When I was researching and preparing for our trip, I pored over CruiseCritic for hours and hours, and searched by topics – and I don’t believe there was a review I didn’t read multiple times – both good and bad. I kept a running list of “secrets” and “Must do’s” – and printed everything and brought it with me – including the slot play coupon. I would love to pass that love along to all of you – and share with you our “Epic Adventure”! (Until this point, we had been LOYAL Royal Caribbean cruisers – we love everything about Royal Caribbean, and we took the Carnival Dream when it was brand new about 3 years ago and HATED it). Our traveling companions had never cruised before, and since I planned the whole thing, I was praying that they would love it! Special shout out to Ismay and Alan for posting so much fun and anticipation on the Roll Calls – such wonderful people! Thank you to EVERYONE on Cruise Critic who helped me prepare with your reviews – both good and bad.
Let me begin by saying that our cruise was AMAZING – absolutely everything – from start to finish. We were a party of 11. Our family consists of my husband and I (45 and 47) and our 10 year old twins. We booked 2 adjoining balcony cabins (13026 and 13028). Our dear friends and their 10 year old daughter had the next cabin (13030). We also were traveling with friends who had two daughters – 10 and 8 – and were in the Haven in 17012. I will break the trip down for you in segments. We did the Western Caribbean departing on 4/20 (Easter Sunday).
Travel to Florida
We live in North Carolina and I didn’t want to take the chance on travel day of: so, we booked our flights from RDU to Miami, arriving about 4 pm on Saturday, April 19th. We gathered our luggage and hopped on the (free) shuttle and we stayed at the Airport Marriott – which was great value ($127) – and we got upgraded to Concierge level and enjoyed a free breakfast on Sunday morning. (our other friends were not flying in until Sunday morning. They flew Southwest to FLL and met us onboard – more later). I had packed the twins’ Easter “baskets” (collapsible Easter bags) and filled them with water wallets, sunglasses, waterproof watches, glow sticks, bubbles and goggles – all cruise items.)
We grabbed a van (we negotiated up front - $50 each way to/from port – for 8 of us). We left the Marriott about 10:15 and were at the port at 10:30. Our friends in the Haven were immediately escorted to a holding area where they started the party early! Ha ha – we could see them through the glass (we had bright yellow tee shirts made for all of our traveling party) – but they had priority boarding. We were in boarding group 9 – and, as fate would have it – our friends coming from Ft. Lauderdale were walking through the door when our boarding group was being called – so they were able to board with us. We were called at 11:30 and on the ship by 11:45. We had matching yellow shirts with “Our Epic Adventure” on it – and people recognized us through the week! I had let the twins wear their suits on the ship, so as soon as we were up on deck, they were in the water slides – and that is pretty much where they lived for 7 straight days! We hung out on the pool deck, partying with JC the cruise director, Sponge Bob made his appearance, everyone was having a great time and party. They announced about 2 pm that our cabins were ready – so down we went, and I had 1.5 hours to unpack before the muster drill. (note – I was a bit disappointed they didn’t have anything for kids – no Easter Bunny, or Easter Egg hunt- that would have really added to the festive atmosphere!)
Ultimate Beverage Package
That was an absolute no brainer. We had pre-purchased the package, so we wouldn’t have to deal with that bill on top of everything else. Since we already had the package, we got a sticker immediately upon boarding at the Atrium bar and had our first drink! (and didn’t stop for 7 straight days – haha!) We bought the soda package for the kids, so they could just have a soda whenever they wanted – and we brought home two really nice travel mugs to boot! In previous cruises, I had either purchased the wine package or just paid for drinks – so this was just AWESOME.
Our adjoining cabins – 13026 and 13028 – were everything everyone had said. They ARE small – how someone puts more than 2 people in them is beyond me (our friends in 13030 had their daughter with them and my friend was going nuts having to find space to stow stuff, and tiptoe around her daughter in the morning). There is TONS of organizational space, hangars, etc. - plenty of room to store luggage and clothes. But knowing now what I know about this cruise, I would have packed less and put away clothes differently. I used lots of tips from CC – I brought magnets and put the dailies up on the wall. I decorated the outside of our cabin with cute Flip Flop signs (I brought hooks) – and Easter bunny magnets. We got lots of comments on our doorways (and easy to find at night – haha!) I bought a shoe organizer for $1 and stowed sunscreen, lotion, makeup in it, etc. I hung up my makeup bag on the shower door – and, another CC tip – brought my own bar of soap, toilet paper and conditioner. I brought clothespins to hang up my wet suits/ recently washed underwear, etc. The one critique I have is that the beds are HORRIBLY uncomfortable. I had our steward (whom I only caught a glimpse of one time – unlike Royal Caribbean and Carnival, we never connected – which was disappointing, as that connection is something I enjoy on a cruise) bring me an egg crate to make the bed softer. It isn’t long enough, my feet hung off and I rarely slept more than 4 hours a night. HOWEVER, I’m not a good sleeper to begin with, and it certainly wasn’t enough to put the slightest damper on my cruise – I’m just warning you – if you are a poor sleeper, bring your own pillow, or something to make you more comfortable.
