Just finished sailing on the Norwegian Epic departing from Miami on December 28th, 2013. This review will cover the Haven area as well as the Studios area, along with the rest of the common areas.
As we were traveling in a party of 14, where 10 of the passengers staying in the Haven and 4 staying in the Studios, we were invited to use the priority check in lounge at the pier. The system was down when we arrived but we were welcomed into our own private room with juice and cookies until the problem was solved. 20 minutes later we were being escorted onto the ship by some very friendly check in agents.
This is probably the single greatest idea in cruising. Having a completely isolated area of the boat for suite guests with private amenities is a very nice luxury, and the private pool, gym, steam/sauna, restaurants, etc... are worth the extra money. Upon entering the ship we were greeted by our butlers (more on them later). As we went up the elevators we were greeted by the concierge (more on him later) and some more butlers. We were taken on a quick tour of the Haven, with the staff showing off the private areas such as the pool, jacuzzis, fitness "centre", the Courtyard and the Epic Club. The Haven area is located on deck 16 in the forward part of the ship and features 2 security doors which require keycards for entry.
Overall the Haven is a wonderful part of the ship. Not having to wake up at 6:00am to get deck chairs by the pool is always a plus, and all the villas and suites are only steps away from the pool.
Drink service by the pool was scarce most of the time. There was maybe 1 server who would come around every 20-30 minutes, and fruit was only offered a couple of times a day.
The Courtyard is a very nice place for lunch. They offer a wide variety of small lunch items, and of course whatever you want from the regular dining room menus. The funny part is getting food delivered to the pool is a hassle. You MUST make the order with the servers who work the pool, but because they aren't around that often, it becomes very hard. The waitresses told us they were not allowed to take the food outside. Weird.
The Epic Club is also a very nice dining room. Private, quiet, good food, nothing too special.
The Posh club on deck 18 is very nice. Great place to tan. Not much else though.
Haven area : 8/10. Very nicely laid out area, but the service is just not up to par with the accommodation.
2 Bedroom Family Villa:
Very large room that easily sleeps 6. Large shower and tub, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms, very lovely cabin to sleep in.
You might think having this is a very cool feature. Unfortunately, if you didn't make your reservations on day one, the concierge seems to forget to make any other ones. In one instance they forgot to schedule an excursion and in another they forgot to reserve dining plans. They say they will do it but don't actually so my advice is to wait there and ask for a printed confirmation. The early access to shows and priority seating is nice, if they didn't require you to show up at the theatre 30 minutes before the show. 10 minutes before the show they release the reserved haven seats to the general public. This is pretty useless since I would like to enjoy my night and not have to wait in a theatre for half an hour before a show.
Nothing more than a room steward who delivers you cookies at night and is a little bit more responsive. Very friendly and nice but nothing over the top amazing.
Overall, the Haven is wonderful overall experience. I just wish that Royal Caribbean could implement this type of area on their ships, because their level of service is top notch.
To be honest we were a little hesitant to stay in the Studios. When you walk into the room, most of the online videos do not do it justice. It is actually quite large for 100 sq ft. There are extra storage bins under the bed and everything seems to have a place. Didn't use the lounge much but looked very nice. The room easily sleeps 2.
We dined at the following restaurants:
1) Epic Club: Very nice and good food. Service was lacking. 7/10
2) Manhattan Room: Good food, nice music, good service. 9/10
3) Teppenyaki: Food was mediocre, the show was fun but very long. Our fried rice took 25 minutes and just sat of the grill as our hungry faces looked on. Not worth the 25$ a head. 6/10
4) Moderno: Fun restaurants, good service, equally good food. 20$ a head. 8/10
5) Cagney's: Great appetizers, to be desired steak, service is creepy and the wait staff acted very funny (in a bad way). 30$ a head. 6/10
6) O'Sheehans: Lovely little pub. Great food (same as buffet but sit-down). 8/10
7) Garden Cafe (Buffet): Hard to find seats, harder to find waiters for anything. Food is decent. 7/10
8) Taste: I separate taste because we had one of the worst dining experiences ever. We sat down as a party of 14 and was told that due to our large party size the service will be very slow. With no other place to go we put accepted that starling fact and sat down. Everyone ordered food, we waited 20 minutes, 30 minutes, finally appetizers, a hour later kids dishes come out. hour and a half later main courses. All of them were cold, overcooked, and wrong. The worst part is that one item on the menu read Fettucini with shrimp in alfredo sauce. 2 guests at our table ordered this meal without the shrimp. They received their meals, one was just boiled noodles with no sauce, and the other had a weird smell to it. As they took a bite, they immediately spit it out. After asking the waitress to ask the chef what sauce it was, she informed us it was a lobster sauce, even though the menu said alfredo. This passenger happened to be allergic to shellfish. Luckily everything was alright, but Taste was most definitely the worst restaurant on board. We could not believe that an empty restaurant could not handle a party of 14 at 5:15pm.
Blue Man Group was great. What an amazing show.
Legends: Steven Tyler and Elvis were good. Katy Perry didn't look or sound like her.
Chip Romero: Meh. Ok.
Didn't see Second City.
We noticed that clubs on this boat played very awful music and that the parties were already done by 11:15-11:30. Kind of a bummer to want to have fun late at night but nothing really be going on.
This ship suffers from a severe lack of service. Everything seems to be extra and a la carte, and reservations are required just about everywhere, which kind of goes against the whole "freestyle" concept.
Epic kind of let us down. 6/10 for the whole ship.