We booked our trip on Thursday July 29th and departed on July 31st! We live about 5 hours from Miami...so getting there was no problem. On Wednesday evening our 19 year old mentioned he wished we were going on a cruise this summer! I looked over at the hubby and he said okay. Son is heading back to college--soon! I looked online to see what was sailing on the 31st. At first I tried to get us on the Oasis of the Seas....RCCL being our usual first choice. Their website showed availability, had the TA try to book us 2 cabins, and they were sold out. Next choice was NCL EPIC. TA was a little wary for us because we usually try to stay away from tons of kids and always stay off the mega ships when traveling with hubby!
Luckily hubby is not too inquisitive, because he never asked exactly what I had planned! He would have FREAKED out to hear there would be more than 4,000 guests on board. My girlfriends and I did a 3 night out of Miami in May, and there I learned of the Walk-Off program...I told my boys to only pack what they could roll on and off the ship, we each took one small suitcase....no waiting to disembark was a big bonus for us!
We arrived to the Port of Miami to see this massive ship, funny looking in the front, looked like a big floating box! And it was pretty darn big. I think there were 2 Carnival ships sitting behind the EPIC, they were definitely dwarfed in size by EPIC. We arrived pretty late, it was a little after 3. Apparently right around 3pm they stop all arrival processing to give a head count to the Coast Guard. We did have to stand in line for about 20 extra minutes while waiting for this process. There were only a handful of us waiting at this point. Once the processing began, it was swift walk to our cabins. NOTE: online we were told there were no credit cards taken for parking! We parked in Terminal C, and paid by credit card when pulling into the parking garage. $140.00 for the week.
Since we booked 2 days prior, our only choice for a cabin was on deck 8, but we did get a free upgrade. I believe we ended up D4, but paid for one or two lesser categories. Baby Boy was in a Studio #11571.
Before booking I saw a photo of a deck 8 cabin with the lifeboats....and was a little worried about the view. IT WAS FINE! The lifeboats were not in the way, they were several feet below our deck, and our view was still perfect. Would not have traded it for a smaller cabin. We had the larger cabin, I think it was the 245 sq ft. The curve was a beautiful design and there was so much storage I was actually afraid I would stash something and forget to pack it back up! There were only a couple things I should mention: The bathtub was very high, and it would have been hard if we had any mobility issues. You had to take a pretty big step into the tub/shower. Once in, it was great and quite roomy. The WC was not too private..the glass door was opaque and one could not see through, but glass is not a great sound barrier if you know what I mean. The toilet flush sounded like a shotgun blast! It will definitely wake your mate up in the night if you have to flush....sink in the cabin was no big deal, and actually quite convenient. We had a STARBOARD cabin, and it was THE BEST side to be on for the Eastern Caribbean trip. Always had the best view. Docked looking towards the islands in St. Maarten and St. Thomas, and had a beautiful view of a small peninsula in Nassau with great drive by boating. All the party boats going by, and not a view of the rather awful looking port of Nassau!
Also the tallest hanging closet had no hangars in it. The double layer closet had plenty...so if you want to hang any dresses, or long items, bring a hangar or I guess you can always ask your steward for some!
Hubby is 6'2" and yes his feet did hang off the bed when stretched out fully, but he likes to sleep that way...so it was all good! Good soft sheets, good pillows, nice bed and good towels. NCL is so smart...trying to cut down on the deck chair "saving". They give you 2 beach towels in your stateroom, and if they are not returned you are charged $25 each for their loss. You could also check out extra towels by the pool with your key card. There was still a lot of deck chairs being saved by a tote bag, and towels by the brave...
The Studio cabin was perfect for our teen! He is 19, and we signed the beer and wine waver for him, so he could consume some alcohol. We always tell him that if we see him drunk or misbehaving we will un-sign the waiver! We don't like putting the kids in a balcony cabin, not because of price, but because of safety. Always worry about them dorking around and going overboard...definitely an irrational fear...but I think it could happen! Anyway the Studio was really AWESOME! It was teeny-tiny, but he put all his clothes and stuff away, stuffed his suitcase under the bed and he had plenty of room. There is a light-switch that rotates the color of the room. White, blue, pink...and he would leave that on all the time when in the cabin. Big flat-screen TV adjacent to the bed. Steward was really great, gave him and extra $50 for picking up after the worlds biggest slob. Anyway, his Studio was located in the most Aft section of the Studios on Deck 11. We asked the Steward to show us the lounge for them, and I think it was about 1/2 mile away. We fell out way before we got there. If you plan on using the lounge, book your studio more forward.
