This was a GREAT cruise! I can only hope my review makes any sense at all, as I am sitting here at home after debarkation day with a cup of tea trying to recover from an INCREDIBLE week!
I will go through day by day hitting highlights - and then there are some random notes at the end.
First, as a background - this was my 6th cruise. I have done two on Carnival, two on Princess, one on HAL and now the Epic. I went with a group of 11 other people (my parents included) and my boyfriend.
Embarkation and First Day on - the smoothest and easiest ever. We got to the port at 11:30 -so we got our cruise cards and sat in the chairs for awhile (they do have coffee and orange juice there too if you want it)
When boarding, we entered by the Epic Theater...and yes - I felt the WOW factor. I just loved seeing everything I had read about up close and personal. From the theater for the Blue Man group to the entrance to the Spiegal Tent and O'Sheehan's too!
We went up top and met several other members of our group for our welcoming drink (no, not free) and then had lunch at Spice. I find the buffet on Embarkation Days kind of overwhelming - so this was a great place to sit for a fresh, hot, first day lunch. That might have been an advantage to getting on early was that we were literally the first to have the Spice lunch.
I wore my bathing suit and a cover up on embarkation day so I could go on the slides ASAP (without any lines) and it was a GREAT plan! My BF and I went poolside with a couple of other friends, had some tequila and I went sliding. The slides are GREAT. I did not find any seem problems with the way they were put together, so they didn't scrape my skin at all. I found that if you go down and lean back on your elbows a bit, you are balanced and the ride is smooth.
Something that was a FIRST for embarkation day (and the middle of the day in general) was hitting the cigar bar at 1:30 in the afternoon! We had a first day cigar. This was interesting, as usually when rooms open we are RIGHT THERE key card in hand - but we ended up in our room a bit later than usual.
The sail-away party was amazing. Great music, beautiful weather. This ended the BEST first day on any ship ever!
Day 2 Food & Entertainment - We ate at Moderno with our whole group. Reservations were made ahead of time. This was a great and fun meal! LOTS of meat cooked beautifully. Afterward it was Headliners for Howl at the Moon. Honestly, this started off so-so...but after a few beverages it did get better. Watch out for the Coco-Cabatinis...these have Goldschlager...Goldschlager and I do not see eye to eye...if you are the same way - watch out (though this is a GOOD drink)
Day 3 Milkshakes and Shanghai's - I spent the Monday quietly recovering from the Coco-Cabatini's with my boyfriend. We hit O'Sheehan's (which we LOVED. Great food, good service, good chicken wings too) and I had the chocolate milkshake. It was VERY VERY good. That night, we went to Shanghai's for dinner. The service was GREAT. The food was pretty good. Have I had better Chinese food at home? Yes. But at home I pay about 90 dollars for the good Chinese food (needless to say, it happens sparingly) Most of the rest of our group went to the Blue Man Group that night - and there were good reviews all around for BMG.
Day 4 - Orient Beach and Legends. We took a bus ride to Orient Beach in St. Maarten. You can go topless if you so desire on that beach (um, no, I did not) and further down there is a total clothing optional beach. It is a BEAUTIFUL place to sit and stare at the water. I made a few meager attempts to body surf as well. You can get a welcoming rum drink on this excursion (but after my Sunday night Coco Cabatini situation...I was fairly "dry" for the rest of the week) Lunch was just ok.
That evening, I got some video as we sailed away from St. Maarten. It was a BEAUTIFUL sailaway - and we did some more water sliding too. Going on the slides just before you leave port is a GREAT time to go.
That night we saw Legends. Honestly, it didn't blow me away. Go see it, have fun, enjoy the music. It is not a bad way to kill an hour - but I wasn't awed.
Day 5 - Helmet Dive, Cagney's, Spice and Wall-E At St. Thomas my boyfriend, our two good friends, my parents and myself went on the "Helmet Dive." This is where you put a helmet over your head that they pump air into and you walk along the floor of the ocean. My parents, my BF and I were all a bit apprehensive about it. I even wanted to turn back as soon as I got the helmet on. BUT I did it - and it was AMAZING. The staff was friendly, the location was adorable (a little beach and lots of wildlife to look at) and it was an INCREDIBLE experience.
That night, the rest of the group went to Cirque Dreams and the BF and I went to Cagney's. But FIRST we had a little happy hour with my parents at Spice. This is one of the secrets of the ship. At 5pm, you can order AMAZING appetizers at Spice. It takes a bit for them to get delivered, but once they are - they are SO GOOD.
Dinner at Cagneys was very nice (we wish we had been hungrier after eating at Spice) The BF had a filet mignon and he said it was great. I had the lobster bisque (pretty good) and the chicken breast (very nice) Desert is a MUST try - he had the creme brulee (raspberry) and loved it and I had one you have GOT to try - the espresso brownies with macadamia nut ice-cream.
After Cagney's we snuck to the back of the ship to Spice to see Wall-E on the big screen. This was my first "Movies Under the Stars" (if I may steal a term from Princess) experience - and it was SO SO relaxing. There were very few people backand Wall-E is so cute.
