We just came back from our 1 week trip with the Epic from Dec 7th to Dec 14th. We were on the Norwegian Pearl in Dec 2011 which was a great trip and we were hooked on Cruising so we had high expectation for the Norwegian Epic. On the Epic, we stayed in the Mini Suite and had a balcony on Deck 12, which gave me excellent opportunities to take many great photos of the Ports. Unfortunately this ship did not live up to the standards the Norwegian Pearl had set...
The Ship: The ship capacity is 4500 passengers, it is designed to maximize the carrying capacity and maximum balcony options on the ship, the ship is boxy in design. When we were docking on the 3 ports that were visited, I saw some other ships which were longer in length and or bigger in size from other cruise lines (Royal carribbean and Disney) but had less passenger capacity, then I noticed that these ships had lower decks where you can walks around the ship and enjoy your views where the Epic did not except on deck 15 where the pool and buffet is located (which all other ships had as well). One thing I really missed from the Norwegian Pearl was being able to walk around the lower decks and enjoying the views with my family, unfortunately this was not an option on the Epic... You can forget about doing this on Deck 15 as there is not much walking room for a leisurely stroll with all the hustle and bustle of people sunbathing/eating or having a drink, it was always busy.
Swimming/Sunbath is located on Deck 15, they have a shallow splash area for small children, 2 small pools which is not really long enough for swimming and a few hot tubs as well as 4 shower stalls outside. The highlight of the pool area is the large water slide which gives you a great ride with a great view while your sliding down. One annoying part of this deck is that sometimes you can smell sewage near the back near the engine exhaust pipes area, I noticed this many times so I can conclude this is an ongoing issue. One other note about the sewage smell, my father who was staying in a Studio room had a sewing smell coming from the vent in his washroom, he couldn't sleep the first night because of the smell. The next day, he taped it up during the night and it helped.
Food/dining options: Garden Café: this is where the buffet is located the area is open for breakfast lunch and dinner, there are 4 corners with basically the same food. The food is a hit and a miss, there is variety but not really much quality, I have worked in the restaurant business before and from the way the food was prepared, the staff were probably poorly trained or plain lazy. The food was similar to the Norwegian Pearl, but on the Pearl, the food tasted better. The staff seems disengaged, and slow moving, or they usually just stand there, you can see that most of them are not happy to be there especially the wait staff, on the Norwegian Pearl, almost every staff member had a big smile and were enthusiastic about doing their job and making your stay enjoyable. I noticed on the Epic, for the most part, the staff usually just stand around, sometimes chit chatting with each other, slow to clear the tables, then all of the sudden I see an increase in their movement when a senior staff passes by (usually in the white uniforms) then they slow down again when the coast is clear. The tables are usually not very clean because they do such a poor job of wiping the tables. I did notice staff members who offered exceptional service but those were few and far in between...
the Manhatten room: We ate there twice for Dinner, the first time was on the first night aboard the ship, it took us about an hour to get a table(they told us half hour wait), then it took more than an hour to get the main course meal, by then my children fell asleep at the table and my wife had to take them back to the room to sleep. Our waiter did apologize for the wait, I guess it was quite hectic the first day, the food was tasty. We ate at the Manhatten room the second night, the wait was shorter, only about half an hour to get our table and another hour for the main course. they put us in the left side of the dining area, there was a strong mildew smell, I don't remember much about the food because it ruined my appetite, suffice to say that was the last time we went to dine there.
Taste: We went there twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. for lunch, our waiter didn't really speak English well and got one of the appetizers wrong but immediately got it corrected and it came out quickly. For dinner, we went early so there was no wait time and we got our food out quickly as well. The staff was professional and courteous.
Teppenyaki: The chef was funny and engaging, the portions were generous, but the taste was lacking. The staff was fast and efficient.
le Bistro: We made reservations for 8:30, so there was no wait for the table, the wait for the food was long, about an hour. The staff were busy, I see them moving around constantly doing something. The bread was cold, the food we ordered were cooked perfectly. One note about the bread, I did notice all bread got during all the dinners were always cold, on the Pearl, it was always warm or hot when we it came out.
Cirque Dreams Dinner: There's no option for food, everybody got the same meal. we didn't get an option for how the filet mignon would be cooked, most of ours came out well done. The show was great and a must see, it makes up for the mediocre dinner.
The Casino is located on the 6th floor, elevators on the aft of the ship only goes to the 6th floor and missing the 5th floor and the stairs are blocked off from the 6th floor to the 5th floor, to get to most the dining rooms, theatre, bars etc, you would have to pass by the casino. In the middle of the ship, the 6th floor opens up to the 5th and 7th floor, there are stairs from 6th to 7th and escalators from 5th to 6th, all conveniently bringing you to the casino on the 6th floor. I think the ship is designed this way to maximize the number of people gambling, If you have a gambling issue, this ship is not for you as you will pass by the casino or hear it on the 5th, 6th and 7th floor. I have 2 young children and I had to think of many detours that would not take me across or near the casino (the smoking being my biggest concern), suffice to say, after analyzing the many options, the ship is designed to take you through the casino or at least near it on many of your dining/shopping/drinking options.
Housekeeping: Our Steward for housekeeping was very clean and efficient and always did a good job with our messy rooms, with 3 and 1 year old, the room was always a mess, we got our rooms cleaned 3-4 times a day. We had many valuables lying around and nothing was ever missing, our safe was also unlocked at one point and we had about $3k in cash and it was all there when we came back. We had also tipped our steward a few times as well for doing such an excellent job.
Safe: We noticed that our safe did become unlocked twice during our trip and our combination reset, once was after a power outage, the second time was in the morning so we don't know if there was a power outage, nothing was missing but it's doesn't give me much trust in those safes.
I would give our stay a 6 out of 10, whereas our previous stay with the Pearl I would give a 9.
Suffice to say we will not going to be going back to the Epic.