7th NCL Cruise, 1st Review EPIC 8/28/10
First and foremost, we LOVED the Epic. Had a wonderful cruise and will sail on her again. Purchased 2 cruise rewards certificates because NCL has been and remains "our" cruise line. This was our 7th NCL cruise and I don’t believe I’ve ever done review before so bear with me.
Flew from Portland OR to Ft Lauderdale on Continental (arghhh no leg room) red eye arriving around 11 am Friday. Took SAS Transportation to Mondrian Hotel in South Beach - they let us check in early and upgraded our room. We booked Mondrian through Last Minute Travel recommended on the CC Florida departure boards. LMT, SAS and Mondrian were all wonderful. So hot and HUMID we just explored few block area around the hotel, ate lunch at italian restaurant, checked out Whole Foods and went back and took several hour nap. Had dinner around 10 pm at Mondrian in outside restaurant seating - wonderful.
Had continental breakfast in morning, relaxed in beautiful pool area and called cab for ride to pier. Larry asked driver to give us tour of South Beach and tab ended up being somewhere between $25 and $30 – lol we enjoyed it and called it our first excursion. We'll return to Mondrian and SB but next time go at least 2 days early and at time of year when it's not so hot/humid.
We had received message from NCL on cell phone saying we were cruising with changed itinerary. At the pier we were given form showing St Martin and St Thomas replaced with Cozumel and Roatan. Nassau became full day instead of half day. We had no desire to cruise in hurricane so change didn't bother us.
Boarding was a breeze - no waiting at all. Went directly to 10318 aft ba and were able to store our roll on bag. We were so pleased to find bottle of wine compliments of NCL/TA for our anniversary. There are 10 staterooms across back (stern) of Epic. We were closest to the port side and our balcony was definitely wider than stateroom next to us. We were able to fit a lounger on the balcony along with the two chairs and tiny table with room left to move around. We’d definitely book one of the end ba’s again.
There was vibration, noise when Epic was docking especially when doing the turn in Miami but small price to pay for wonderful aft view. Loved the wave stateroom with bed by balcony, lots of storage, no problem with bathroom set up and no sink splashing. Our steward Jorge was friendly and took good care of us – towel animals 3 nights, ice every day.
Used the aft "secret stairway" area as our side balcony for portside viewing. Door to this area was just outside our stateroom and there are 3 large cutouts for portside viewing.
Went to the spa and booked couple spa package – spa is beautiful and well equipped. This turned out to be waste of $$ because we only used spa once! Totally our fault, just so much to do on the Epic. It would have been better to stay out of the casino and use the spa ?
We really enjoyed the Cirque show although we had booth seating and could not see the upper level action. Lots of action on the main floor to keep us entertained.
When we got to the show there were 3 lines, one for priority seating, one for regular seating and one for standbys - show totally sold out. There was no choosing your own seat – seating was assigned and you were escorted to your assigned table.
Had never been to any kind of Cirque show so no preconceived notions. The two hours went by very quickly and we laughed a lot. Lots of fun crazy costumes, continuous action with some singing and some speaking roles. I'm smiling thinking about it. I would go to this show again.
The food was far better than i expected, salad was fine, the beef was really delicious and the chicken was good. Could not finish the chicken or the desert because there was a lot of food. Service was excellent.
Legends – enjoyable but not wonderful.
Blue Man – forgot all about our Sunday night reservations and ended up not making new reservations, maybe next time on the Epic.
Howl at the Moon was one of our favorite evening activities. We spent 2 nights at Howl - from approx 10 to closing 1 or 1:15. There are two pianos but 3 player/singers. They also have drums. Eddie is great, another is pretty good and one is weak singer (plays great though). They don't take a break so alternate in and out and sometimes all three are on at same time. We really really loved Howl - my dh and I can't carry a tune but lol we sure enjoyed singing choruses. After 11 they suggest no kids because extra verses may be added.... Wanted to go their third and final night but my 62yr old body said it was time for bed.
Slam Adams in Fat Cats – music was so loud I couldn’t go inside to watch. Could hear just fine while playing the non-smoking slots outside the door and I did enjoy listening while I lost.
Jeff Hobson, went to a later show and was enjoying it but was so tired I could hardly stay awake. Earlier would have been better for me.
Fabba – Spice H2O - fun YMCA ?