The famous bathrooms
Yep, they are everything everyone says they are: small and no privacy. But so what? The water pressure was awesome, and everything worked (although my husband, who caught a nasty bout of food poisoning for eating Jerk Chicken from a street vendor in Jamaica – WHEN I TOLD HIM NOT TO – found it to be quite challenging to be ill in a bathroom that small….)
We had adjoining balconies – and yes, they are closed off. They are a very generous size (if you look at the ship’s map, 13028 juts out a little bit – and our balcony was a bit bigger. It was a lovely place to view sunrise and sunset – something I took advantage of every single morning. We had two chairs, a table and a lounger. And still had plenty of room to move around. If we were ever in the room (which was infrequent) – I was either taking a shower or sitting on the balcony. That is one of my favorite parts of cruising.
We were lucky, as our friends were staying in the Haven, and, what an incredible place that is. If you can afford to book The Haven – BOOK IT. The lounge, the restaurant, the bar, the private pool, spa, hot tubs and loungers – not to mention the AWESOME concierge, David. The entire experience is magnificent. I’m glad we got to see what it’s like – I would definitely book The Haven next time if the price was right.
We ate in Garden Café every day for breakfast. I cannot get enough smoked (Norwegian!) salmon, cream cheese, bagel and red onion! Not to mention the eggs benedict (another CC tip). My children LOVED the hash browns and endless bacon! (I loved the fact that Danny would bring me a Mimosa as soon as I appeared on deck!) I thought “what are people complaining about – there are about a million choices on the menu at Garden Café”. However, by Day 3, even though I was not tired of smoked salmon and eggs benedict, I would LOVE to have seen them change up the menu…even my children got tired of it.
The first night, we ate at O’Sheehans – and I have to say, that was my ONLY disappointment throughout the week. Terrible food. Simply awful (except the mozzarella sticks) – our party ordered everything on the menu, and nothing was good. (we returned late night another night, just to see if we were wrong – we weren’t). However, the $4 ice cream sundae for my son – he reports – was awesome.
We ate at Taste 3 times – and our experiences were: fabulous (first time), very good (second time), not very good (third time). The food was beautiful in presentation and absolutely excellent. My rating has to do with the service and attentiveness of the staff. Also, if you are prone to seasickness (I am NOT but one of our traveling companions was) – being in Taste can intensify your feeling of illness, or so she reports.
We ate at the Sushi Bar (Wasabi) twice. OUTSTANDING and SERIOUSLY CHEAP. We ate at the Noodle Bar once. Same rating – outstanding and seriously cheap.
We ordered room service twice – it was fine and fit the bill!
I am a former professional actress and singer, so I am usually a very harsh critic and judge. The shows and entertainment were phenomenal (my husband remarked that the value of seeing the shows ALONE were probably more than what we paid for the cruise tickets!) Blue Man Group – astonishing. I can’t believe I’ve never seen them – but we were in the first two rows and that was awesome. Legends in Concert – Elvis is fantastic, Katy Perry is just okay, Steven Tyler is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! He blew us all away. Wow. Second City – saw it twice – once with the family at the early show (I volunteered and got called on stage, which made it the highlight of my daughter’s trip) – and once late night. Both times – HYSTERICALLY FUNNY!!!!! Cirque Dreams – totally worth the price of the Premium Seating. Truly amazing, amazing show. The food was good – and the show was so interactive and fantastic! We also visited Howl at the Moon 2 or 3 times (dueling piano bar), as well as ALL of the other bars and lounges. We were bar hopping all night, every night. Like my friends said “7 days is not enough – next time, we need 10 days on The Epic”. I saw Nadeen the Hypnotist twice – she was amazing!
Stuff for kids and families
My kids LOVED LOVED LOVED Kids’ Club and begged to go. However, one of our friends had girls who didn’t want to go there, so we weren’t able to use it as much as mine would have liked. It’s staffed really well – and that was one of our twins’ favorite things to do.
The slides are, well, awesome. I went down all three multiple times. The lines – even on sea days (and we had 800 kids on our cruise) – weren’t bad.
