"Cruising Re-imagined" - I don't think so !
I have just returned from the inaugural Caribbean sailing of NCL's Epic and if this is the new face of cruising I want no part of it. Having enjoyed a wonderful cruise on the Baltic, with NCL, last summer, we were really looking forward to this new ship and exciting destination especially as we were celebrating my retirement. On our arrival in Miami check in was a total disgrace. We were met by a young, obviously inexperienced, totally laid back official and we waited while six groups to our left were processed, while we waited. Toilets were closed in the waiting area and we were not even allowed to wait for our friends, coming immediately behind us. There was no greeting as we came onboard, no offer of drinks or no directions given to cabins or waiting areas. When we eventually got to our cabins our friends found a sweet wrapper and dirty sock in one of their drawers. I was alarmed at the size of the Balcony stateroom. The new wave design looks very good but at one part of the cabin I could touch both walls. As for the frosted glass of the shower and toilet area and the wash basin being in the sleeping area, I'm sorry but I just don't understand the lay out and in talking to several others onboard I'm not alone. We then went to hang up our clothes to find no hangers available in one of the main wardrobes, our friends had the same complaint. There was no iron or ironing board available and the balcony size was very disappointing. The bed was totally inadequate. Again design has over ruled practicality. I am six foot tall, the bed is curved at the bottom therefore my feet stuck out the bottom unless I slept directly in the middle of the bed.
And now for the rest of the ship. The food is excellent, although the idea of having to pay extra for so many of the restaurants is ridiculous. Service from all staff is marvelous. The shows were terrific but take my advice book everything as soon as you get on. We tried to book Cirque du Soliel 4 hours after arriving on board to find it was booked out for the week. Make no mistake, this is a PARTY ship. One passenger described it as the noisiest ship she had ever been on, and I would have to agree. If you want to gamble, smoke and party this is for you. If you want to fly down water shutes in to over flowing pools you will love it but be careful, the entire pool area is an accident waiting to happen. I saw several people slip on the wet tiles and hurt themselves, despite endless efforts by crew members to push the water away. There is no place for adults to swim lengths and the plunge pool at the rear of the ship is warmer than an average bath.
Deck 6 is the casino, it's huge, right in the middle of the ship and a designated smoking area. Half the lifts don't go to deck 5 therefore you must walk through the casino and the smoke. There is even a designated room for smoking cigars !
There was NO quiet area, on any deck, where you could read a book. Everywhere there was music playing, hence we retreated to our balcony. Therefore total shade for 50% of our trip. There was no library. According to one crew member, the library had been axed to provide another shopping area. You could borrow a limited number of books from the bowling alley desk in Bliss between 9.30 and 10.30am There was no walking deck, the jogging track ran up and down one side of deck 7, totally boring ! The fitness suite was fabulous but again constructed for a young audience.
Our last morning brought the same organized chaos of the first. We had been given lavender coded tags for our cases and told we would be called at 10.15am. Every colour but lavender was called and we made our own way off the boat and had to discover our cases ourselves. We then asked about our transfer to the hotel, no one knew anything about us and eventually we were put on a coach heading for Miami airport. After 47 other passengers were dropped at three different parts of the airport and a trip lasting 2 hours we were left at the Sofitel. When I asked for help from the NCL rep, Rita, she managed to sort out our room but when my wife wanted to tell her of our poor treatment, she was extremely dismissive and informed her that she was only there to look after the new party, travelling to the ship that morning and advised us to take the hotel transfer coach for our return transfer to the airport.
Imagine how I felt when, after getting off the Miami flight we were met by 2 Royal Caribbean reps and asked if we had been on their cruise, I wish !