I was very nervous after some of the reviews here - so I wanted to give our experience to hopefully help others. Our background - we are in our 40's and our son is 15. We have cruised 7 times - on Royal, Carnival, and now NCL. Mega ships to small ships. So I feel we have seen quite a bit to compare this cruise.
Feel free to email me with specific questions - email@example.com
Embarkation- we stayed overnight in Miami and took a shuttle to port arriving about 11:30am. Quick and smooth to get into building (have passports and cruise docs handy) - quick trip through security and registration. We were boarding group #5 and our wait to board was under 15 minutes. The requisite pre board photo done- and on the ship before noon!
You do enter the ship in the atrium area and are "herded" by stationed NCL employees to make your way through the casino area and take the elevators up to deck 15 and the buffet area. Having read comments about this, we knew to ignore the "herding" and go our own way. We headed to Taste Dining room for a nice sit down lunch. Then began our exploration of the ship. Nice calm start to the week.
I'll break the rest down to our feelings- again feel free to email with questions if you want specifics.
Cabin #8137 Balcony - great steward -his name is "Jingle" - great job! Cabin is tight- smallest one yet- bed is rounded but we sleep curled up, so no big deal. Son slept on sofa- it isn't a pull out sofa bed like usual, it can be wiggled out a bit for more room, but not much-it worked for him but really big kids might be a squeeze. Tons of storage- we be bring extra hangars. Two huge areas for hanging, 3 big dresser drawers, other space around cabin for toiletries, extra storage, safe area, etc - stored luggage under bed. Coffee pot in room was nice, hairdryer in room(push button to keep it from getting too hot and automatically turning off). Small stool for vanity. Two outlets in room. Balcony was bigger than expected- 2 chairs and one very tiny table. Bathroom parts - sink is small but works fine - vanity mirror was fine- storage behind mirror was plenty. Toilet area is behind a sliding frosted door - you can hear everything - and you can see through the frosted glass, so as mentioned in another post- if noises bother you- turn on the TV or send them on to the balcony - we brought air freshener as well. Across from the toilet area is the shower stall - same frosted glass- but very roomy. There is a curtain to pull across that hides the toilet and shower area, which worked well since it wasn't just the two of us in the room. We made lots of fun and jokes about the "cone of silence" or curtain of silence, etc and made the layout work for us. Shy people or those really bothered by this sort of stuff shouldn't book a cabin on the EPIC.
My son loved the teen area- said best one yet- NCL folks seem really involved with kids- never saw our child except for dinner and his 1am curfew. Lots of activities and events planned kept him busy!
Pool and water slides - great fun- did get crowded but that's expected- we took advantage at the "off hours" like port days or later in afternoons to slide. Fun, Fun, Fun ! You are worn out climbing the stairs to get to the slides - great exercise and great fun! Pool chairs were hard to find on sea days- this was Christmas week so we expected that - but there were plenty of places to try to find a spot between main pool area and Spice H20 adult area at back. Great live poolside singers- and always saw beverage people and there is a bar right by pool and two water/lemonade/coffee stations poolside as well. Towel deck was always stocked and open pool side. Pool deck is very, very, very slippery- beware and be careful - can't tell you how many people fell, slipped, or did the splits! People could really be hurt, so watch out !!
We saw lots of hand sanitizer stations around - especially the food areas, so that was nice. I also noticed there were quite a lot of public use bathrooms throughout the ship- nice to have those and not feel like you walked the ship to find one. They were always clean.
Buffet on Deck 15 was great- typical cruise fare- two sides- same on each side- keeps crowds thinned - no complaints- even have hard ice cream they scoop into bowls for you- and yes they have at least 4 soft serve ice cream stations - 2 outside by pool buffet lines and two inside - yummy! They two buffet lines outside by pool area were a nice touch for a quick grab- honestly we were happy with buffet anytime we went. They even make crepes at dinner ! We found it easy to get a table, they were clean and the silverware was in baskets on the table. As seen in other review- go all the way forward and down into La Cucina Italian restaurant for breakfast/lunch buffet time and find a quiet table down there - nice and the view from the front of ship is wonderful- and the drink station is close by. Only complaint about buffet is the small size of the glasses - almost as small as a juice sized glass- ugh - we made many trips for refills - so I would bring my own refillable sports bottles next time - I bought a sport bottle on the EPIC to fill with water.
We ate most nights in the Manhattan DR - it has live music and even singing most nights- you must wear jeans or khakis to dine here- service was fine- food was hit or miss - never the same waiter and they are just looking to turn over the tables to keep the wait times down, so while nothing horrible- it isn't what we've been used to. Same menu as Taste- at Taste you can wear shorts etc.
