Boarding was easy and efficient, but when you first walk on the ship you are not greeted (no glass of champagne) and you find yourself in the casino. Call me old fashioned, but I expect to walk into a beautiful atrium with customer service and friendly staff greeting me. Nope, just slot machines and crap tables taking up the center of the ship. The Epic does not have a beautiful central atrium like other ships we have been on, and this was symbolic of the impersonal and somewhat chaotic feel of the trip. Rather than a cruise ship, the Epic feels like you are in a floating casino/mall, all designed to get your money. Smoking is permitted in the casino, so we frequently walked through clouds of smoke when we moved from one end to the other.
Our room was small but nice. Soundproofing is good and we rarely were disturbed by neighbors. Beds are very small and even at 5"7" my toes hung off the end. Loved the balcony where I spent much time reading. Staff service was excellent both in our room at at restaurants. The sink in the room is a joke. It is virtually impossible to use without getting water on the counter and on yourself. It's noteworthy that every comedy show we went to on the ship made reference to the pathetic little sinks.
Food was a big disappointment on this ship. As always there was plenty of it, but nothing was exciting or noteworthy. Sad to say my favorite meal was the turkey with stuffing they served the last night. Need I say more? Alcohol prices are ridiculous. You order a $7 glass of wine and you get perhaps a quarter glass. Save money and order a bottle. On our last NCL cruise our favorite dinner was in the Italian restaurant (you pay extra). On the Epic the Italian Restaurant was not exciting in any way.
The entertainment was the primary reason we chose Epic and we were pleased. Blue Man Group is excellent, and we had a chance to meet them out of costume and ask questions about their show. The singing group Wildfire was wonderful and took requests, allowing us to dance to our favorite songs. Circus dinner was very entertaining. The magician/comic was truly outstanding. Second city was OK, but nothing fresh.
The pool area continues the chaotic and crowded feel of the ship. There is no large pool, but several hot tubs and smaller pools. The water slides were a blast for young people, but we weren't interested. The pool band was truly awful. There are nice private areas upstairs where you can read and get away from the noise, but no umbrellas or shade are provided.
One sad note. Shortly after leaving Miami the captain announced that we had a medical emergency and were returning to port. We didn't know what happened at the time, but we since learned that a young man died (possibly from a peanut allergy) shortly after we left. Our prayers go out to this young man and his family.
We did not take time to visit the shops in St. Maarten. It was so hot and humid that walking around was insane. I hear that the French side is beautiful. One down side of a 7 day cruise is that you don't get to spend much time in any one place. You really only have time for one excursion before you need to get back to the beach.
On previous cruises (including NCL) we were given water on the excursions and met at the door with cold, wet towels. Not Epic.