My kids did the rock climbing wall and the big bounce whenever it was open. My son did the Spider wall once. They spent $150 at the Video Arcade – oh well! (beware, make sure they don’t have charging privileges or set a limit! )
We did not do the Nickelodeon Pajama party, but our traveling companions did and they loved it. We did Slime Time Live on the last day, and that show was ADORABLE.
Yes, some of them are in disrepair and really need to be replaced. And yes, if you want a “prime spot” (I did), you need to come out and get your spot early in the morning. I love the sun – so I’d grab two chairs in the morning with my coffee around 7….and then go down and wait for the family to wake up, get the kids ready for the slides and go back up on deck around 9. There were always plenty of deck chairs, you just had to look for them (tip: I brought my own towels and some of those cute towel clips – easy to identify)
Waves Pool Bar
When preparing for the trip and scoping everything out, I thought “how can a bar so small accommodate so many”? I never had to wait for a drink – Danny, the bartender, knew our entire party’s names within the first few hours, and always had a fresh drink ready and waiting for us – with a big smile and a fun laugh. That is one awesome, awesome bartender! He would find me wherever I was camped out on deck, and made sure I was never waiting for a drink.
Considering I brought my gym shoes and NEVER hit the gym, taking the stairs was the only exercise I was going to get (note – I will NOT even look at the scale for at least a week – haha!) I never, ever felt crowded on the ship – I was up and down those stairs (we were on 13 – most entertainment was on floors 5-7 and 15-17) – thank GOD I had to use the stairs. The ONLY time I found the elevators to be crowded were on embarkation and disembarkation – and that’s to be expected.
This is something my husband and I always buy on a ship. Spa passes. I try and go twice a day – to soak in the thelossotherapy pool (sp?), use the saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and lay on the heated tile loungers. So relaxing – and good for soaking alcohol out of you – haha!
The Ship Itself
Contrary to people posting about its’ ugliness, I found it to be absolutely beautiful – inside and out. And so did all of my traveling companions. They marveled at all there was to do and see and explore and get into. We loved just walking around and exploring. And after 7 days, we STILL hadn’t seen it all. She is magnificent, and I would sail her again in a HEARTBEAT.
My husband and I have done this same itinerary 4 times – and I would much rather have done Eastern Caribbean. However, this aligned with the twins’ school break. When we left the ship in Jamaica, my son said to me “Mommy, this water is so beautiful it makes me want to cry”. Really touched my heart. In Jamaica, we walked to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and had an awesome time in the swim up bar (the kids used the water slide) and hung out in the ocean. Free – just pay for what you eat and drink (and look out for the people trying to sell you pot and necklaces and stuff – the staff from Margaritaville tries to keep them away, but some get in.) This is also where my husband didn’t listen to me, bought Jamaican Jerk Chicken from a vendor, and paid for it the rest of the cruise. DO NOT EAT FROM ROADSIDE STAND.
We just walked off the dock and into the swim up pool bar (do you see a theme emerging here?) Our friends did some shopping. Really not much to do unless you do a ship excursion. Beautiful weather and the pool bar is just fine. BEWARE OF THE WOMAN COMING AROUND POURING SHOTS INTO YOUR MOUTH…and then charges you $14 dollars.
We took a taxi ($50 each way for 11 of us) to Mr. Sanchos – it had been recommended to me, and I’d read great things about it on Cruise Critic. I was very disappointed. We had been to the Occidental Grand 3 years before and that was SIMPLY GLORIOUS. Mr. Sanchos was just “okay” – the kids liked the water park – and it was free for us to get in – as long as we paid for drinks. There was some shopping to do, and it was fine – just a disappointment for me – as my memory of Cozumel was so beautiful – and this – well, it was not.
So much to do – game shows, bingo (neither of which I did – but if the weather weren’t nice, great to know there’s so much going on) – movies in the Atrium and in Spice H2O. Just really, really, really SOOOOO many fun things to see and do. But more than anything, just seeing the joy on my children’s faces, and spending time with my husband. As my son said to me “mommy, the best thing about the trip was that you didn’t work and you were never on your phone.” Love.
Norwegian iConcierge App
Fantastic way to keep in touch. We burned that thing up – the three “girls” (moms) had the app – and we could find each other anywhere, meet up, make plans, stay in touch….
We are the kind of people that believe life plays out from your intentions. And we all went intending to have a fantastic time – and it was the trip of a lifetime. All of the elements were in place – really great friends, fantastic weather, a beautiful ship and so much fun. My stomach HURTS from laughing for 7 days. And life is incredibly short. We met a man on board – he and his wife are nurses. They cruise every 3 months – yep, every 3 months. Because they see so much death, and realize that life is short – so they take every opportunity to drink from the marrow of life. Norwegian Epic is absolutely the right cruise for you – you just need to make it so!