It has been a couple of weeks since I had my Epic Adventure!!!! Yes very cliche I know but it couldn't be helped as the name just fits :)
This was my first cruise in over 3 yrs. My last cruise was on NCL Pearl in Sept 2010 which was my honeymoon cruise and overall it was a fantastic cruise. So I had little trepidation about booking NCL again this time around.
It has been over 6 yrs since my last solo cruise which coincidentally was my first cruise on CCL Freedom.
Boarding: Arrived at 10am. Check-in was simple. Sat in waiting room. A terminal crew member brought my carry-on suitcase which I left at check-in...Whew!!! Glad to get it back as it had my medications and other necessary items. Boarding began about 1130am. Other than getting caught by photographers for boarding photo, boarding was a great expience. It was surreal boarding this time. It felt very familiar but very strange too.
Ship: From the outside Epic is still an ugly ship, but that ugliness doesn't appear to be inside, although I didn't pay much attention to decor. The decks are loooooooooooong. Feels like one walks for hours to get from Bow to Stern. There is no deck that is open at both ends. There is no proper walking/jogging track. There is no mid level deck that one can walk around outside. Epic seems to be designed to be more internal than external. Perhaps Caribbean is not the best place for such a ship. It would seem sailing out of colder climates like Northeast USA would have been better :) Spice H2O was at the back of deck 15 and it was adult only till evening. It has a big screen, bar and grill that served meals and snacks. It had a small pool and two hot tubs. Every evening the pool floor raised up and water was emptied which created more usable deck space which was handy during the FABBA, Disco and White Hot parties. There were 3 slides on Epic. Purple, Green and Orange. Purple was a slide that was covered till splashdown, so like Disney's space mountain it was all in the dark. Green was a coiled slide for most of it with a couple of direction changes. The Orange slide reminded me of a toilet bowl flushing. You ride an inner tube through a covered area before being dumped into bowl area where you spin round and round until entering drain and splashdown. All the slides were great, but the orange one was my favourite. As an aging human circling the drain, it was fun actually circling the drain :P :)
Deck 16 was above Spice H2O and was the sports deck. It was a split deck with another part being Haven suites. Deck 17 was forward and was haven suites. Deck 18 was forward and had to areas. There was a public area for lounging. Nice padded wicker type loungers and chair at the front of the deck and the usual loungers along the sides. The other part of Deck 18 was the Posh Area which allowed Haven Suite guests some private space away from everyone. There was a bar and people could order food. There was Posh Passes available to us heathens for the week. I believe it was $60 or so. Christine Gorman bought one and believe got full use. Deck 19 was the Serenity deck and adult only. I believe Ray Covenant got full use of that deck :P :P Deck 14, was the kids zones and also had the spa/gym area. Deck 13, 9, 8 was all cabins. Deck 12, 11 was where the studio suites and studio lounge were. Deck 7 contained public areas like Bliss lounge, Cagney's. Deck 6 contained casino and restaurants. Deck 5 contained Guest Services, Wii wall and restaurants and bars
Studio Lounge : Well worth the extra money for solos to have a place to meet fellow solos and be able to have a drink, get a coffee, tea, hot chocolate or water without going elsewhere. Also available was continental breakfast, sandwiches, salad and cookies during the day. The bartender Gede also from Indonesia was very funny and a great bartender. The solo concierge wasn't what I would typically think of a concierge. The only thing they really did was ask who was ready to go to dinner and it was either Manhattan or Taste. A couple of activities were organized but nothing like I expected.
Food: Is very subjective. Overall it was great. Ate at Manhattan only first night as it was lobster night and dress code was relaxed so I could wear shorts. Lobster tail was very tasty. Ate at Taste the rest of the week and always found something to eat and very tasty. Did have to ask for extra sauce as things tended to be on the dry side. Desserts were kinda blah, although cheesecake was always good :) Garden Cafe food was typical buffet food, but I will say the Indian food was very disappointing. Lacked taste and spice. Lots of variety to most tastes especially burgers, hot dogs, fries, and mac and cheese. Really liked the Pretzel Rolls. There was a deli, salad bar, hard and soft ice cream. There was a crepe station, asian food, pasta station and entree station. Most were doubled which led to little to no lines. Just outside of Garden Cafe was Great Outdoors which had a couple of stations that served breakfast, lunch and late night snacks...serving basics like Denny's would serve. Spice H2O would serve food during the day but according to the menu would serve appies after 6pm but I went there a few times and the serving area was closed. O'Sheehan's Pub food was typical Irish food. All very tasty. Breakfast was quick and good. I was glad I brought my own hot sauce as Tabasco just isn't good enough. Ate at two pay restaurants Wasabi and Moderno. Wasabi is the sushi bar that was a la carte cost. I think it cost me $8 for the meal. I am no fan of sushi, but did find other things to eat. Food was pretty good and plentiful. Christine said the sushi was good. The other restaurant I paid for was Moderno the Brazilian Churrascaria or steakhouse. Cost was $20 and that included all you can eat salad bar, bread and MEAT. I felt the salad bar was disappointing and the items didn't always match the description card. I was there for the MEAT anyway. There was a group of 8 of us and once we were all ready we flipped these cards from red to green which let servers know we were ready for the procession of MEAT to begin. We were also served sides family style pots containing Rice, beans, mashed potatoes and deep fried bananas. We were offered filet mignon, ribs, chicken, pork, sausages, other cuts of steak, lamb. All totalled there was 10 different MEATS offered. After all MEATS were served they came around and asked if there was any items that seconds were wanted. Once NO MAS was claimed you turned the green card to red side and they stopped bothering you. Great food. All MEAT was tender.
