Before you begin reading this missal, just remember this was my view of the Epic. Someone else on the same cruise may have something totally different to say on the same matter. This was cruise #46 for me, and #13 on NCL.
Embarkation was exceptionally smooth. We arrived pierside @ 130pm, and were physically in our stateroom 20 minutes later. Upon boarding the ship, there were two people who greeted us, but didn't see anyone directing passengers just boarding on where to go/etc. We were too late for lunch in Taste, so we schlepped up to the Garden Cafe for something to eat. Hint: embarkation staff aren't one to talk about sending guests to Taste for lunch, but it's the way to go if you want to start with a relaxed first meal on board.
Back to the cabin. There were 4 of us (yes FOUR) in a standard balcony cabin on deck 13. We had a great view, and even a slanted balcony for a little extra space. I can honestly say I spent more time outside on this balcony than any of the other ones I've taken before. I had read on Cruise Critic about the +/- of the cabin, so I knew what to expect when the door opened for the first time. Here's my take on the cabin: beds were reasonably good, and didn't hear anyone complaining. We asked to have the top bunk left in the down position always, so we could all 4 take a nap if we wanted, and we could close the bunk halfway ourselves to still use the couch immediately below. Speaking of which, we learned something new that I didn't see posted here before on said couch; that is the fact that the bottom cushion (your bed) will pull OUT from the back of the couch by a couple of inches, and give you some much-needed space from that horrible curved back! There were lots of spaces on board for clothes, and even with 4 of us, we still had spaces left over after everything was out of the luggage! We managed with the sink situation, and always left a towel around the basin to keep the water from getting over everything. Even the toilet/shower design didn't stop us; although twice we had to stop the cabin steward from entering our fine bathroom (I mean GRAND FOYER, oops!) and interrupting personal time! Having a balcony with 4 people had another plus. On sea days/nights, we just went outside to change clothes, and back inside. Epic needs some more variety in the TV channels however, and having to pay for a movie is kinda sad; considering even Motel 6 has free HBO?
Restaurants: Hmmm. 20+ places to eat, and only about 1/4 of them are free? I kept an open mind on this, but see the trend of Epic spreading like wildfire to other ships/lines. Remember on the airlines when you had 3 bags checked free, choice of 'chicken or beef' for a meal on your 1.5 hour flight, pillows, blankets, magazines, choice of pre-reserved seating? Well, consider that Epic is trending that way now. I can honestly say that this vessel will have you feeling nickel-and-dimed to death. Things that were free just a few years ago are either gone, or with a surcharge. Anyways, we ate at a variety of places on board. Manhattan is nice, but not too sure about the venue change. Your supposed to feel like you're in a supper-club; but if you're eating around 830-930pm, prepare to have your dinner jarringly changed when the venue changes for dancing, and the chairs are rearranged funeral-home style right in front of you. Not too upscale. Taste was nice; and the maitre d' runs a tight-ship there. Some folks may not like the low ceilings on the side, but then again some others may not like having to be viewed by the guests on open decks 6/7 above in the middle! La Cucina has probably one of the nicest views and vibes of all. The shrimp risotto was awesome, and get this, the SPINACH was out-of-this world. We sent back for two more heaping bowls to share with the table, it was simply that good! Le Bistro served up one of the best pieces of beef I've ever eaten, whether on a ship or land-side. The beef filet was simply melting with the fork, it was that tender. On the negative side, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING by putting the bowling alley on top of this place. One of the most elegant and romantic places has this loud, and I do mean LOUD sound of bowling balls hitting the ceiling over you. The ambiance was destroyed here because of that issue. O'Sheehans and the Atrium Cafe both provided decent food at the times you needed them, and the service was quick. Being mid-ship helped alot for usage, as you were walking to/from the elevator banks! Garden Cafe was decently laid out, and never encountered the lines I've seen on other large-ships for buffet. If I can get in/out of line with a made-to-order omelette in 10 minutes, that's a major plus, and it happened here. Seating was no problem either, even on sea days.