Being such a late booking we did not get into the Cirque Dreams Dinner. But we did pay extra for: Caney's Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, and Shanghai. Ate about everywhere else, and of course ate at what we fondly call the "Pig Bar"...buffet. All the regular venues were great. Buffet was always awesome, look around everywhere, because they stick some extras in side areas, not repeated somewhere else. We tried to call for Pizza once, but they never answered the phone. It was a quite busy time, just back on the ship late in the day, so I am sure many of us were calling. I was on hold for almost 15 minutes before I gave up.
We were disappointed in all of the 'extra-pay' places. At Cagney's my Beef Filet was tough, and the sides were just OK. Hubby wasn't too impressed either. Chinese was not good either. I ordered Kung Pao Chicken, and it came out looking just like Sweet and Sour chicken, with a few peanuts thrown on top. When they sat it down before me, I immediately handed it over to hubby thinking it was his S/S Pork! I have eaten Kung Pao all over the place, and it was not what I was expecting...all that sugar..yuck! At the Brazilian place, our reservation was for 8:30 and we did not get seated until 9:15. There was a log of obvious favoritism going on, and it seemed like a lot of the Latino families were shown quicker service than us. AND I mean no offense, we are also a Latino background family, but we do not speak Spanish!!! The first think I noticed when we had finally been seated, the Churro guy was visiting the table next to ours with about 8 little lamb chops on his stick. He place on on the guys place, and they started to ask him if it was well done. He said no, so he put the chop back onto his stick, OFF THE GUY'S DIRTY PLATE! Oh No, but Faux Pas for us....reported it to our head waiter, and he said he would talk to the guy. We all 3 looked at each other and tried to decided whether to stay or go. Big manager came over and apologized, and comped our cover charges. Needless to say we ate just a few bites and split! This was the ONLY time we saw any unsafe food handling. Having been in the food service industry, we tend to notice these things. One other time, something was dropped, like an apple or something...can't remember what the item was, but it immediately went into the trash!
ICE BAR...had a 6:30 reservation @ $20 each (you get 2 drink tickets each) and right at about 6:29 they squeezed in a family of 14 (They call themselves the Crazy Cubans) We got put in about 10 minutes later with our group. The guy working the door gave us some BS story, that he was putting the large group in first so we could have more space! LOL. There were so many of us in there, one could not even squeeze themselves to the bar! It was a big fat joke. My husband and I escaped through the emergency exit, it was locked, but we just undid the deadbolt and got the hell out! Son stayed there, and said the big group left about 15 minutes later. Idea is good, and novel, but again this favoritism of squeezing people in really irritated me. They will need to tell their employees to stop doing this. Photographer could not even get photo's of the guests inside!
WE loved the casual aspect of the ship. Shorts and a nice shirt were always fine for the guys. EXCEPT in the Manhattan Room, long pants were necessary. But the menu in the Taste and the Manhattan Room were EXACTLY the same...so If you didn't want to dress up a little for dinner, just go to the Taste! Food service was terrific. The rear Adults Only area called Spice H2O was GREAT! They really hustled the beer and drinks. It was easy to get served, and the wait staff was quite friendly. Get the bucket of beer if you are a beer drinker. We would take the buckets back to our cabin, and our steward would keep ice on it. (if there was every any left). Our last night we went to the Spice H2O area, and then I learned we should have been spending more time there at night. We like to smoke when partying, and we had a tendency to go to our balcony to smoke. But it was really nice in the aft area, no kids, and the wind was not bad. Starboard side was smoking. That large outdoor TV was amazing. Next time...... Anyway wrapping it up: We LOVE the EPIC and would definitely do it again in a heartbeat. We like everything about the ship, it was beautiful and new, friendly staff, good food, great entertainment (we did everything--even the slides) Slam Allen Band was great, Blue Man Group was great...it was ALL GOOD. Bernie Martini the piano player was great too! WE like long days at sea, been to most of the ports numerous time...didn't even get off the ship in the V.I. Oh, one more thing, two of us had terrific haircuts from Mark--and Aussie hair stylist. He was terrific!
This being our first trip on NCL since the ill fated Norway, we will definitely do NCL again too! We are lovers of RCCL, and Celebrity, but now we are also lovers of NCL!