Crew: Steward was great, no complaints. Bartenders were great but never really established a go to bar other than Studio Lounge Bar. Crew was always cleaning all over the ship. Plenty of alcohol washes in bathrooms and entering eateries. Happy Happy Washy Washy!!! Servers in restaurants ranged from very attentive to inattentive. I had a server in O'Sheehan's that kept pushing my cup of hot chocolate, glass of water towards me, while I was creating space for the plate of food. I then complained about her to guest services cause she was so rude to a Japanese couple who spoke very little English and she wasn't taking the time to listen to the wife or speak to the wife so that she could understand. Husband spoke no English that I could tell. Ate breakfast at O'Sheehan's a few more times and never saw this server again. Once in Taste I felt the server we had was just going through the motions and really didn't care about our table. She would stand at the end of the long rectangular table and ask what we wanted rather than at least come mid way. Also perhaps it is me being wrong but I thought servers served food by almost standing behind the seated person and swinging the food around the person and setting it on the table. I saw a lot of servers serving almost backhanded which seemed very awkward. Again I could be wrong. Every crew member that I made eye contact with always said hello. Lots of smiles.
Entertainment: Live bands, DJs and production shows. There was lots to do at night. Blue Man Group was excellent. Have seen the show in Orlando and while not the full show, it was 90 mins long on board. Saw the Legends show and it was ok. Steven Tyler was pretty good. Young Elvis was ok(not a fan of Elvis), Katy Parry was blah. She should not be considered a legend. I found the back-up singers and dancers were good but there was a couple of dancers that seemed to be going through the motions and really not that into what they were doing. Perhaps they were nearing the end of their contract and were just tired. As for DJs I just don't get all this techno funk stuff. Spent a bit of time in Bliss and very few people would actually dance to the music. Yet during the disco when the DJ just played music the dance area was packed with people. Makes me wonder who the DJ thinks is his audience. I missed the comedy magic act and Second City. I also didn't go to the Cirque dinner show or the Murder Mystery Lunch.
Activities : There was plenty to do on board if you wanted. Trivia, dance lessons, bingo, personal development courses, exercise classes, movies and others. I was never bored, found lots of things to do. There was a pub crawl and also learning about beer, martinis and margaritas
Ports : St Maarten - organized an excursion to Orient Beach for a few hours. Great beach, weather was perfect. Everyone had fun. After Orient beach we took a taxi to Maho beach(place where planes land) and spent about an hour or so there. We stayed long enough that we saw and some felt a 747 take off. Maho Beach is a spectacle as all the brave, drunk fools will cling onto whatever they can when the jet wash of any large plane blows them down the beach and some even into the water. One of our group was cut by flying debris from 747 and he also lost his camera that was in a bag ripped off him and blown down towards the water. After the 747 took off most of us headed back to ship but myself and a couple others got dropped off in town as I wanted to look around. It was a long tiring day so browsing was kept to a minimum and we all made the walk back towards the ship.
St Thomas - is a great port but I have been here so many times I just wanted to browse around Havensight mall looking for white shirts as it was laundry special day on the ship and needed it. Thankfully the crew had a drill so Wayan was delayed in cleaning rooms and picking up laundry bag. Other that browsing, I walked to a nearby grocery store to pick up some tan lotion, pop and salty snacks. Was back on the ship in about an hour and enjoyed my time using the slides, sitting in hot tub and baking :)
Nassau - is a much maligned port. Once you get away from the crowded port area, Nassau really is a nice port. If I never left the port I would never want to get off the ship either. I have been to Nassau 3 times and while I have never been to Atlantis, there is so much to do. This time around a solo passenger was organizing a trip to Pirates of Nassau(Pirate Museum). I hummed and hawed all week before deciding Thursday night that I would go with him Friday. We managed to drag Christine along too. I will say Nassau has really built up since I was last there. I had a vague idea where the museum was but the new buildings were confusing me to the point where we almost gave up. Great history of Pirates in the Caribbean. Well worth the money for entrance fee. After exiting the museum we made our way back to ship but not before wandering quickly through the Straw Market. Even with a new modern building I dislike going through the straw market as everyone sells the same crap but they are grabbing you offering you the 'best' deal in town.
