Our family has taken 5 or 6 cruises with the kids (now 3 & 5) and have really embraced cruising as it is (usually) very easy. We have much to say regarding our cruise on NCL's EPIC...so I'll get right to it!
First off, if you have the luxury of coming in a day or two early, I HIGHLY recommend the Miami Intercontinental Hotel. We got a great deal on a per night rate and it's location to the port and Bayside was perfect. Although parking was a little steep ($34/nt)...I did work out a deal where they would valet my car for the entire week for $17/nt (cheaper than the port at $20/nt). The only reason I didn't do this is it seemed more trouble than it was worth with the kids. I wasn't really saving much as I still had to take a Taxi from the hotel to the port. Then tips...etc...really a wash!
Embarkation....one word...NIGHTMARE!! Got to the port at 11:05am...didn't get on the ship until almost 1p. Short/flowing line thru security. Got More
tagged by security for my wine and sent to the wine Nazi to pay my corkage fee. Then into the 10-15 min wait line for a room key. Had to wait almost 30 min for our cards to be printed. Ship apparently didn't start boarding until almost 12:20-12:30p (this is late in our past experience's). Very disorganized IN port and very chaotic. No one really to greet you once you stepped onboard and direct you to things. You were kind of on your own.
We stumbled into O'Sheehans (NCL's Irish Pub) and had lunch. Food was good. Eventually after lunch and little exploring, it was time to goto our cabin (announcement made about 1:50p).
Hit the cabin and luggage arrived shortly thereafter. Now...we were in a Family Deluxe Cabin. Let me say...I'm glad we were upgraded!! WHEW!! SMALL SMALL SMALL!! NO DRAWERS WHATSOEVER! A few baskets within the lower cabinets and LOTS of hanging space. Suitcases fit under the bed (BIG Plus!) But walking in the room with 4 people...UGH! They needed to widen the rooms a bit!! As for the bathrooms...dumbest design I've seen. little little space....frosted see thru glass (fine for us, but...just plain ole dumb!...had some new friends come in and I was on the can....nice shadow they see!) NCL really needs to fix that somehow.
I read alot pre-cruise regarding the outer sinks. I didn't think it was anything major. Yea...ya get a little water on the counter, but...I didn't find it a nuisance. Just wiped it up and moved on.
Showers were nice and big. Big question...ummm...FAMILY stateroom...why not a tub?!?! (Deluxe, no less)
OK...some other general observations about the staterooms...the TV. There was no real REGULAR news (ie...CNN). Apparently, there was a hurricane out there and I had NO knowledge of it until I hit St. Thomas and flipped my phone on. It would be nice to put a complete news channel on with perhaps some weather.
For those travelling with children...Kids club ROCKED!! Those guys were AWESOME! My 5 yr old kept asking to go back.
Again...some general observations. NCL touts this to be very kid friendly. (TAKE NOTE)...for BREAKFAST, you can get Apple or OJ (no charge), but for lunch or dinner, there is NOTHING...I REPEAT...NOTHING for the kids to drink except milk or water. No juice to be found. OH...ya goto the bar or call room service...CHA CHING...they wanna charge you! NOT! SOooo...parents with small kids...bring some Capri-suns or something or suck up the nickel and diming from NCL.
And the Nickelodean Breakfast...don't waste your money. They have regular "Meet and greets" thru the week with the Nick character's (free). The breakfast is another ploy to roll in some dough for a breakfast that you can get in the Garden Cafe (less the Bananna Pancakes with Green Syrup). You WILL see all those characters thru the week. Trust me when I say...I wasted the $$ on that one!!
OK...I'll try and go venue by venue and put some comments.
Spice H20 - Kewl Pool/TV...barely spent any time there.
Spiderweb and Bouncer...very kewl. But...Bouncer line was VERY SLOW (60-70 min for 6 people). SUGGESTION...put a second person up there and have the harness on the next person ready and waiting. Then all they have to do is strap em in. Would move things along.
Very nice Basketball/soccer court.
Very kewl pool area. Slides were great. A few long lines, but...still a lot of fun. Pool area was fun too, but...NCL...come on....2 small pools for 4200 people?!?!?! What were you thinking? It was absolutely PACKED our 3rd sea day. Was NOT SAFE for my kids to be in the water as there were so many people. Not well thought out!!
