I was very much looking forward to this inaugural transatlantic crossing on a brand new ship. The hype had been going on for months. I had gone eastbound 3 weeks earlier on the QM2 and had enjoyed every minute of it. Now, I was hoping to relive that experience, but on a more casual basis, without having to "dress up" so many nights. I had also booked the studio room, and was thrilled that a ship was finally listening to the poor beleaguered single traveler and sparing us that painful single supplement. I thought for sure we would be treated special, with at least a certificate, free champagne or button, but not even that.
I won't rehash the details of what others have already written, but to say I was disappointed with this cruise is like saying the Titanic was felled by an ice cube. From the embarkation on, the mood of the passengers was dampened, due to stressful standing in line, with no directions. The welcome aboard was non-existent. The room was tiny, but I soon got used to it. It's more than ample for one regular sized person. Forget it otherwise. The configuration is totally unpassenger friendly, giving you little room to maneuver around the bed to fetch your clothing or use the safe, when it worked. The bed was much too big for one person, and deducted from living space. The closet was a joke, even for my small wardrobe, and the sink and "table/desk" were both too small to serve any practical purpose. I loved the ottoman under the table; as if you could even push it out far enough to sit on!. If you ordered room service, you had better eat it on the bed, or in the Studio Lounge, which, by the way, was supposed to be for studio guests only, with entry limited by the use of our room cards. However, the door was never locked, so after a few days many other passengers found out about it and came trooping through, even families with children in tow. I wanted to get away from that noise, not have it follow me to the last quiet place available on ship.
There was nowhere on board to read a book without loud crowds or music, especially when nasty weather kept everyone inside. No library, no study, no secluded lounge, unless you found the Bliss Ultra Lounge appealing. The decor is "Las Vegas bordello" and the windows look out onto deck 7, which has most of its view blocked by lifeboats. That deck also has the jogging track. Nothing like a brisk walk with a charming view of lifeboats, plus the added insult of having the kitchens vent their fumes onto that deck, as well. I was nauseated by the smell of cooking grease at all hours of the day. Who had that brilliant idea?
From day one, people were lined up at Customer Service, griping to staff about space, water and room temperatures, non-working phones, televisions, and safes and demanding upgrades or on board credits. Everywhere I sat I heard people grousing, which is no way for a ship to start out its cruising life. They didn't give us free cocktails until the last evening, and I suspect that was only because travel agents aboard made the recommendation to management, to help alleviate the ill will. Too little, too late. The food was ordinary,except for some creative appetizers and yummy desserts. I refused to pay the surcharges to eat at the "specialty" venues, as the menus looked like what I could get at a local chain restaurant or cafe back home. Therefore, I ate in the main dining room, where the menu is the same every day, except for chef specials such as roast turkey???? The lunch and dinner menus on the QM2 were changed every day and included all the luxury items that the Epic expects you to pay extra for. What a ripoff!
That, and the $12.95 per movie on TV. Netflix doesn't charge that much! If you opted for regular TV, you got 2 channels of Nickelodeon, shipboard info, view-cam from the bridge, 3 news and sports channels, if you can consider MSNBC anything resembling news, and a loop relay of old sitcoms.I saw one episode of Friends 3 times. I know the idea is to be out of your cabin, but why offer TV if you only offer such meager fare? Lining up for evening entertainment, especially after you lined up earlier to make the reservation, was like rubbing salt into an open wound. People queued up an hour and one half prior to a show, blocking passage of foot traffic on that deck. No staff was around to alleviate the situation; just an occasional PA announcement to "clear the decks", or words to that effect.
There were no instructions in the studio rooms on how to use anything, particularly on how to control the lights. I felt a right fool not being able to turn all the lights off; at one point using my clothes to hang over lights and get some relief. When talking to others, I found they had the same problems, but figured it out by trial and error. Is it too much to ask that some literature and a map be left on the desk/table? Why do passengers have to wait in lines to get this at the Atrium?
Little things soon added up to make for an unpleasant experience. Even the bridge viewing room was only open when there was too much fog to see anything. When it finally cleared, they pulled the shades down to block your view, with no explanation. I also saw guests being escorted onto the actual bridge itself, for tours and photo ops. When I asked about it, I was told I must have been mistaken, as passengers are not allowed. They must have been "team members". Oh really, in shorts and t-shirts, without ID badges? Some security, especially as the door has a sign saying " Authorized Personnel Only". What a joke, and I hate being lied to, as they were probably people from deluxe suites, travel agents or cruise critics.
The shows were Las Vegas kitsch. The comedy magician was good. Almost an hour and 1/2 of Blue Man Group was enough to make me want to flee to my room to watch Nickelodeon. Same for Cirq. If you've seen them once, that's quite enough. No recitals, revues, lectures, etc. for the older people on board. Just fun, fun, fun, bingo, bingo, bingo and beer, wine or liquor binges for extra prices, plus the obligatory art auctions. Shame on NCL. They made Carnival seem like luxury cruising.
Lastly, the disembarkation process. I wasn't planning on the easy walk-off, but, after witnessing how inept NCL was at everything else, I wasn't leaving anything to chance. I had a train at Penn Sta to catch. So, I lined up on deck 5 over 3 hours early, bags in tow, only to be joined by a sea of like-minded people, surrounded by luggage. We looked like steerage on one of the old immigration ships. The mood was decidedly "I can't wait to get off of this bucket". When we finally docked, they permitted the contractors to get off first. These were the same people who made the voyage with us to complete the work on the ship; everything from cabling, to phone service, to electrical work and even last minute construction. They had been traipsing through the common areas at all hours, fixing things and carrying long ladders, power tools and extension cords. All in full view of passengers. They enjoyed the lounges with us, and now they got to get off first! A man behind me lost his temper and pushed me aside, demanding to know why those people were getting off first. He charged at the exit door, grabbing an officer by the arms. I thought we would have a riot. Still no explanation or directions from NCL staff. I think they were just as eager to get rid of us.
Many people will be lenient, and make excuses for NCL, saying it was, after all, their first long trip and there are bugs to be worked out. I say too bad. You don't put a ship out, especially on a transatlantic crossing, unless it is seaworthy and ready for the comforts of paying passengers. Not unless you don't care about your reputation, or your passengers. This ship was not ready. I would gladly have paid the extra money to come back on QM2, which by the way beat us into port, even after having left Southampton a day later. I saw that the Epic was used to stage the Macy's 4th of July show, so now I know why they felt they had to make the voyage, even though the ship wasn't ready. What a farce. They will never see me again, nor many other passengers from this "Special inaugural transatlantic crossing on the most beautiful ship in the world". Dream on!!!