Some background ; My DW and I are in our 50's and have sailed on 9 cruises on 4 different cruise lines, including this cruise, and were traveling with 2 other couples.
But regressing, we stayed 1 night in Cocoa Beach at the Hampton Inn, which is need of a full refurb. Stayed 1 night pre-cruise at Hampton Miami Airport south on 57th Ave. This is about 15 minutes from the port and includes a shuttle to the port and free parking in a very secure gated and fenced parking garage.
Ok...on to the review: We got to the port, via shuttle, around 11:15pm and were onboard by 11:45, dropped our carry-on off at the cabin , then went up to the Spice H2O buffet and a bucket of beer, waiting for the cabin to be ready at 2pm. We had a handicap balcony cabin on deck 10 and I am guessing to be approx. 300 s.f plus a balcony of approx. 70 s.f. The cabin was large with a lot of storage: 2 hanging closets (plenty of hangers) plus 4 large open cubby holes. There was also a small refrigerator under a counter which also had 4 large drawers in it. Above that was an LCD TV. On the other side of the closet was another counter with the infamous "sink", a mirror, more open cubby holes , a safe and a large drawer for your wet towels. Opposite the sink was the vanity with 4 other drawers and a hairdryer. On either side of the bed were 2 small night stands with cubby holes with the phone on one of them. There is a "light" icon on the top right of the phone to turn off the screen. Also on either side of the bed were 2 reading lights on flexible stalks (there was a blue on/off light button which couldn't be turned off. Take some tape to cover them up with ). The enclosed head contained the shower and water closet (with the infamous frosted door). There is no privacy curtain in this cabin. The toilet was loud when flushing, but I don't think it was any louder than other ships we have sailed on. Depending on the motion of the ship, water did occasionally run out of the shower onto the cabin carpet and floor. In fact, the carpet was stained next to the shower. The head was very roomy with approx. 20 s.f. Next to the cabin door was a wheel which indicated to our steward, Welcome, Do Not Disturb, Make up Cabin, etc. There was a card slot next to the door which turned off the lights if a card was not inserted. I think it may have also turned off the AC because the cabin was warm when we returned after a long absence. The AC did cool the cabin down rapidly once you returned. This cabin was noisy with doors banging all day and furniture being moved around constantly.Our cabin steward , Made from Malaysia (pronounced Mahday), was awesome and one of the best we have had.He seemed to have a special sense for what we needed and provided us that "Lagniappe" or something extra without us asking. He also made us some towel animals that we haven't seen before, such as a dog and a penguin. Room service was always on time, as ordered, and came with a smile. Breakfast options were continental, but you could also get an omelet with a variety of toppings. Our travel mates had a balcony and inside cabins and they were VERY tiny. The inside was approx 125 s.f and basically had room for only the bed. Balcony cabins weren't much better at approx 170 s.f (not including the balcony). Its obvious smoking is allowed in the cabins. Our steward was successful at removing most of the smell, but all of our clothes required washing when we got home. Even unworn ones. Tip: take a small can of "OZIUM" spray. Best smell remover out there. Order from Amazon. A minor nitpick: you could tell you were docking from the thruster vibrations. There may have been a real problem here, because they stopped the ship and spent an hour testing the stern thrusters on the Sea Day prior to Costa Maya. Winds were 15 kts. + .
The ship was beautiful inside, and every public room was tastefully done. We dined at the following restaurants (our ratings on a 1-10 scale with 10 being best) : Shanghai and Noodle Bar both 9's. Best described as Asian, not necessarily Chinese. Wasabi Sushi Bar 10. Very good quality Sushi. La Cucina Italian 6. Nothing to nock your socks off, but not bad with a beautiful view from the front of the ship. Moderno Churrascaria Brazilian Style steakhouse 7. Excellent salad bar shared by Cagney's Steakhouse. The meats were hit or miss; some really good, and some not so good. The chicken and the Sirloin were excellent. The Tenderloin still mooing ( and I like rare). Le Bistro 8. Food very good, service average. Some of the best Escargots we have had. Bouillabaisse average. Manhattan Main Dining Room 8. We ate there twice and wished we had dined there more. Great ambiance with the Big Band playing. Set up in the style of a New York Supper Club. O 'Sheehan's 6. Good atmosphere and location and decent food. Fish and Chips very good. Salads pretty good. IMO the Chicken Pot Pie was just OK. Much better at KFC. By the way, food is served on both sides but the staff tries to structure the dining crowd over to the bowling alley side. But you can really sit where you want. We liked the window side.
