To be fair, I think the reviews of the Epic saying the staff is sub-par are unfair. The staff was attentive, for the most part, and close to equal to other NCL ships we have been on.
That said, it would have been nice to see more activities. Maybe it's the size of the ship, but I have never been on a cruise before where I haven't come in personal contact at least once with the cruise director or assistant cruise director. That did bother me a bit. I guess the fact that there is not a central show accounts for this (Blue Man group and Second City are the main free entertainment here). Blue Man was great, but I did hear many of the older fellow guests say they didn't get it. Second City was "mhwah-hah", but mainly because I had seen the same old skit before about life at sea. Would be nice to know ahead of time, when reserving seats, what the theme of the show is (yes, there are more than one shows for Second City--an adult improv and a PG13 Life in America skit--didn't get to see either do to scheduling)
Cirque show was a major disappointment. $30 for seats where you can't see much of the action. Sorry but if I am paying $30, I want to know the act is on skates sooner than 3 minutes into the skit (yes, I have seen multiple Cirque shows before and this venue severely limits what seems to be a very talented cast). Food for this specialty was merely adequate. Unless you want to splurge for the premium seats, save your hard earned money because you will only see half of the detail (maybe those who haven't seen Cirque will appreciate the limited views). This is no knock on the entertainers. From what we could see, they were top-notch and the show is well constructed. The venue is not well-thought.
Other specialty restaurants: We also ate at Cagney's and the La Cucina. Both excellent, as in the past. Well worth every penny. Yum.
State room: we had a mini suite. Very nice. Loved the state room for the most part. The curved bed did cause a bit of an issue with my bed back, as you roll to the side and the bed becomes short. I found myself compressed to the headboard on numerous occasions throughout the cruise, which caused me aches and pains upon waking. Much prefer a square bed with lots of room. Otherwise, room was excellent. Nice service.
Headliners and Fat Cats: wow, as a fan of both jazz and comedy, maybe this is my biggest issue with Epic. Come on, you have a comedy club with not one single stand up comic. A jazz club with a jazz band (the fantastic Manhattan Band) who only appeared in the club once that I saw). The rest of the time its Bingo and shopping talks. The blues band in the jazz club was excellent for sure. And Howl at the Moon dueling pianos in the comedy club was one of our favs, but I chose this ship based on the marketing material about the fact that these clubs would be dedicated to what they claim to be. Wow, what a huge disappointment. These might as well as been the same rooms you see on other, smaller ships. Why can't there be a few stand up comics on these ships to bring in a little more life. Maybe time to explore other cruise lines that offer this (I have been a dedicated NCL junky since our honeymoon). Same with jazz. Kudos to the Manhattan band though, a true gem on this cruise.
The big positives: if you don't care about the Cirque show, the lack of a consistent true comedy or jazz in their respective clubs, this ship is very efficient for its size. Over 4,000 guests and it never felt overly crowded. Would have liked to go to a Second City skit more on the spur of the moment without a reservation, but nevertheless, embarkation, disembarkation, ports, restaurants, etc, all seemed to run smoothly without long waits. This was quite surprising.
All in all, not a bad cruise vacation (a side note: I know the cruise industry must have a great deal with Nassau, but this is our all-time least favorite port--really disappointing). The ship is not bad, the service staff is excellent. The activity variety could be improved. But when push comes to shove I think I like the ships with half the passengers as I think the larger ship seems to offer nothing extra to make the double occupancy really worth it (yes, water slides were cool, but that's about it since the comedy club and jazz club weren't really what they were advertised to be).