Never made it to the repelling wall or rock climbing wall. Saw it, but never got up.
EPIC Theatre/Blue Man....Fabulous! I had seen them previously here in Orlando, but...still nice to see some good entertainment while at sea. It was nice to get a picture afterwards and have the opportunity to speak with the Blue Men later in the cruise.
Didn't catch Legends...no desire.
Howl at the Moon...THE BOMB!! Those guys are TOP NOTCH! Don't miss it. The is definitely ADULT ORIENTED, but funnier than hell! I would say not to miss this...at any cost!!
Didn't catch Second City nor the Cirque Show.
Duty Free shops were ok. Liquor prices were pretty good.
DW and I hit the spa. I had a fabulous Swedish Massage by Leann (South Africa). I HIGHLY recommend her. Great personality and great hands. DW had a deep tissue massage which was very good also. Spa treatment were a little pricier on this ship than others, but...was still good. Never did hit the Spa Pool.
Casino...eh....it's a casino. Did not really gamble much on this cruise. $.25 machine's stunk (no $.50 machines...all $1.25 and up). Good selection of tables. Didn't care that ALL of deck 6 was mostly a casino. Sort of "in your face."
And NCL DOES need to address the smoking issue on that deck in particular. You can't be on the deck more than 10-15 minutes and your clothes are impregnated with cigarette smoke. Kinda sucks.
For Poker players...2 nice tables...$2-$4 No limit hold-em.
Deck 5 was a nice place to relax (in the atrium). The photo gallery was there. Nice to be able to look at your photos any time of day or night. Again...I think NCL is a little "over the top" with $350.00 for the CD of all your cruise pics. My advice is make a conscious decision in the first 1-2 days of the cruise if you're gonna buy the CD. On the 2nd or 3rd cruise day, pre-order it for $300...then make them take every dang picture you can imagine. We got 140 pics done, but...I still think $350.00 is steep...considering a good amount of our pics were "less than professional!"
Moderno....Fabulous! Good food. Good Salad bar. Recommend!!
Wasabi (Sushi)...service is a bit slow (waitress, not sushi chef)...but food was good. Good place for lunch.
Taste and Manhattan club...thought the ship food was very good. No complaints. Not a HUGE selection, but...
Le Bistro - Best meal on the ship and well worth the $$. Only complaint...WHO IS THE KNUCKLEHEAD ENGINEER WHO BUILT THE BOWLING ALLEY OVER THE ROMANTIC FRENCH RESTAURANT?!?!? NCL should SUE their designer for that one! I need not say more on that issue!
Garden Cafe - Food was good. Not a HUGE selection, but...it sufficed.
I have to say...this was THE FIRST CRUISE I've been on where there was an issue finding food after midnight since everything else shut down except O'Sheehans. Weird!!
ICE Bar...Fun. We went in with a large group which made it more fun. Not SPECTACULAR, but...
Overall...it was a good cruise. I think with EPIC being a new ship, I was expecting to be "wow"ed and totally was not. Service was OK...staff was not very outgoing as I've seen on other ships. The staff needs to "lighten up" a bit.
I must say, the crew of NCL EPIC seems eager to improve tho (a definite plus). Our Meet & Greet from Cruise critic was 100-200 people. We had all the heads there + the captain and were given personal phone #. They are aware of certain issues and DO look at CC!! That's the nice thing is that our reviews don't fall on deaf ears.
One other comment...this ship has got to be one of THE SMOOTHEST on the ocean. Barely felt a rock or a shimmy! Was VERY impressed there.
In Summary, I WOULD cruise on the EPIC again, but there's a lot of kinks to work out. I don't think the staff exactly knows how to effectively run this ship yet, but it appears as if they are working on it. I might be back in 2 or 3 years.
Also...I think NCL needs to review it's pricing structure for certain things. Stop nickel and diming so much! Look at your competitors and look at what you're offering!!
Oh...and disembarkation...they did get that down! For a ship with 4200 people on it...VERY VERY smooth!
(Note...I did not comment on the ports as I recommend looking on the individual ports of call on the CC boards)