My husband never wanted to sail a large ship, and often remarked about how ugly the Epic was. But he went because I wanted to go. We usually cruise mid-size ships, and this was our 20th. That's just to put my comments in perspective -- it's not my first cruise, nor will it be my last!
--The shows were good. We saw Blue Man (some said it was juvenile, gross, and silly but I laughed out loud), Legends (Steven Tyler, Elvis, Katy Perry – in that order), Murder Mystery lunch (interactive and fun), Second City – Overboard (good improv), Howl at the Moon (great entertainment, high energy), and the Crew Show (very talented members of the crew). Having just done a Carnival cruise where the entertainment was minimal, we were happy to have something to see!
--Food was good. I know everyone is different, so you can decide for yourself. We dined at both dining rooms, and Garden Café for dinner. We had lunch in the Pub, the Garden Café, and I had lunch at Taste. All our breakfasts were in the Garden Café. With the exception of the Pub (which I’ll address below) all were good to very good. I can’t think of one other item the Garden Café could have added to their breakfast menu, it was complete. I never had any problem finding something tasty. I thought the desserts were excellent -- except the scooped ice cream. They need to change brands.
--Seating. We had no problem finding a place to sit and eat in any of the restaurants, bars, shows. Yes, Garden Café can get crazy at the high times, but we always found a spot. And, yes, people save the lounge chairs at the pool. But we never had a problem finding a spot. The biggest problem was finding a shady seat away from the blasting music at the pool.
--TV. I liked being able to review my bill, check out the menus and entertainment.
--Service was poor from top to bottom. (1) We boarded the ship at Noon and went right to the Pub as recommended by several people in the CC reviews. We were seated immediately – several other tables were also occupied. A young man took our order – 2 beers, 2 sandwiches. We never saw him again. A half hour later a waitress said she’d be right with us. After we told her our order was in, she checked with the young man (who I saw pointing in our direction before returning to the back room). Several other tables were also involved in this wait. Fifteen minutes from then she brought me the wrong order, and no beers. We gave her our card, she brought the beers and my cold, greasy sandwich. The beers were incorrectly priced (We had to show her the menu to prove the price was wrong. She said there had been a price change! I told her she should have said that upfront.). Also, because you’re still in Florida there is extra tax on the beers. (Oh – and nothing to do with service, but while I was sitting there another passenger accidentally knocked over one of the tall bar chairs which landed on my arm. Black and blue for the duration of the cruise.)
(2) Our room steward (who was good the rest of the week) did not provide turn down service for us the first night. Thus, no Freestyle Daily in our cabin. Next morning I went to Guest Services. Me: Where can I get a copy of the FD for today? GS: In your room at night with turndown service. Me: We didn’t get turndown service. GS: Did you turn the wheel outside your cabin requesting it? Me: Yes GS: Then you need to dial 00 and speak to Housekeeping. Me: The phone doesn’t seem to work, no dial tone, nothing happens when we dial 00. GS: You must have something turned off. Check the screen on the phone. At this point I walked away. What happened to “yes ma’am, let me call housekeeping for you and have a copy delivered to your cabin”. That’s what should have happened in the first 30 seconds. Instead, everything was my fault.
(3) All restaurant staff slow, slow, slow and inattentive. In Manhattan we had 2 butters in our dish. When we requested more butter one of the assistants came by and actually tossed 2 more into the butter dish! We were one of the first to be seated in Manhattan at 5pm because we were going to Blue Man Group at 7pm. We sat at a table for 2 so we could just jump up and leave as soon as we were done and not have to make apologies to lots of people. Our orders were brought out with another table, so we went through the entire 1 ½ hour process anyway.
When I had lunch alone in Table no one ever came back to see if everything was ok, I never got my water refilled or bread until I flagged someone down. They spent plenty of time talking to each other though.
--I agree with everything bad that people have said about the cabin design. The sink in the vanity was the worst. The sink is the size of a postage stamp, water is a danger to everything you put on the counter. No logical place to put the hand towel. If you hang it on the high hooks there are always water drips on the floor. You have to come out of the toilet area to wash your hands. Why is the other person always brushing their teeth at that exact time? And what is up with those reading lights being so low? Even with the adjustable neck I could never raise it to the level I needed.
