Since we have sailed on the Epic during her Caribbean inaugural season 2010, we were prepared for this gargantuan ship. Yes, she is another one of those megaships which require passengers to move around a lot; however, at the same time she offers a myriad of opportunities for enjoyment. Some examples of first at sea unique features are the three separate corkscrew water slides, two bowling alleys (in Bliss Ultra Lounges and in O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar) and the Svedka Ice Bar, the ultimate Norge treat not to be missed. Our return aboard was made very enjoyable thanks to Hotel Director Steven Jacobsen.
On Sunday at 11:00 a.m., on the way to the Port of Miami, we found some traffic on I-95; not as much as on weekdays, so in about 45 minutes we were at the pier. After dropping off the baggage, we got wheelchair assistance and went through check-in very fast. We were aboard after a harrowing experience through the unnecessarily steep gangway, where Vincent got stuck twice and needed assistance and Mary had to stop for folding her wheelchair pedals to prevent breaking them.
Since we have already published a detailed description of the Epic after our first cruise on this ship, we refer the reader to our review posted in October 2010 on this web site. The Epic is a mega cruise ship, one of the few gargantuan afloat until now. The gross tonnage is 155.873; her overall length is 1081 ft., her beam is 133 ft. and her draft is 28.5 ft.. She is powered by Diesel Electric engines and her cruising speed is 22 knots. She accommodates 4,100 passengers and has a crew of 1743, thus with a good passenger to crew ratio of about 2.4.
The Epic has more than 20 dining venues, with 8 Upscale Restaurants including French, Italian and Asian cuisine. The “Anytime Dining” offers more flexibility for when and where to dine each night. During this week each night we dined in a different restaurant, thus it would take back-to-back cruises to try most of the available dining venues. Excellent!
Our wheelchair accessible mini suite, number 8187, is a spacious and beautiful one. When entering, on the left there is a unit consisting of a lot of shelves for personal toiletry, the sink and a safe. Then there is a triple armoire, all three for hanging clothes. One of these sections has a very high crossbar dowel, with a lever to lower it for facilitating the disabled passenger in reaching his/hers clothes. This is a well thought out feature. Next, there is a unit with a mini refrigerator in the bottom and a TV on top, followed by a desk and a cabinet with four deep drawers, finally, two more cabinets with shelves. There is plenty of storage room to satisfy the most exigent cruisers.
When entering on the right is a large bathroom with a curved frosted glass door; inside there are safety rails all around the commode, which is too low for disabled cruisers, and a fold-up rail, not stable when raised, which is dangerous, since it falls down just with a minor ship’s vibration. The shower was sufficiently spacious, with a fold down seat and a wrap around curtain. Next to the bathroom there is a sofa which can be used for a third person occupancy; but in our case it was much too low to sit on and expect to be able to stand up again. The other alternative for us to sit was a stuffed chair also a bit too low and without the necessary arms which would help us to stand up. Thus, we ended up on our wheelchair or going out on the balcony to sit on one of two metal chairs with support arms. Next, there is a queen size bed a bit too high for Mary to easily climb on from her wheelchair. We asked our steward Willie to remove from the bed the stuffed quilt which made climbing on the bed a little easier; however, it was still stressful for her. There is a rule of thumb in designing the furnishings for a wheelchair accessible cabin: The height of bed, chairs, commode, shower stool, etc. should be similar to that of the wheelchair seat.
The far wall has a large sliding door to a very spacious balcony which had two metal chairs, an armless and low chaise lounge and a useless tiny table, which thanks to the Assistant Executive Housekeeper Elmoth Everson was replaced by a nice larger table that allowed us to have morning breakfast on the balcony. Thank you, Elmoth for your visits to our cabin and for continuously trying to satisfy our needs. The cushions you sent to elevate the sofa were used by Vincent to make useful the chaise lounge on the balcony, where he spent many hours lulled to complete relaxation by the sound of the waves.
The cabin’s walls are beige and the furniture is mahogany colored. There are two night lights on the wall and two low night stands flanking the bed. The head board for the bed is “Roll & Tuck” beige leather; the drapes and the dust ruffle on the bed are red; the carpet is beige with a sand dune effect; the only wall decorations are three rectangular glass plates, with brown twig designs. The whole effect of the cabin is nicely simple and restful.
The Group Service Coordinators Shirlee Magnino and M. M. Segovia contacted each stateroom to reinforce that “Special Requests/Arrangements” were in place to assist us while on board. Our steward Willie was always prompt to assist us whenever we needed.
FOOD & SERVICE
The service aboard is sharp and very cordial all over. Due to the availability of “Anytime Dining” we departed from our usual arrangements of a fixed table in the main dining room at the same time each evening with the same waiters, etc. This dining style frees the passengers to try many venues, while sampling a variety of cuisines.