Cagneys for anniversary dinner was wonderful as was the service. Enjoyed dinner at LaCucina with gorgeous view table. Ate lunch one day at noodle bar – it was great. Ate at Manhattan Room, Taste, buffet, O’Sheehans for breakfast one day and included food everywhere ranged from fine to very good. Loved having the Atrium coffee bar with included snacks that varied according to time of day. Sometimes we’d pick something up one morning, take it back to stateroom and have it for breakfast next day. Loved the two for one Martinis – watch the freestyle daily for times/places.
The cruise staff on NCL along with freestyle is what brings us back time after time. We very much enjoyed visiting with several of the staff including Simon (although we miss have a smashing day) director Silas ? and Ryan in the entertainment department and hotel director Dennis Prguda. Special thanks to Dennis for his courtesy and kindness to us and to Ryan for drinks and hanging with us at Howl at the Moon. Crew members were friendly and seemed happy to be on the ship.
We're non-smokers and love the slots and were thankful there is non-smoking slot area and that non-smoking was enforced. We spent way too much time in the casino. Our our stateroom was deck 10 stern/aft and we used the aft elevators or aft stairs. It was often smoky by the cascade bar which has gaming machines and is located between the two banks of aft elevators.
At times it was VERY smoky around the table games which unfortunately are located in the center aisle way. This area got very crowded due to onlookers as well as players. Luckily it is not a huge area and lol i'd usually hold my breath while walking through. Pretty hard to avoid this area since it's between the non-smoking machines & the change machines, cashiers, O'Sheehans, escalator to deck 5 etc (almost everything is forward of the non-smoking slots). Aft elevators do not stop on 5 so you have to go to 6 and down the escalator.
The casino is huge. I wish they would move the table games to one side, and enlarge the non-smoking slot area to make the entire center aisle non-smoking.
Cozumel we wasted – had decided to just hit some of the shops and stop somewhere for a drink. Shopkeepers were pushy, it was very hot and humid- should have gone to beach.
Roatan- never been there before and had nothing planned. Signed up for the NCL Tabayana Beach Party excursion. It was great and we’d do it again. Sat next to the driver on the way to the beach and he pointed out the sights. Gorgeous beach, beautiful water with good snorkeling. It was $15 for snorkel gear. Excursion included the transportation, lunch, use of facilities. Clean bathrooms, lockers available, lots of loungers in both sun and shade. Live music. Think buses went back to pier every half hour, we stayed for several hours as it was truly beautiful. Loved Roatan, would like to go back.
Nassau – worked out well to have entire day there. We slept in, had breakfast and then got off the ship. Took the #10 Jitney for $1.25 each to the Sheraton and paid $25 each for day pass. They have nice beach and beautiful pools and lots of loungers and there was hardly anyone there. Scenery is gorgeous. Food was spendy – had one beer each and split a sandwich. Caught the #10 Jitney coming back right outside the Sheraton and took it back downtown towards pier. Saw Arawak Cay where the fish fry is on the way back, next time would do Sheraton early then stop and have eat at fish fry. Really enjoyed chatting with the locals on the jitneys. We visited some of the shops near the port – much less hassle in Nassau than Cozumel.
Although the Epic is large we had no trouble finding our way around. It rarely seemed crowded. I prefer the look of the two story grand atriums but loved the variety of venues and entertaiment available on the Epic so it was a more than fair tradeoff for me. Was lucky enough to tour the Courtyard area and there will be an Epic sailing in a suite in the future. We’ve been in suites on the Sun, Pearl and Star and don’t think they can compare to having a suite on the Epic. Do wear flip flops on the pool deck, it is hot. Hot tubs in Spice H2O area are nice and have great view. Shops on the Epic are nice – there were good specials in shop area on pool deck.
Took last color bag tags. Left our carryon in room and had breakfast at Taste. Went around and looked at various empty staterooms and took some photos – spa suite, aft penthouse etc. Customs was quick and easy, called SAS Transportation for pickup. Had to wait due to family who commandeered entire van but didn’t have all their party ready. Evidentally one of their bags was hung up in customs. After 10 or 15 minutes poor driver had to unload their luggage and tell them to call again when they were all ready.
Trip to Ft Lauderdale was uneventful and we hung out until time for our SW flight home. Much preferred SW to Continental – next time will do SW both ways.