Day 6 Sea Day and Second City - This was Thursday. The BF and I wandered around and I had a banana smoothie (no booze) this was great. Smooth, creamy, not all full of ice like some smoothies can be. Wish I could find ones like this back home. We saw the 7pm Second City. Although this wasn't the adult show (which we really wanted to see, but didn't) it was VERY good. These are all young, funny great people - well worth it.
That night it was dinner at Taste. I had pumpkin sage gnocci - very good. Good service as well.
Day 7 Blue Lagoon and La Cucina - our excursion in Nassau was the "Blue Lagoon Beach Break" It was a lovely location, but I am not sure if we would do this again. We had to wait quite awhile to board a boat to take us on the 30 minute ride to the island. There was also a bit of a walk (the length exacerbated by the heat) to get to the boat. Lunch was pretty good - but next time, I think I would like to lounge at a beach closer to the ship.
That night we had dinner at La Cucina. Great service and a fun dinner. I had penne pasta with meatballs and the BF had a GIANT pizza. The thing could have served the whole table!
Debarkation - after a week of eating, drinking, beaching and sliding, it was time to go home. Debarkation was very very easy. I think a sign of a good vacation is that you are rested and ready to go home. Sometimes I am sad to leave a ship, but this time I wasn't because I felt I had lived the week to the fullest!
Here's some other notes that come to mind:
Service: The service on this ship was awesome. Smiles everywhere and never were we deprived. We adored our room steward Rineah. She made our cabin- even at it's messiest moments - feel like home. We will miss her.
Waterslide Lines: When we went on embarkation day, and on Tuesday night before sailaway, there were very few lines. Due to the time we sailed, there were also very few children on board (this may have had something to do with it) But when we went, the slides were fun and easy to play on.
Pool and Chairs: Yes, the pools are small. Strangely small. It would be nice of NCL could find room to add two more pools somewhere. That being said, everyone seemed to be having a good time in the pools AND there always seemed to be tables or deck chairs available.
Martini Tasting: Went to this on the Sunday afternoon. I wish it had been more of a lesson in how to MAKE martinis. There was also trivia going along with the "class." Random trivia. The guy doing it was very sweet and funny - but I think he was doing it to keep us amused between drinks. But it was sort of an odd way to spend an hour. My dad did the margarita tasting and said it was better.
Buffet Treats: We did try the world famous pretzel balls. Pretty good. I would like to find a recipe to make them at home. ALso - you have GOT to try the hand scooped (free) banana ice-cream in the buffet. SO GOOD.
Buffet in General: Food was good and yes - it was kind of similar every day. But you aren't going to eat EVERYTHING in the buffet EVERY single day. So you will have some variety if you have a little (or in my case,a big) taste of something different every day.
***speaking of food, try the french toast on this ship! O'Sheehan's and the buffet! GREAT!
Aft Cabin: We had an aft cabin. This was our first aft and we will never go back. Great views, relaxing, quiet. Loved it. Yes, there is vibration while docking - but nothing much different than the other cabins we have had in the past. The cabins ARE small - sometimes amusing for two to try to move about. If you need more room (or need more people in your cabin) please book a deluxe stateroom. But it was very clean, we loved the mini-bar and there was more storage in that thing than in my townhouse!
Slippery: The pool deck is TERRIBLY slippery. I slid around numerous times. Please bring some flip flops with traction and tread carefully! Keep an eye on the kids too. Many kids were RUNNING around the slippery pool area (and understandably so, it was very exciting there) but I was in constant fear they would hurt themselves by slipping (or running into someone else)
The Atrium Cafe: Great for a break, a cup of coffee and a muffin or pound cake. Specialty coffees cost money. Drip coffee does not (btw, coffee is great all the way around on this ship) DO NOT BUY TEA! They will CHARGE you in the atrium for tea that you can have for free in the buffet or your stateroom!
The Inside of the ship: The inside of this ship is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is SO EASY to get around. I felt "at home" from the beginning. Yes, the casino takes up a considerable amount of space. There was a bit of smoke - but it didn't bother me very much at all. I do wish that there were bigger, brighter windows to the outside to see the ocean more readily from decks 5, 6 & 7. But I can say the chandelier in the atrium is beautiful.
The Ice Bar: Wear your jeans, socks, shoes, and long sleeves. You do get big ol' parkas but they are kind of open from the bottom. Also if you have a nice pair of gloves at home, bring them. They do give you gloves - but your hands can still get cold from holding the drink. I wished for my thicker gloves from home. Try the ice-bar (you gotta make reservations) I lasted the whole time (45 mins I think) and we had a lot of laughs.
She is pretty: We had a great view of the ship as we went on the little boat ride into Nassau for our "beach break." She is so new and so colorful.
Alright - sorry for the long review. I felt like I wasn't giving my incredible week justice if I didn't tell you everything!
Wherever you sail next (and whatever you sail on) here's hoping it is as awesome as my week was!