We sailed on the Epic April 13-20. This was our 12th cruise, I'm 38 and my husband is 45, no kids. We have sailed on RCL, HAL, and Carnival. Some of the reviews we read made us very nervous about taking this trip... we felt like we were in for a terrible, crowded, smokey, bad service, rotten food, crappy cabin layout, nickle and dimed vacation (there, I think I summed up all of the previous complaints)! I'm happy and relieved to report we had a FANTASTIC cruise, the Epic is a beautiful ship!
We flew into Miami, used the NCL transfers and were eating lunch in O'Sheehans Bar before noon. We ordered wings, and sandwiches and yes, they were served warm, and with a smile. Our balcony cabin was 8206, 2nd last cabin Aft on the Port side. We had booked a BX (guaranteed balcony) and assigned this room. Judging by the deck plans, it looked like we were getting a hull or cove type balcony, but this is a regular balcony stateroom, with a balcony much larger than we're used to. The controversial bathroom layout did not have an impact on the quality of our vacation. The sink did not splash and make a mess, nor did the shower create an issue with water on the floor. I would have liked more space in the actual room with the toilet, tight fit, but not a deal breaker. We met our cabin steward the first day and he was great, room was always clean, ice bucket full, plenty of fresh towels. This is a smaller cabin then on the other cruises we've taken, but it was cozy and modern and had tons of storage for our luggage. I loved the location of this cabin, it was quiet and a quick walk below to get to dinner. Also, you can get off the ship easily on port days as one of the gangways is Aft.
This was cool, and a first for us at sea....I ordered a Bacardi and coke for the sail away party and was asked if I wanted to purchase the entire bottle (1.14L) that would be mine for the week, to pour drinks as I wanted. It was around $95, and came with 6 cans of pepsi, a bucket of ice and limes and plastic cups. This was actually brilliant for us, as it was cheaper than the 2 of us buying and waiting for drinks all week. Although we had to carry our bucket of rum with us all week, it was super convenient to have this option, we loved having pre dinner drinks on the balcony, and laying out in the sun at Spice H2O with our bucket! Our first day at sea, we got our pick of loungs chairs at Spice H2O Aft Deck 15, up untill 9am, then it would get full. Our plan B was Deck 18 Forward, not many people are aware of this "quiet zone", it always had lots of sun loungers, and at the very front of the ship, there are loungers with red cushions and sun beds, free of charge. This is a separate public area that we enjoyed each day at sea, that has nothing to with Posh, also located on deck 18.
We booked our shows and dinners online before we sailed, this is such an easy option. We walked into our shows about 20 min before they started, with plenty of seating options available. We saw Blue Man, Legends, and 2nd City, did not think it lived up to all of the hype, but glad we saw them. People at home can't believe the picture I got with the Steven Tyler look a like, his performance was the most enjoyable in my opinion. We ate at Cagney's steakhouse, filet mignon was delicious. We booked this restaurant in advanced for my husband's bday, they brought him a mini bday cake and sang. Nice touch. Prior to dinner, we were in the casino and I told the casino waiter it was my husband bday and to bring him something special to drink, and they gave us a complimentry bottle of wine! We took it to Cagney's and enjoyed it with dinner, again a nice gesture. We also ate at Le Bistro, the french restaurant, you have to try the Atlantic Salmon, it was stunning, best I've ever had. Room service was used a couple of times, I liked the Mac n cheese. We waited about 30 min for it, and it was warm and cheesey. Only ate at the buffet on Lobster tail night, we went early (530pm) to avoid the crowd. It was ok, not the best buffet at sea, but certainly not the worst.
This ship was crowded, but not overbearing. There were a lot of kids, for that reason we were never around the main pools. These pools are small and loaded with kids, but so what, they deserve a holiday too, and the families looked like they were having a blast on board. Be a kid for a day and try the waterslides, we got back on board early in Cozumel and came down all 3, screamed like an idiot but laughed the whole way.
Our ports of call were Ocho Rios, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Had a perfect day in Ocho Rios. Pre booked a day pass at the adults only 5 star resort called The Jewel Dunns River. Stunning, layed on the beach, swam, and ate spectacular Jerk Chicken cooked by Gregory at the grill. Kevin was a gentlemen, serving us Champagne and fruit kabobs in the pool! It was $90 pp, included all drinks, food, resort, and transfers (15 min) to and from ship. Booked through Resortsforaday.com. Swam with the dolphins in Cozumel with the ship excursion, was ok, but there were 5 ships in port that day, so the place was crammed. Dolphins were amazing, but the place was packed.
Best night of the cruise was the White Hot Party on Friday night at Spice H20. Pack something white, and prepare to dance under the stars with glow sticks...or grab a drink and sit on the comfy loungers and watch the sites. Either way, it's a fun night.
Overall, this was a high energy, fun vacation. Our bill at the end was in line with the other cruises we've taken, which tells me NCL did not "Nickel and Dime" us anymore than any other cruise we've taken.The service was as good as on any other ship we've sailed. The food was average to good, which I expect is challenging when trying to please 4200 passengers. We ate in the Manhatten Room one night, and were in and out in about an hour. We did not find the service slow or disorganized in any of the places we ate, perhaps this would not be the case if we were larger than a party of 2, but I have to report on how it was for our situation. The ship was constantly being cleaned, the staff were helpful and polite, and we had a great vacation. Less crowds, bigger pools and this would have been a 5 star cruise. We will sail the Epic again!