This is my first CC review. I am new to cruising with only a Royal Caribbean Cruise, Mariner, in the Mediterranean; Princess to Alaska, NCL Jade Western Mediterranean and now the Epic in the Caribbean. If I had to take a cruse again, I doubt it would be NCL. Certainly, all of the cruises I have experienced I would rate a 10 or better...even the Epic...and each has it's unique pluses and minuses, but I have to say I was disappointed with the Epic from a service basis.
The ports, Jamaica, Costa Maya and Cozumel...were fine. I primarily wanted to go somewhere warm and this seem to fit the bill with lots of sun and warmth! The waters were smooth most of the way. It was really beautiful.
The food on NCL always seems to be just OK. Certainly there is plenty for everyone, but for whatever reason it is just a bit blah. The Garden Cafe, buffet, always had plenty of food and a mixed variety as it should, but it just seemed to be lacking in taste. Then again, I am not a buffet type of guy. Bowls seemed to go quickly and for whatever reason the staff was slow to replace them. I finally had to ask a staff member to go get some bowls. Why in the world would all four or five locations for bowls be empty and a passenger have to request they go to the kitchen and get some bowls? Isn't this the job of the staff? This is the level of services I came to expect on the ship. Certainly all the staff members were friendly, they just seem to lack that sense of urgency found on other ships, including the NCL Jade.
Drink order, when a bit away from the bar, were slow. Once we order an appetizer from the H2O cafe at the rear of the ship, which they advertised to be served after 6PM. When we got there, the staff suggested the appetizer were cooked to order and it would be about 20 minutes...which we said fine. We enjoyed our drinks and waited over 40 minutes, when we finally asked, "Hey, what happened to our appetizers?" They went and checked on them...brought them out and they were cold! I know!
The main dining rooms were nice and the help friendly, but seemed to be overwhelmed. They got our order wrong a few times, missing an appetizer and bring out the wrong dinner. Each night it seemed they just had too many tables to service. Also, the body oder of many of the waiting / clean-up staff was very apparent. They either need to shower more or wash there clothes more....the smell was pretty bad. I would hope NCL offers to wash the staff's clothes for free!
The entertainment was good, but you needed to make sure you book your entertainment the first night to insure you have a seat to the show! You can always go "stand by", but then you risk not getting a great seat. Though it was good, I learned I personally prefer just going to a main theater each night and watching a different "main attraction". It seems to be simpler. The Blue Man Group was different, but entertaining. I didn't know what to expect...enjoyed it...but didn't need to see it again. The Legends...Elvis, Katie Perry and Steven Tyler...were OK...though the person playing Steven Tyler was pretty great. Katie Perry could have been Katie's mom dresses up like Katie...pretty bad actually. Enjoyed it...didn't need to see it again. The "Howl at the Moon" piano duel was the best! I like this format and the two guys and gal were the best...some real talent, high energy and super entertainers. Enjoyed it and attended it about three times. Didn't do the Murder Mystery. The Cirque du Soleil was way cool...though the food wasn't very good. Enjoyed it...wouldn't pay to see it twice. Why we would have to pay for the dinner is crazy. NCL has a way of nickel and dime-ing the passengers to death.
It was the first time I did an inside room...wanted to try the experience. All the other cruises I elected to do a balcony. The room was small, but manageable. I really didn't have a complaint about the room. The shower floor was slow to drain, but we reported it and the cabin help seemed to get it corrected. She was really the best. We failed to get the newsletter the first night (Sunday), but went to customer service and they provided us a copy. Again, everyone was very helpful and friendly. When you first walk in, the shower is on the left and the toilet on the right...both having their own private glass doors. Initially you are, "Wow...where it the bathroom?" as they only provide a curtain to divide the shower and toilet space from the room. With the sink on the counter in the room space! But it all seems to work well and be private enough...especially for two people who are sharing an inside room. Again, overall the room worked well...besides, you should only be in the room to sleep!
NCL seems to also offer private suites on the top levels of the ship...offering private luxuries. I suspect this is fine if you are renting out one of these suites, but if you are not...it just seems to take up precious deck space. On Royal and Princess, it seems they offer luxury suites on the normal primary decks...and the upper levels are used to offer various amenities which everyone can utilize. It make you feel like a second class passenger....which is OK. Just saying...the other cruise lines offer specialty rooms, but seem to provide the primary services for everyone on an equal basis. Everyone seems to feel like "first class passengers". It just seemed a bit different to me.
In summary, they Epic...though a beautiful ship...seemed to be more concerned with getting as many people on a ship...than providing adequate service for those passengers once on the ship...compared to other cruise ships I experienced. I realize...compared to others...I am a cruise rookie! Yet, I was so disappointed with the services...I decided to protest with my dollars and elected not to pay the "$24.00 per day service fee"...which is actually an optional gratuity. It was the first time I ever did this. To do this, you have to go to customer services before midnight on the last day and fill out a form and discuss it with the agent. Again, very friendly, understanding and helpful. I did tip the cabin help in cash...as she did a great job! Generally, I pay the gratuity and tip my cabin help as well...but this trip...the service was just lacking for a "5 star" entertainment ship like the Epic! So disappointed, I elected to actually write this review. Maybe the cruise director, who I only saw once, and staff members, will read this, get the message and work to improve the service. For me, it is worth paying a little more on a Royal, Princess or other line and get the level of services one would expect from a luxury cruise.
K, that is my two cents.