--Smoke. The smell is everywhere near the casino. Even when you first board, with the casino empty, the smell is overwhelming. And, as reviewed by others, the casino is in the middle of the deck, you have to walk through it to get from one end to the other. If they think those little Oreck air filters in the corner can keep up while 3 people are puffing away in front of it – they are mistaken. The smell drifts to the other decks also. Why is NCL stubbornly sticking to their smoking policy while all other lines are updating theirs?
--No quiet place inside to sit and read. Even the library is noisy. All other venues were either in use or noisy. No empty bar or lounge with comfy seats to be found. Outdoors was very windy, but our only option other than our cabin.
--Extra charges for everything. $2 to play pool, $1 to play darts, $2 for air hockey, $20 for a Deal or No Deal card – only to find out we had fewer than half the available amounts on the card. Nothing above $50. So our chances of matching anything were next to impossible. Don’t be swayed by their pitch that you can win money or a free cruise – 1 match says “you’re on your way”, 2 matches gets you a scratch ticket in the casino, 3 matches gets you a free photo. Only the contestant onstage makes any money. In our 2 games no one ever won more than the free photo – they cost $20 anyway! $20 pp to get into the Ice Bar (you get 2 drinks – vodka only because it’s sponsored by a vodka company). You can’t even peek inside – it’s locked up tight! $30 or $40pp for Cirque? Why? We’ve seen them, so we skipped it, but why are they charging extra? Skip the food and put them in the theater one night for free. $20pp for the Murder Mystery lunch – not sure why since all we got was a choice of salmon or a chicken leg. We could have gotten comparable in any of the complimentary venues
--TV. They don’t even have a headline news channel. I had to try and read the scroll at the bottom of Fox News while they were babbling incessantly about Obamacare. It seemed to be the same nonsense every time I turned it on.
--Disembarkation. They should have figured this out by now. We were exiting from Terminal C area (instructed to gather in the Casino area) and we could see people getting out at the gangway, yet our line wasn't moving. They moved us to the right, they moved us to the left. People could not get by us to get to the end of the line. Staff opened a lane through the gaming tables intending to move people to the end of the line, but people started using it to cross over to the line that was moving. Staff closed that. When they finally got us moving, they explained that they had moved everyone out of Manhattan first. They never told us to sit in Manhattan.
--The hairdryer would shut off every few seconds on high. Had to use low – long process with my very thick hair.
--The free beverage dispensers were always empty or broken. One morning at breakfast they were even “cleaning” the coffee maker! They had to resort to an old-fashioned urn for the iced tea on the last days of the cruise. Ice/water machines always broken.
--Had the Captain told us we would be pulling into Miami at 4:30am, using those noisy thrusters, I wouldn’t have bothered with my wake up call.
Jamaica -- never my favorite port to begin with. As you depart the port area the whole street looks like a war zone. The street is totally under construction, only a little dusty path to walk on. And what did the 20th cab driver think I was going to respond after I turned down the first 19 who offered a ride to town? The shopping area nearest the dock (where Margaritaville is located) is pretty run down. Lots of stores empty and closed. We crossed the street to the newer shops, finished there in 15 minutes and returned to the ship. One hour tops.
Costa Maya -- not everyone's cup of tea. I collect the Mexican pottery to use in my garden, so this is always a treat for me. And usually we take a taxi to Majahaul to spend time at the beach there. My husband had a migraine this day, so I just went to my favorite pottery vendor and returned to the ship.
Cozumel -- haven't been in years. Took the snorkel from the beach excursion. We thought we'd be able to spend the day at the beach and snorkel off and on. The "beach" is actually the excursion staging area, not really a beach. And the entrance to the water is over slippery, rocky terrain. You'd need help to get in again. The area is right off the main road, within sight of several ships -- just a little man-made area. Did see fish, rays, a seahorse and anemone and urchin.