering that the meal was not very good (Jumbo shrimp, small steak and a double baked pototo).
Blue Man Group - I have seen them twice before and I still think they are amazing. No description does them justice.
Bowling and shuffleboard - Lots of fun and well set up
Lots of other things going on - Wii in the atrium on the big screen, bingo, casino, movies at Spice H2o at night.
Excursions - We stopped at St. Maartin, St. Thomas and Nassau but planned our own excursions except in St. Thomas. With a total of FIVE cruise ships in port we just walked off the ship and went shopping.
We booked day passes at the other two islands but one was cancelled due to a fatal car accident that closed the road. Then in Nassau we were hit with heavy rain showers so we returned to the ship early to dry out.
Cabin - The cabin was very nice with an amazing amount of storage (3 closets) and lots of drawers and cabinets. I was disappointed to discover our mini-suite did NOT have a bathtub but only an extra large shower enclosure. My first cruise cabin had a bathtub.
SERVICE - This was a problem for us. We had an invisible room steward who we never met during the entire cruise. We did not have bathrobes in our room when we arrived and even after requesting them did not get them until the next day. A request for a feather pillow took several calls and over 6 hours before having it delivered. Then the steward took our dirty beach towels and never left clean ones. Another full day of phone requests and no action. Needless to say the invisible steward got an invisible tip.
The room was kept clean but it was not thorough with dust on the mirrored closet and the cabinets over the bed. The sink could have used a proper scrubbing since it appeared to have a yellow film on it.
The service around the rest of the ship was very good.
The casino did not have as much cigarette smoke as it did the first time I was on it so they have worked on that problem.
The internet seemed a bit faster than it used to be.
I found that the ship is beginning to show its age. The beds were not as comfortable and the mattress seemed a lot harder (which is expected after four years of usage). The loungers at the pool were showing areas of wear and fraying and the overall appearance of the furniture, etc was not as crisp and sparkling as it once was.
Disembarkation - Our flight home was not until 1:30 so we chose to stay on the ship until 10 AM when we just walked off, picked up our luggage and caught a cab to the airport.
But we both had a wonderful time and I am certainly going to keep going back to NCL because the freestyle idea is just what we want on our vacation.