We just got back from our Epic cruise in the Western Caribbean. Before we left, I checked out all the reviews and have some insights on the negative comments posted.
First, we are not new to cruising. It is our favorite vacation. We have always cruised small to medium ships and thought we would try a larger vessel. I'm mentioning this to let you all know we do have basis for comparison.
Embarkation. This had me a little worried, 4,000+ people seemed a daunting task, but NCL has it down to an art. We arrived a little before 11:00 am having taken a cab from our hotel (near the airport). The cab ride was $20 for 4 of us. The porters we right on the spot and smoothly took all our luggage. We helped our friends up the stairs to their area, then went onto gate C. We waited no more than 10 minutes to be checked in. We sat in the lounge for about 1/2 hour. Very comfortable, plenty of seating, water and orange juice provided. Had a very nice chat with our neighbors and were called on board in the order we arrived. We were on board a little before noon. Very smooth entry onto the ship. Our stateroom was ready by 1:00.
Embarkation day was the only day that the pool deck (15) was crowded, but even then we were able to find lounge chairs easily. H2O was not as crowded and quite a bit less noisy. We had a bite to eat in the buffet, busy, but easily manuevered, brought our lunch out to the deck and had a very pleasant time talking with the crew and our fellow passengers before making our way down one deck to our cabin.
Overall embarkation was the easiest we have experienced, they have it down to an art.
Stateroom. We had a spa mini-suite. Yes, I have heard how small these are, and how the bathroom is unwieldy. Nothing could be further from the truth. We always book a balcony, love sitting watching the ocean, docking, pier runners, stars. This balcony was large enough for two lounge chairs (provided by my wonderful cabin steward Winnie). Two chairs and two small tables. In fact we had two other couples over for afternoon drinks and we had room for all on the balcony. The room itself was slightly longer than other rooms we had, maybe a bit narrower, but with just the two of us it was great. We had no trouble manuevering around at all. There was so much storage, I often forgot where I put things! The bathroom layout was great, with the split shower/toilet design, we never got in each other's way when getting ready. And no, we did not have any problem with the sink. It is a little small, but we did not have any issues spilling at all. Separating the makeup area allowed my husband to shave while I was comfortably seated doing my own hair and make up. The lighting was adequate. We had no problem with the opacity of the glass in the shower and toilet areas. The shower was quite large, and with no curtain to wrap around you as you bathed, it was wonderful. There was little noise, and the ship movement was a nice gentle lullaby.
I was also invited to the Haven and the forward suites on deck 17 were really spacious and beautiful. Posh and Haven are quite nice, the private pool deck was beautiful.
All in all, our stateroom was very nice, we really liked it and would not hesitate to book it again.
Crew. Hands down the best crew we ever sailed with, from our fantastic room steward who could not do enough for us, to the bar tenders, to the wait staff, to the spa staff, officers, I cannot say enough how much we appreciated them all. Kind, helpful, smiling, always, and I mean always, going out of their way to make our cruise special. Great stories! We visited with them every day, heard their wonderful stories, got great tips on where to go ashore, guys, if you are reading this, we love you all and miss you! We even encountered some on shore, and they would stop and chat with us where ever we were.
Dining. If you can't find something to eat, you are not looking. I have dietary needs which these wonderful people met time and again. If it wasn't on the menu, they found it or a delicious substitute. Went to MDR twice, once for dinner and once for breakfast. Both were good. Le Bistro, however was great! Try the creme brulee! We also dined at la Cucina, delicioso! The chicken parmesian was so good, and the tiramisu great! Both were great dining experiences. We had dinner with friends at Tapenyaki. I don't care for Japanese food, but the chefs were fun to watch and the food was okay for me, but everyone else loved it. Room service had a limited menu, but it was good, fresh, and pretty quick to arrive.
Overall, dining was very good!
Onboard activities. There is so much to do on board, I can't begin to enumerate. Never had problems with chair hogs. Never had problems with kids, they were well behaved and fun to watch.
Overall, this was the best cruise we have taken. We love freestyle. We will cruise Norwegian again.