Norwegian Epic Review - unfortunately, not "epic" in a positive perspective
This was my 3rd cruise with NCL and unfortunately, it will be my last. My other two cruises with NCL were aboard the Sky and my experience with them was pleasant. I've cruised with Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean so I'm not a total 'noob' when it comes to cruising. I felt obliged to share my thoughts on this particular ship so that others could avoid my mistake. Here goes:
Ship - poorly designed layout that appeared to have been crafted ages ago and is not modern to today's technology. Top deck has only one floor where you can access front to back of the ship and vice versa. Additional deck floor is simply for tanning chairs resulting in heavy traffic on the pool deck. Most ships have outside access via other decks for a nice evening stroll but not this one. Jogging track is not even in a oval or round shape instead is a simple straight line. Sports Complex is difficult to access because elevator does not go to this floor and can only be accessed via Spice H2O area (back of the ship) Return trip was extremely rocky causing a number of our group members to be sick. I had to purchase sea sickness medication and I'm normally fine on cruises. Going into the pool on this night was the only highlight because the water was swaying around with strong current and tossed us around so it was fun lol Following morning they closed off the pool for safety reasons and this was a sea day! Ping pong was good when the balls were available. Kid-size chess was neat. Arcade at the rear was fun but pricey at $1-$2 per game. Stuffed animal claw game is worth it if you are good at it. A member of our group won 7 or more lol Key Master game (located at the casino) is addictive but extremely difficult. $1 per try. Bowling is $5 per person per game and includes shoes. Rock climbing is available however a member of our group got the run-around when the 1st staff member directed him to another person and then they asked him to come back at 2pm when the wall was clearly available.
Pools - are a joke! Two tiny pools in the centre of the ship and one tiny one at the rear (Spice H20 and is restricted to adults only until 22:00) 6 hot tubs in total, 4 in centre, and 2 in the rear) Kids water play area is okay but seems like a waste of space as most of it is just plain statues because the water sprayers no longer function. Slides are fun but expect long lines during peak hours
Food - extremely disappointing, both in service and taste. Garden Cafe (buffet) is located on deck 15 and rear of the ship. Food here is mediocre and is typically closed during the late afternoon to prepare for dinner. Dined at Taste three times during the trip and gave up after the third because of poor service. Dinner service was extremely slow, our group was in there for more than 2 hours each visit. For a group of 10 or more you would think they would assign more than one server but not the case here. Poor server would disappear for long periods of time before returning with any items (be it water, bread, beverages, appetizers, etc) it almost seemed like they were the ones cooking the meals! To make the experience worse, after having waited so long the food was not even good. Final straw was at breakfast with the same horrible service. Left a comment card with my frustration at guest services and they phoned me with "we apologize blah blah blah and we have marked your cabin number for faster service" Guess what? My cabin partner tried them again and the service was still horrible. She complained to the Supervisor and he didn't seem to care.
Spice H2O offers good sweet potato fries along with a noodle dish. Food comes in Chinese take-out containers and that is creative. Here, you have to place an order so expect to wait. Service is mediocre O'Sheehan's Irish Pub offers burgers, dogs, pot pie, fries, and etc. Selection is limited and food is poor. They ran out of pastry for the pot pie one night and failed to inform us. They simply served us creamy soup and it was only when we inquired that they stated they had run out of the pastry portion and were in the process making more for dinner time. Pub offers food late into the night for late eaters. I don't recommend the BBQ wings. Service is poor here. Pool buffet is literally outside the garden cafe and offers the usual burgers, fries, etc. food is typically available all-day here. Best thing I've had from here is the fries and wings.
Manhattan dining I haven't been to but others in my group have and they have the same offerings as Taste. Service is also poor here Coffee is horrible on this ship unless you pay for it. Breakfast offers apple and orange while lunch/dinner has flavored water, tropical mango and strawberry kiwi. These are nice to have
Activities - not much offered compared to other ships and they seem very stingy here when it comes to prizes. Normally, on other ships when volunteers participate in events they receive a freebie of some sort. Not here. Not much in terms of sports tournaments or competitions. Nickelodeon character meets was great for the kids but I thought it was odd that they did not allow kids to take photos with Dora the Explorer. They did allow this for characters from fairy god-parents show. Evening pool dance party was fun for the kids. Deal or no deal is $20 per game card and works for 2 games. Lucky contestant has a better chance of walking away with cash versus the crowd who leave with stupid gifts like a free photo or pull tab tickets and this is if you are lucky. 80's dance party was fun but I felt bad for the contestants who competed for best Michael Jackson dance moves, because 2nd and 3rd place got a pat on the back and 1st place got a drink of their choice at the bar (WTF? Other ships give out champagne bottles or at least prize medals) White hot party was fun and our group enjoyed it. DJ could be better but music wasn't bad so not complaining.
Shows - blue man group and cirque de solel & dinner is what we watched and I highly recommend both. Dinner at cirque was delicious, no menu selection and it was surf and turf. (No lobster but instead they provided shrimp) Concert of Legends was interesting but not my cup of tea.
Service - absolute WORSE! It felt like 1 out of every 30 employees cared about their jobs or who were truly interested serving you. Attitude was straight up poor and there were too many staff members supervising (slacking in my opinion) Ask them for help and they simply re-direct you to someone else. Overall impression was that everyone on the ship did not care. I've had way better experiences with Carnival, Princess, Royal, and even other Norwegian cruises.
Bottom line, I'm so disappointed with NCL that I vow never to cruise with them again, even if it was free. Our group of 50+ all feel the same way and this is too bad for them.