A true disappointment of EPIC proportions...
Let me begin by saying I have cruised many times across six different cruise lines (~14 cruises). So I write this review mainly for those who expect to be amazed by the NCL EPIC because you have read their brochure, website or have seen the DVD. Do not get your hopes up. The EPIC is truly a disappointment. We booked this trip in January 2010 and we sailed from Miami on the western Caribbean cruise from Sept. 4th to Sept. 11th. I will begin with the positives since there are so few. The embarkation and disembarkation procedure is very smooth and efficient. The staff was courteous and pleasant. The fitness center is the best I've seen on a ship. It had every kind of equipment and was clean and spacious. The Spa is also as described in their literature. I bought the Thermal Suite package (2 people for $199) and it was worth it. Why? See the pool comments in the negative part of this review. I also had 2 treatments at the spa and they were marvelous along with the professional spa staff.
Now for what is wrong with NCL EPIC.
The most glaring problem with the EPIC, which needs to be re-addressed by NCL upper management, is its architecture and design. I'm not writing about the color of the carpets or the walls, I'm referring to the structure of the ship. On a ship that is touting itself as being able to hold 4000+ cruisers there is not enough deck space. Decks 15 contains the Garden Cafe in the front, the main pool area and stage in the middle, and SpiceH2O the pool/nightclub for adults-only (NOT) in the aft section. The deck space is taken up by 3 enormous slides which wouldn't be so bad if there was a real pool and deck space. The pool is really two parallel mini pools that at the most holds maybe 100-150 people. What was the architect/engineer thinking? The pool area once you step onto the tile is taken up with walking space on the edge of the pool and between the two mini pools. For those of you, who are confused at the sentence I just wrote, imagine how I felt looking at it. There are two nonsensical structures in the pool walking space that serves no purpose but as decoration (??) This walking space cannot be used if you want to walk from one end of the ship to the other. Why not sunbathe on Deck 16? The slides take up so much room that deck 16 is very narrow. On a ship of 4000+ that is not a good thing. The SpiceH2O pool is just a big bathtub with an extensive amount of space taken up with a walking space edge. By noon the water was cloudy. Too many bodies not enough water.
Whose idea was it to make a ship with no central elevators? Even once I became familiar with the EPIC enough walking already, a ship this big needs forward, center and aft elevators.
Let's go to the cabins. Who designed the staterooms? Pygmies? I had category BB balcony room. I won't bother to discuss the curved wall nonsense that makes the room smaller than the pictures on the website lead you to believe. To NCL leadership what made you think eliminating a bathroom was a good idea. A cabin requires a bathroom door. The glass enclosed toilet and shower stall is on opposite sides of the cabin door. When you shower, you step out of the shower in front of the flimsy privacy curtain but behind the cabin door. If someone comes in the door you are exposed to others in the hallway. Does every toilet flush have to be in stereo? If you are sharing a cabin and you use the toilet in the middle of the night you will wake up your roommate. If you have company they better go straight to the balcony because there is no exhaust in the toilet room for odors and it is also not soundproof. Whose idea was it to put the flat bottom sink in the room? When the water is turned on in a flat bottomed shallow sink the water splashes, on the floor, on the carpeting, on the clothes you are wearing.
Moving on to the restaurants. At no extra charge, there is one restaurant, one buffet and one pub on the EPIC all other descriptions to the contrary are in my opinion the bamboozlement of the public and semantics by NCL marketing. The Garden Cafe like every other cruise line's Lido Deck buffet, offers a variety of foods, O'Sheehan's pub offers pub food and the like, which was quite good. Taste and The Manhattan Room, while touted as two restaurants because they are two separate spaces have the exact same menu for breakfast, lunch, & dinner. Once I realized this I wondered why NCL would do this, because they want you to go to the pay restaurants or the pay a la carte restaurants. Unless you bought a villa the Courtyard Grill & Epic club is not available to you. The Great Outdoors is not a restaurant it is the outside part of the Garden Cafe, same food as inside. The Spiegel tent is NOT a restaurant the food served there is not on par with the food in the Garden Cafe buffet. Pizza 24/7 costs 5 dollars...why? We're not talking expert pizza here, for that some NCL management might want to take a ride on the Ruby Princess.
Finally Entertainment must be addressed. In fairness I must say that The Blue Man Group and Slam Allen band at Fat Cats was worth the experience. The Murder Mystery performance put on by Second City (in the Spiegel Tent) was good with the audience participation. But Cirque, where shall I start...Buffoonery is as good a word as any. NCL billed this as a Cirque-du-Soleil type performance that included world class and Broadway talent, but I think maybe they may not know the definition of buffoonery. Having seen five different Cirque-du-Soleil shows NCL should reconsider renaming this Circus of Dreams, forget about the airline microwave dinner and start promoting it on par with Nickelodeon Slime time.
I only wrote the major things that maybe some operations manager somewhere within the cruise line might want to take a look at. This experience will not stop me from cruising, it but I will not be getting back on the EPIC.