We booked a night at Moderno the Brazilian place- loved it- amazing service- great food- salad bar was yummy - meats they bring were great we tried it all- the pineapple they bring you is great! Loved the entire experience- well worth the up charge!
Noodle bar- had lunch here- good- husband said his dish was very salty- but mine was fine.
Our neighbors did the Cirque dinner - said the show was great- the meal is set - a menu is posted so you can see what it will be- they said the portions were small - but they loved the show.
We didn't eat at any other specialty places- they fill up quick, so book early.
O'Sheehans was great- in the middle of the ship it overlooks the Atrium - think of a sports bar/pub - one side has 2 bowling lanes ( $5 per person per game ) and has a dinner special every day. We ate once and had steak and lobster- not bad- smaller sized portions. The food here is FREE. They have a menu from corned beef soup to salads, burgers, wings, etc. For a FEE they even have an ice cream sundae menu. We got hot fudge sundaes that were huge for $4.50 - one will feed two people. My son got the huge banana split one day. Again, the ice cream is a charge, the food is free. Across on the other side is a bar and tables- lots of TVS around, two pool tables ($2 for 2 games) a dart board ($1 a game) and an air hockey table (can't remember price) lots of seating and lots of fun ! Food is free here as well - but the menu is a bit different- so check it out and just remember each side is a bit different in menus. FUN and we found ourselves hanging out quite a bit in this area!
Gym was nice and huge ! Busy every time we went- always found a treadmill to use- spa area was nice and pedicure was great. The spa books up on sea days, so book early! Nice area.
Spice H2O adult area was nice- has some tables and umbrellas- does snack bites after 6pm - showed some movies on the big screen - fun.
Ping pong tables are by Spice H20 and it was always sooo windy you couldn't really play - kids had fun trying to hit the balls and chase them around..... nice padded chairs by Spice H20 in covered areas - saw lots of parents taking some snoozes there.
Rock wall was fun - spider maze climb had a 125# weight limit - bungee jump line take forever because each kids gets like 5 mins - basketball court/soccer court was always a fun place- one day they set up a part for baseball - sign your waivers first day up on deck 15 by rock wall so kids can do all these activities - otherwise they stand in line only to find out they can't go because parent needs to sign the waiver.
Elevators always seemed to be working - at times they were full - but we really didn't have issues to speak of.
The casino really does take up a huge part of the ship- and you do find yourself walking through it quite a bit. You can take a different floor to walk front to back if that is an issue, so don't despair! If you do walk through the floor with the casino- yes you can most certainly smell the smoke- no getting around it- we don't like smoke smells - but never felt forced to avoid the area- it was never that bad. We enjoyed walking through the shopping area and the bars - we enjoyed Maltings and the guy playing the guitar. EPIC has a great group of entertainers and singers, so you won't be disappointed with any of the venues that you can visit and listen to music. Jazz club was always crowded, we loved Maltings, and Shakers Martini bar was always so crowded we never found a seat to listen to the piano player there. The Atrium has great comfy chairs - they play some movies on the big screen in the Atrium at times- fun place to people watch. We saw Blue Man Group- it's the usual for those that have seen Blue Man- you know what you will be seeing again - fun for first timers - ok for those seeing again. Legends Concert was good -impersonators- go see it. Second City Improv - eh- not so much fun - good time filler - until something else to do. Howl at the Moon is only some nights as it shares space with Second City - and when we stopped by there was no Howling going on- more like a piano bar feel than dueling pianos. As mentioned early- our neighbors saw the Cirque show and said it was great- meal was okay- but sounds like everyone loved the show. They had a magician/comic for three nights- late show at 11pm- odd time - he was okay - not a headliner act like you might see on other ships- but again something to do. They had big up on the pool deck parties planned for later night times (10pm-10:30 till late) - sadly some were rained out and brought inside to the disco - but others were fun- just crowded and not really our scene. We were disappointed with the overall entertainment/show venues- we like big production shows like Carnival and Royal have - and how they bring on guests for extra shows- just seemed lacking on the EPIC- thankfully they have great one man shows in their smaller bars to keep us entertained.
We did have quite a bit of rocking the first two days- it was like being rocked to sleep - nothing to make you sick - rest of the trip was smooth.
The ship was clean, we never saw dirty areas or trash- we did see places of rust and our balcony railing was peeling - I'm sure all due to the salt water - but we wondered when they touch those items up - we didn't notice that sort of stuff on other cruises. Every crew member we had contact with was very nice, friendly, helpful, and polite. The only rude folks we saw were unfortunately the passengers.
I will post our port experiences separately. I hope this helps others in some way. The EPIC is a fine ship and you will have a nice time on her. We had a great week and she was packed !
Overall, we enjoyed our cruise on the EPIC and would cruise on her again!