The ship itself is a study in the now-familiar theme of WHAT WHERE THEY THINKING. A quick review: the casino that goes on forever with the smoking that goes on forever. You simply have no way to avoid smoke in the public areas on Epic with this design. No mid-ship elevators will become glaringly evident of their absence, and you're going to get a nice workout on Epic from walking, whether you want to or not! Hallways in the passenger cabin areas are smaller than most, and lots of turns and twists. One gentleman said he felt like he was back on the Norway again! One good thing was the carpeting layout, red/orange on the port side halls/elevators, blue/brown on the starboard side. You had a easy way to know if you're on the correct side of the ship. No promenade area to walk/jog around. I overheard an employee asked where the jogging track was located on the ship, and the reply was, "you need to go to the gym and use the machine for that." There is a marked jogging lane on the starboard side on the boat deck, just be prepared to go back and forth on this dull little area a few times, as the deck doesn't even complete one full-side of the ship! Sight lines in the Epic Theatre are good all around, and the staff maximizes the seating by filling in holes and moving guests around. Don't expect that empty seat next to you to remain that way! Spice H2O was a great place for adults to get some sun and a breeze. If you're looking for a ship where you can admire the wake or stern views, Epic is not for you. The outdoor movie screen blocks 90% of the unobstructed view aft. The pool situation is without a doubt crazy! There are 3 troughs, about the size of a Chevy Suburban for your swimming needs. Another NCL employee explained that we should be using the water-slides for our outdoor water fun. Huh? The surrounding decking is blistering hot, as well as slippery. Heed the warnings, and wear flipflops to/from the troughs, and walk slowly! One area to note is on deck 18 forward above the suites. Because of the layout of the suite's private sundeck, this area is blocked by the wind completely, and the high glass sidewalls prevents any additional air from entering as well. It is majorly hot up there. Also, just above that on deck 19 is the "Freestyle Sundeck". Allegedly, it is clothing optional, and surrounded by white steel walls to keep the prying eyes away. There are numerous places on the outdoor pool deck for snacks/drinks; to avoid having to go back inside. That's a plus.
Shows/entertainment: Second City was great, and actually went twice to see a different show. Blue Man Group was a mixed bag, I liked it but my roommates didn't. The Blues Club was a major hit every night, with the different musicians, and the off-duty crew members making this place rock! Watched a movie in the Atrium, with full-sized couch to lounge on. Don't expect popcorn though, NCL hasn't gotten the memo yet from Princess on how this is supposed to work! Spice is an awesome place to have a deck party, as you have some breezes back there you won't get, if buried midships like on most ships. There were nightly events that actually had some decent attendance. I won't say much on Cirque Dreams, other that I left after 11 minutes, and got my money back. If you sit on the upper level, prepare to be blinded by the lighting. I had spots on my retinas for 3 hours afterwards and a migraine to boot. I can tell you that watching people dancing with lettuce and pantomiming playing violins isn't my thing. On a humorous note, the waiter there was proud to announce the price was going up by $10 for both standard and premium seating on the very next cruise as well! Save your money, and attend your local junior college theatre review, and stop by Old-Country Buffet for chicken on the way. You'll be happier and save money.
Ports were the normal western Caribbean haunts, and a decent amount of time was spent in each one.
It is worth noting here a comment that was made on the 2nd day, at the Cruise Critic meeting. This event was attended by most all of the senior staff and officers, and we were each given a card with their personal phone numbers. We were told that "we want to hear from you now, while you're on board, rather than read about something next week when you write your review. Give us the chance to correct the situation". I did exactly that. Twice we had issues with service related items, and they were corrected immediately. I was quite impressed. The crew overall was great, and it was worth noting that the workers on-board Epic were solicited from other NCL ships to come crew her for her inaugural season.
Epic is definitely a quirky ship. For me, I will be happier on NCL's other ships, but not this flagship. Even being a few months old, seeing workmen from France still working on her does not give me alot of hope she is going to be the favorite of the masses with NCL. Enjoy your time on Epic, and remember this little tidbit: There will -not- be a sister ship built. :)