We utilized Room Service for breakfast. Rather than hanging out the menu each evening, we made a standing order of coffee, hot chocolate, eggs, bacon, toast sweet rolls and juice. All to be delivered at 7:00am each day and we ate on the balcony. Excellent! Several days we ate lunch at O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub: Irish stew, meat loaf, chicken pot pie, fish’n’ chips, hot wings etc.. Tall beers and rocking desserts --- apple pie, banana bread, ice cream sundaes and so forth. Unfortunately, they no longer have the pretzel rolls, but we found them in the buffet!
We dined at Le Bistro with its charming French atmosphere and art work. We tried the following: Escargot, onion soup, coq a vin, and with dessert the wonderful French Press coffee made at the table, delightful!
We also dined at La Cucina, where we found the fare much improved over last time. For those in a wheelchair, getting there is still a bit like going through a maze. It is either the double deck stair case or the forward elevators to deck 15, and then down to Deck 14, and then through the cabin corridor to the back door to La Cucina. We recommend the gnocchi, and the osso buco. There is also a wine list for complimentary Latitude Rewards with one of Vincent’s favorite, the terrific Barbera d’ Asti.
The next up scale restaurant we dined in was Cagney’s Chicago style steak house.
The meat is the best, the most tender filet mignon and all the classic sides. Forget the pea soup, it’s not up to New England snuff.
The last venue we tried was Shanghai, where we enjoyed the quiet ambiance and the excellent service. The Spiegel Tent with a circus show while dining was a venue we missed, since this must be booked before sailing or soon after boarding.
The Freestyle Daily lists all activities on board. Epic has the long running “Legends in Concert” (impersonations) Show. We were lucky to see the Elvis Presley impersonator, sorry we don’t have his name. We had front row seats; he is great looking (no make up) and has all the Presley moves and intonation. We thought he was terrific and so did the rest of the audience. He impersonated a young Presley, with a loud sports coat and sang with gusto with his terrific voice. His “It’s Now or Never”, sang to the tune of “O Sole Mio”, ended on a powerful note that shook the rafters. However, the Mick Jagger impersonation left something to be desired and the sound volume was much too loud, especially for us in front row, where the seats for the disabled were located.
The Second City Troup puts on “Presumed Murdered” during Sea Days, a luncheon with a murder mystery --- which the passengers help to solve --- excellent fun! This group every evening at the Headliner’s Comedy Club offers comedy shows at various times in the evening (7:00 and 9:15pm, spontaneous and improvisational comedy -- PG13) and at 11:00 a naughty, adult/friendly comedy for grown-ups. There were many other interesting shows throughout the week, such as the “Blue Man Group”, the “Fabba”, bringing back the fabulous songs of the Abba Group, famous in the seventies, the “Comedy Magician Levent”, etc..., which we did not attend, since either we had seen them before or we preferred more rest and relaxation. Naturally, if we were younger and healthy we would have participated in “Dancing with the Epic Stars” and other shows or activities, but now our style of cruising has changed according to our limitations; however, we still love cruising!
There is an Entertainment Box Office on Deck 6 which provides all the information and helps with booking. There is also Art & Craft, plus all the usual on board activities.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Miami, FL USA Depart 5:00 pm
Day 2. At Sea
Day 3. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Arrive 9:00 am Depart 5:00 pm
Day 4. At Sea
Day 5. Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive 8:00 am Depart 5:00 pm
Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00 am Depart 5:00 pm
Day 7. At Sea
Day 8. Miami, FL USA Debarkation 8:00 am
At seven o’clock in the morning we had breakfast in the cabin; as far as we know, this is the only cruise line where passengers can ask for room service even on debarkation morning. We asked for wheelchair assistance from our cabin, since we had a walker/rollator in addition to our motorized wheelchair and scooter. At 8:00 o’clock an assistant accompanied us to the Bliss Lounge, the waiting area for disabled passengers, then we proceeded through the steep gangway, where we had the same problem as we did on embarkation. Once over this obstacle, it was all smooth to luggage pick-up and through customs. By 9:00 o’clock we were on our way home.
With the exception of the gangway problem we had a relatively smooth sailing, both literally for the calm sea and figuratively for riding the scooter and wheelchair around the ship. As we reported in our first review of the Epic, we had many problems with the high thresholds around the ship; however, there must have been some corrective action, since now we had a smoother ride around the ship. Although some access to certain areas could be improved by installing more automatic door openers (i.e., promenade on deck 7), the progress toward a more wheelchair friendly ship is significant. Definitely, we had a great cruise, better than the previous one. Certainly, the fact that on this cruise we have achieved Platinum status in the Latitude Rewards, with all the perks and benefits that come at this level, it has surely contributed to make this a five star cruise.
We have already purchased aboard a future cruise on this line, with a yet to be decided destination. Now, we look forward to the cruise with our grandchildren on March 15th aboard the MSC Divina. Happy Cruising!