Entertainment Headliners: Blue Man Group. Excellent. Second City. You gotta like Improv. Cirque Dreams and Dinner. Show- Great performers....1 hour of useless banter. Dinner- Surf and Turf. Still no better than the chicken. Service was rushed and harried. Good luck getting everything you were supposed to. NCL would be much better served condensing this show to an hour and not attempting dinner. Jeff Hobson Comedic Magician. Excellent. We'd go see him again. Hilarious! Howl at the Moon- hit or miss. Good some nights. Legends in Concert- Rod Stewart, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. All three were excellent.
Various venues and entertainment: Spice H2O was where we hung out all day. Adults only, breakfast and lunch buffet and the Pool bar. Nice tables with umbrellas for shade, good breeze all day and below you loungers for sunning and a small pool for dipping. Thank you Wilson and Jason for helping us all week. Large LCD screen with sports, movies, and pretty scenes playing. Various parties and contests here in the evenings. Don't miss the White Hot Party! Bring something white to wear. Fat Cats Jazz Club had Roadside Louie and the Dusters (Slam Alan is gone, unfortunately). Excellent musicians but not our taste for music. Nice venue...kind of a loft style club. Thank you Winston! Several other performers would also rotate through here, such as the Wildfire Duo ,excellent, but this was their last week on the Epic : ( . Also guitarist/singer Wesley John played here, he's very good. Typically, the Wildfire Duo played evenings in the Atrium and Wesley John played evenings in the Maltings Whiskey Bar. Pianists Bernie Martini and Dmytri rotated in Shakers Martini Bar. Pool decks and slides: very crowded, very hot and slippery. But Larry will take care of you. Tip: From deck 15 take the Starboard (right) glass elevator up to deck 18. Plenty of unoccupied loungers but no bar service here. The sundeck on deck 19 is ummmm. Freestyle. Adults only. Deck 6 Casino was pretty smokey and most of the restaurants and bars that we liked were accessed from this area. The casino was also a "choke" point, which was extremely crowded in the evenings. If you need to move more quickly or avoid the casino, go to deck 7. You cannot access the Rear elevators from deck 5. Headliners Comedy Club...nice venue but awful sight lines. Good thing there are TV's on the walls. Epic theater....wonderful venue. No bad seats. Just the right size. Shops- very good selection...one of the best lineups at sea. Decent prices. Flex, the Caribbean Pool Band, was very good. They needed to perform at Sail-a-Way instead of a DJ! Garden Cafe- crowds most of the time. But excellent selection. Make a point to check out ALL the stations.
Service: The best we have had on any ship. Always smiles and a "hello" from all the crew and never a bad attitude anywhere. Klaus Lugmaier, the hotel director, personally came and talked with us several times, as did the Food and Beverage director. The officers were constantly at all the venues and restaurants, ensuring their guests expectations were exceeded. There is no "Pursers" desk on this ship. There is actually a large customer service area instead (with the emphasis on service).
Ports: Costa Maya. Great beach day. Task the $3 bus to Majahual . Sit on the beach and have buckets of beer for $10. Or get a 1 hour massage for $20. Stop at 100% Agave Restaurant and say hello to Don Fernando, the proprietor. Ask him why his restaurant is named that. And sample the liquor from his keg. Awesome food and spirits. Roatan: Get Victor Bodden or his brother Francisco, to take you on an Island tour. Beautiful island and friendly people. Stop at Marlyn's Restaurant for lunch. Best fried chicken I have ever tasted! Island style. Pork stew, garlic shrimp, ox tail soup. Yum! Go to the West End and hit a couple of the beach bars. Go zip lining or play with the monkeys at Victor's home. Francisco took us on one of the best all day tours we have been on. Too bad it was rainy all afternoon. Cozumel- Great shopping, beaches, restaurants and bars. Best dining at La Choza. Great beach bars on the East side. Don't miss the Rasta Bar or Coconuts.
Disembarkation: quickest and easiest yet. 15 minutes. Luggage grouped by color tags and cabins grouped together.
Overall: We loved the dining and entertainment options on this ship. And we loved the friendly and courteous service this crew provided us. We didn't like the smokey choke point that the Casino forced us to navigate. And we despised smoking in the cabins. We would be NCL converts and definitely sail this ship again were it not for that point.