This was our first NCL cruise and it will likley be our last. Overall, the Epic is crowded and casual and just not for us.
Embarkation and debarkation was a breeze. However, from there we experienced some pros and many cons. Others on the cruise (many of which were die-hard NCL fans) did not really enjoy the Epic experience.
1. Entertainment: Although it is not the traditional "Song and Dance Extravaganza" on most lines, we really enjoyed all the entertainmnet. This was definitley the highlight of the cruise.
For those worried about pre-booking, we booked most things ahead, but there were plenty of seats (even for Cirque) if you went asap when you boarded to the entertainment booking area - deck 6 I believe.
Blue Man - I am not smart enough (?) to get Blue Man, but it was fun and hey, it was free!!!
Cirque: Very good - everyone complains on the boards about the food - I thought food was very good. Plus, the entertaiment is great. Spring for the premium seats and go early - 45 minutes before show - to get best seats. Lines start early. DH was part of the show, so that was fun! He was the bell ringer! Lots of audience participation.
Legends: We just saw this in Myrtle and frankly, this show was just as good (just shorter). Much fun!!!! We liked Elvis the best, but Madonna and Tina were good too!
Second City : Again, funny and good!
Howl at the Moon: We went multiple nights - I loved this venue!!! The singerrs aren't great, but they literally know ANY song and the crowd gets into it - super fun!
Other bars: There are many options every night - Bernie Martini (standards) is very good as are all the artisits at Fat Cats (blues). There was even a guy in the middle of the ship near one bar with just his guitar who was great. If you dine in the MDR, I liked Manhatttan better because of the band - Bernie Martini played one night which was really fun!
Overall, the entertainment is very good and by far the best part of the ship.
2. A few good cabin ideas - like magnets to keep curtain to balcony closed, lots of storage, nice reading lamps. OUr stweard, Patrick (cabin 8155 - more on that cabin later) was so nice and did a great job! Also, our room was quiet - hardly heard anything.
3. Service, in general, was quite good.
4. There are lots and lots of activities which is good. However, no library or game room, which we do enjoy.
5. The decor of the ship - especially public areas on 5, 6, 7, were really lovely and neat decor. The chandalier was beautiful.
CONS (AND THERE ARE MANY)
1. Cabins are unbelievably, incredibly, annoyingly small. I cannot describe adequately how small they are!!!!! By far the smallest I have ever seen. We had a standard balcony room # 8155 (be warned, this cabin has an uncovered balcony). There is literally about one foot or less at the end of the "curved" (which means too short to lay on) bed - you have no room at all. If you are thinking of more than two people in the room, think twice. Even for two it was so tiny. One of us had to stay on the bed while the other dressed. The curved rooms takes up alot of useless space - who can sit on a curved couch? And the bathrooms are every bit as annoying as set forth in all the threads. The sink especially. The shower was not too bad. Toilet area was tiny as well.
One guy who was in his cabin with two kids and his wife joked that it was his daughters' birthday and they were going to fill the cabin with balloons - which would take 2 balloons. Not one person said anything good about the size of the cabins or the layout or the bath area.
IMO, NCL really messed up with the cabins - if the cabin had been even a normal size, it would have really made a difference. But I KNOW from comments, that because of the puny cabins, many won't cruise on Epic again - without repeat cruisers, eventually NCL will have a big ship with half empty small cabins, instead of a fuller ship with slightly larger rooms - even one foot wider and two feet longer would have really helped (there was planty of space to take a foot at least off the balcaony and add it to the room). And, if you are listening NCL - there is a reason none of us curve our rooms in our houses - IT IS STUPID!
2. Crowds and more crowds! Be prepared to get frustrated in the Garden Cafe - no tables and lots of people! The pool area/pools are very crowded - the adult pool is the size of a large hot tub and therefore is about 90 degrees - crowded and hot (and why are they showing wild animals fighting and killing each other on the big movie screen at the adult pool - just a question)
3. Deck 15 - What were you thinking????? OK - they shoved about every possible thing you would want to do on a sea day on ONE DECK! Here it is: Garden Cafe Buffett, outdoor eating venue, entrance to Italian restaurant, multiple rock walls, 4 ping pong tables, outdoor casino, outdoor shopping kiosks/area, kids water park, adult/kids water slides, several bars, the only two general pubic pools, bandstand, hot tubs, adult pool/nightclub area. Yes, that is all on ONE DECK - one very, very crowded deck with dangerously slippery floors because of the slides - and no good way to get around because the kids water park is in the center walkway.
4. Smoke everywhere because of the casino - you havd to walk through it to get places and even if you go one floor up, they failed to put a ceiling on the casino - so the smoke floats up to all the public areas in the floor above.
5. NCL is desperate for money - clearly this must be the case since you are up-charged for everything. After a few days, my DH thought they would have panhandlers in the halls.
6. Which leads to very mediocre food - especially in the MDR - Clearly a ploy to get you to spend, spend, spend in the specialty restaurants. Most of these were mediocre as well. Cagney's is not good - certainly it is no where near Chops on RCI or the speciality restaurants on Celebrity. La Cucuina was OK - average Italian fare. Moderno was actually the best one. It was worth the extra money.
PRO/CON (DEPENDING ON WHO YOU ARE)
NCL (at least the Epic) seemed to me to be for those who don't really like traditional cruising. It is far, far more casual than other lines, with no special events (like Captains' party or loyalty parties), very casual dress with no formal nights (shorts in dining areas on the "formal" nights????) , and basically, harder in a way to make friends given that you sit with only your party most nights.
In sum, if you don't mind small cabins, extra charges, very casual dress and crowds, but you like activities, choices and entertainment, this may be your ship. If, like me, you like to dress up, eat fine food, have traditional seating and have a nice cabin, this is definitley not your cup of tea.
This is just my impression. I truly did enjoy the cruise (because who wouldn't enjoy a cruise????) especially the entertainment. But, it is back to RCI for us. Thanks.