Fellow Passengers : Most passengers were friendly, courteous and used their manners well. Was a couple of issues of chair hogging, but most people had one lounger per butt. I was the cause of some irritation for passengers when I was saving some loungers expecting friends that never showed(at one point Ray was a row away) and wouldn't release them. One particularly rude group behind me were chirping for a long time loud enough for me to hear. Not sure they thought I couldn't speak English or they just didn't care. When I was getting ready to leave I noticed a family a row in front of me trying to figure out how they were all going to be together. So the two daughters who were facing both their parents and me noticed that I was giving up two of my loungers for them as I waved them and pointed. They accepted but were taking their time collecting their stuff so I said better hurry there are people heading over. So they tossed their stuff and got the loungers. The rude bunch behind me got the other two. Felt pretty guilty until the group behind me started chirping. If they had just asked about the other loungers I probably would have given them up :)
Clothing: WOW!!!! quite something. Some very well dressed men and women especially on Dress up or not night(formal night). Most people were casually dressed but women seemed to enjoy dressing up most nights...good on them. On the lido deck well common sense seems to leave some people. I saw men who shouldn't wearing speedoes, fortunately never saw a banana hammock. Women seemed very confident in what they wore. Some really shouldn't. Saw some rather heavy women wearing teeny tiny bikinis. Saw some young girls wearing bikinis probably passed down by their older sister as they were not suitable. Material what little there was was high up the front and high up the backside. It is my opinion and judgement. :)
Weather: Heading out of Miami it was chilly, but once second day arrived it was very warm and sunny. Usual temps was above 81F. I was told there was a sudden rain storm as we were leaving ST Thomas but I was napping in my cabin and missed it. Nassau was chilly around 74F
Disembarkation : I stayed on another week doing a B2B. Reported to Guest Services as the letter I got in my cabin stated and was given my new card for next week. On Saturday morning I was to wait till all other passengers got off them meet up at Comedy club at 10am. Around 945am I was getting antsy waiting for lots of people to leave. Talked to assistant hotel director and she ushered me off the ship and passed me onto a terminal employee who walked me through customs, and back to waiting area. He kept apologizing for his delays due to passengers with baggage issues. While back home it would have been very upsetting but I was on a cruise for another week so it was just a minor annoyance :) There was a total of 8 B2B cruisers with only two of us getting right back on. I was first on...was a cool experience.
On my actual disembarkation day I had bought into the bags program, which is you pay $20 and put your luggage out last night and you never see your bag again till your arrival airport. It worked pretty well. I had slight concern when I was waiting at baggage carousel and my bag wasn't there. So I went to lost bags ready to rip the crew a new one and looked to my left and there is was...it arrived on earlier flights. Baggage guy was too busy to ask what route the bag took. Getting off the ship was hurry up and wait. Being part of the bags program allowed me an earlier time around 830am. It was busy in customs long snaking lines. Got through customs pretty fast as CBP guy basically waved me through. Once outside walked across the street and looked for best deal to MIA which was $10. Once getting to airport, went to dolphin mall for a few hours and then it was homeward bound leaving MIA at 530pm and arriving in Seattle at 1145pm via Chicago
I really enjoyed the cruise. Met a couple of great people who have become good friends to the point that we are all cruising together this September to Alaska. Epic is an great ship and it will be sad when it gets moved to Med permanently.
Was it a perfect cruise? No, there were issues, but nothing bothered me enough to ruin my cruise or threaten to take off the tips. In fact I paid Wayan extra over the two weeks including giving him one of my bottles of hot sauce. He seemed happy. Gede got the other bottle and hugged me. I tipped him for every drink he gave me so didn't feel I needed to tip him more.
Pros: Freestyle cruising, with the understanding that at times there will be waits to eat. Never waited more than 10 mins but we ate at 6pm.
Studio cabin and lounge - great setup for solo travellers. I especially enjoyed looking out the door to people feeling left out and actually knocking on the door wanting in. The cabin is only 100sq ft but compared to 2 in a 128sq ft inside I felt it was very spacious.
Hot Tubs were very hot and so nice to soak in all night long. Very addictive!! :)
All 3 slides were great, lots of fun
People Watching!!! Lots of diversity among passengers :)
Future Cruise Certificate...$250 each, includes $100 on board credit on cruise you are on and full $250 to use as deposit on cabin next cruise. 4 yrs expiry date
Cons: Cruise director and his staff - never really noticed them. When they were noticed Cruise Director Richard was forgettable. Only time I heard anything on overhead speaker was to remind passengers about bingo, art auction.
Desserts were blah, other than cheesecake
Indian Food was tasteless
Mixed drinks were expensive...My favourite Long Island Iced Tea was almost $10. I bought mostly beer after that :(
Disembarkation is always a con :)