After seeing all the bad reviews of this ship, I have to write my review as we had a marvelous time. We had The Haven Spa Suite 14151 on the Epic embarking March 9.
Embarkation Process: There was quite a line at the pier. Since we were in a suite I had thought there would be a line for suite guests, but all go through the same security line. It was long, but as the weather was nice, standing in line was OK - although I miss the much easier embarkation that we experienced for the Jade in Barcelona on two occasions. Unfortunately, right after security, no one checks to find out if you are in a suite to direct you to the VIP area, so, not realizing there was a VIP area, we went to the regular lines to check in. There was hardly any line in this area and the check in lady took us to the VIP suite area where we were escorted onboard - much better. The Spa Suites are lovely. 14151 has a gigantic balcony. There were already 2 chaise lounges and 2 chairs along with 2 tables on the balcony. PERFECT! We went to The Epic Club for lunch which was great. After lunch, we explored the ship and my husband signed up for the Texas Hold-em Poker tournament the next day. We had dinner at Shanghai's - really great spicy Chinese food - don't know why anyone would complain about these dishes. Shanghai's acts as overflow for the Manhattan Room - don't know why NCL allows that as it negatively impacts the experience for paying guests in Shanghai's. Fortunately we were almost done with dinner. This did create an interesting discussion between me and my husband about the issue of capacity planning for this ship. It is much larger than other NCL ships, so based on previous ships, NCL would really just be guessing as to how many would go to the specialty restaurants as opposed to the free MDR and buffet. Once the ship is built, they are stuck. If demand for the MDR outweighed demand for the other restaurants, what do they do?
That night, I noticed that the tub in our room was leaking. As it was near midnight I didn't want to bother our cabin steward, so we mopped up the water, put the towels in the tub and went to bed. The next day, I explained to our cabin steward that it appeared to me that one of the pipes must be loose (based on where the water was coming from.) She had only begun working in this area on this cruise as the regular steward was on vacation. She filled the tub and after about 30 minutes, there was water everywhere and she wiped up the floor and contacted a plumber who came and took our tub apart and found a disconnected pipe, just as I had said. I told our cabin steward that between the two of us, we'd have cabin 14151 in the best shape it had ever been in! I subsequently found a few other problems, which she was quick to have fixed. All I can think is that the previous occupants of the suite never told their steward that light bulbs were out or that the tub was leaking. One of the surprises of the room is that the headboard actually has 2 pullout extensions with drop down tables that turn into nightstands! I had not noticed these until the 3rd night - at which time, I found out one of the extensions was stuck - another minor repair. None of these issues detracted from our stay in the cabin as the needed repairs were all immediately organized by our cabin steward. Our cabin steward did such an outstanding job on organizing the repairs, I gave her an extra $40 on top of her regular tip at the end of the week. She was so thrilled she hugged me and thanked my husband profusely. But, in fact, she deserved the extra money. She was always cheerful, always positive and always did the utmost to help and I repaid her by finding every issue that needed to be resolved in our suite and also monetarily for her excellent work in getting the issues solved.
The first morning we discovered how absolutely great the shower was! This was possibly the best shower we have experienced in an NCL suite!
We also enjoyed the use of the DVD player. I had brought along several movies and TV series for us to watch. My husband attended Blue Man group. He said it was a good show, although, he thought he had seen this particular show before. We both went to Cirque and really enjoyed that show. The dinner was so-so with only one choice (steak and overly salty shrimp) but the show was amazing. I"m not sure why they serve food in this show because, honestly, it was so good, it was hard to eat because I wanted to just focus on the show. We went to the ice bar. It is 10F in there. Of course we had to go to the first ice bar at sea. It was fun, but oh so cold - as expected. Apparently some Canadian spent more than 3 hours in there without a coat!
in Jamaica, we went zip lining and the tubing on the river. I have been zip lining before, but not where you had to self brake. I've got no talent for the braking at all. We went on to the river tubing which was excellent. The water is crystal clear and cool and the tubes are very safe. There are areas where the tubes go through some small rapids which makes the ride a lot of fun. I would do the tubing again in a heartbeat!
We had sushi that evening, which was OK but the offerings are rather routine and boring. I think that if NCL would do some more exciting roles such as those without rice - rolled in cucumber and rice paper, they would have a much busier sushi restaurant. I would hope NCL might look at the menu at edokusushi.com - especially the Maki rolls to get some better ideas about what people who really like sushi and sashimi expect from a sushi restaurant. Again, the sushi they did have was fresh, but rather average sushi rolls are the biggest thing holding back the sushi bar from being one of the busiest specialty restaurants on the ship.
