To give you some idea we are a family of six adults aged 42 to 70 and have all cruised on many ships before including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Thomson and Island Cruises.
The EPIC she this is a large ship but apart from the initial difficulties of navigating our way around you never really felt that is was that big, considering the ship was a full capacity for the entire cruise there was never a feeling of too many passengers. I also must add that contrary to other comments we did not feel any pressure to spend money on food, photo's, shows or anything else. One thing I must add is that this ship was the quietest and smoothest I have ever been on, it was very difficult at times to tell if she was even moving !
Embarkation - Very quick - Suite cases were delivered very speedily for most, Mine however was not and after calling Guest Services twice and speaking to our Cabin Steward twice I still have not received my case by dinner time. On the third occasion of actually going to guest services and asking where my case was I was directed to security who were holding it along with about 40 other cases because it had an iron in it which i removed and they kept until the end of the cruise. Why they couldn't have told me this when I made my first enquiry I have no idea.
The Ship - Generally very nice, the inside cabins were spacious and yes the bathroom/toilet/sink set up is a little strange, not much privacy offered but it didn't really cause us a problem. Lighting in the cabins is very poor. The main thing missing is the ability to walk around the outside of the whole ship, which is a real shame and something a lot of passengers complained about. Pools are quite small considering the amount of passengers but again on this particular cruise (Italy and France) it wasn't a problem as most passengers seemed to go ashore on most days, leaving plenty of sunbeds for anyone wanting to stay on board. Adult only area at the back of the ship was nice. No large atrium in the middle of the ship but well designed central Irish bar and seating area made for a good place to meet up before dinner.
The Food - One word excellent. It was possible to eat somewhere different more or less each night without resorting to paying extra for the speciality restaurants. Taste and Manhattan served a whole mixture of dishes (large portions!) from steak to shrimp with some excellent desserts, the Garden Cafe Buffet is probably the best buffet restaurant we have experienced on any ship, with excellent choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Irish pub food was also included and excellent. Because of the choices at no time did any venue appear to be packed and we waited only minutes for tables on each ocassion (we ate about 7,30 each evening). We did try the Steak restaurant and although it was excellent there is really no need as the Steak served in the other venues including the buffet was just as good. Plenty of snacks available during the day, including cream teas, cookies etc !
Drinks - Alcoholic drinks standard cruise ship prices, we bought the Soda package which was excellent value normally $6 per day but if you paid $9 it included all sodas and fresh juices. If you drink more than 2 soft drinks a day/night its well worth it, we were not treated any differently for having the drinks sticker than anyone else
Dress Code - Yes this ship is casual but most passengers made an effort to dress smartly in the evenings , there are no formal nights but plenty of ladies (and gents) made the effort to wear nice clothes in the evening.
Entertainment - This is where NCL have failed dismally, this is probably the worst entertainment we have experienced on any ship or in any hotel. None of the shows were professional , the Blue Man Group and Legends was disappointing there were no good comedians or musicians. The only show that is worth seeing is Graffiti Classics who where talented and funny and should have been the main attraction rather than a small side show. We only saw the cruise director once on the trip !
Ports of Call - excursions were priced similarly to other cruises. However we are used to Cruise Lines giving out a map for each port with information regarding local markets, buses etc, NCL did not do this at any port.
Disembarkation - Now this is a big one.... We were kicked off the ship at 9am and our flight wasn't until 9pm, we asked our cruise representative, Virgin Holidays and Searched the internet for a somewhere close to the port to leave our luggage, the only option appeared to be lockers at the railway station. This is NOT TRUE , as soon as you get off the ship there is a stand with a small company called DW Consigna who will take your luggage from you for 10 Euros per bag and deliver it to any hotel or to the airport, this allowed us to have a day in Barcelona luggage free! When we go to the airport they were there waiting with our cases, excellent service !
Overall an good experience with NCL and I would definitely recommend particularly to first time cruisers and the younger generation who perhaps want as less formal dining and cruising experience.