We ate at Teppanyaki one night and noticed the family sitting with us had come in with someone with a soy allergy. I'm not sure why they would have chosen Teppanyaki with the edamame and Miso soup with tofu and the soy sauce in the stir fry. But they did. Teppanyaki was your typical Teppanyaki experience. The chefs have a script they work from and do a good job of entertaining the diners. The food was typical Teppanyaki food. This was the first time I'd gone to Teppanyaki on NCL. That's probably enough for us. I wanted to try it and my husband reluctantly agreed to go along. We tried it and that's enough. Kind of like Benihana - you go once and that's enough. We did have fun talking with the other people at the table. On one side of us was a young couple on their first cruise. Then the family on the other side with the person with the soy allergy - they were very nice and it was nice to hear that they were all enjoying their cruise.
I had meant to go see the action on Lobster night in the buffet. I didn't want lobster - I just wanted to see how the buffet handled that. I had visions of masses of people grabbing 6 or more lobsters at a time. This is the largest buffet I've ever seen on a ship and most of the time, when I went to observe the operation, it was under control and seemed well managed. However, the previous reviews indicate that lobster night was out of control. Unfortunately, I never made it to the buffet to see what was going on that night. It probably would have been very interesting to observe.
One day we did a cabin crawl. We saw everything from a Studio to the Owner's Suite. ALL of the cabins were extremely nice. If I were alone, I would definitely cruise in a Studio because they set up group events - such as group dinners, where you eat with others from the studios. In some cases, some of the studio residents were married couples who like to sleep in their own room at home - so each had their own studio! The rest of the studio residents ranged from 20-somethings to retirement age traveling alone. I really think the Studios are a great idea! As to the controversial bathroom setup, well, it is what it is. Some people like it, some hate it but for me, the way I look at it, I don't own this ship, so it's not like I have to live with this forever. I find it different but it doesn't really affect me personally as it is not my property. It just is what it is.
The Spa area - the thalisotherapy pool, saunas and so on were fantastic. My husband has only experienced this type of thing once at Hotel 1898 in Barcelona. He was reluctant to try it, but I managed to talk him into going based on his experience at Hotel 1898 and lo and behold, he loved the thalisotherapy pool! So much so, he wanted to go everyday for at least an hour. It was NEVER crowded in there, and we looked forward to it greatly each day.
We also ate dinner at the Epic Club - really great. There were various shops on the ship, but nothing I needed. Still, they were a step up from the shop on the Jade! I think one issue was that the duty free liquor store only offered lower end products - no Louis XIII cognac, nothing to tempt a higher end buyer.
Our last dinner was in Le Bistro and was outstanding.
At any rate, the entire cruise was very relaxing. The food was good to excellent. We lounged on our balcony and our butler, Juan, brought us anything we wanted. We enjoyed peace and quiet and the lovely Epic Club for breakfast and lunch. Overall, it was an absolutely wonderful cruise.
For suite guests, debarkation is arranged by the concierge so that you don't have to wait in line. Unfortunately, when we were sent down in the elevator, the concierge had disappeared and none of the employees knew where Haven guests were supposed to go. Next thing we knew, we were pushed into a general debarkation line with a few other Haven guests, including a 91 year old man. When we reached the main dining room, I noticed one employee had a cellphone and asked her to please call the concierge for us and asked for a chair for the 91 year old man, which she immediately provided. The concierge came to us and took us through service passageways and elevators to get us off the ship without a line - much better. Along the way, a ship employee spontaneously grabbed my luggage and pulled it for me all the way to the exit of the ship, where he had to stop. Debarkation after that point was swift and easy with literally no wait for a taxi.
All in all, the only two glitches in our cruise really were the embarkation process (not being sent to the VIP line immediately after security) and the debarkation process where we got separated from the concierge and no other employees knew what we were supposed to do. In both cases, employees did their best to resolve the problem. It was overall a really great and relaxing cruise and I'd definitely sail on the Epic again. I loved the spa suite, even though I'm not a fan of the bathroom design - it was fine - after all, I don't own it - and having the access to the spa overrides the value of actually being in a suite in The Haven. I would choose a spa suite over any suite in The Haven just because of the included spa access.