Let me start by saying that after reading so many negative reviews, I was quite concerned that we had made a bad decision booking our cruise on the EPIC. Hopefully this review will help others who are also feeling nervous about choosing this ship. I do realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and some people may have had a bad experience for whatever reason(s). Happily I can say that we, for the most part, had a wonderful time. I have also noticed a trend of more positive than negative reviews in the past few weeks. This may be attributed to Norwegian and the EPIC getting their "sea legs" with each subsequent cruise aboard this new ship.
This was the worst experience and bad first impression of our cruise. We arrived at the port from MIA by taxi ($24+tip) at 10:40 am. We were directed by a curbside baggage handler to the terminal indicated on our documents, only to find it closed. (The baggage handlers should have been made aware that the terminal was closed). From there we were directed all the way back to another terminal. We were amongst the first 50-75 people in line outside beside the terminal building. At about 11:15 am the line began to move, and we quickly passed through security. We then proceeded to check-in. The agent who served us did not seem very confident or competent. He kept having to ask other agents questions during our check-in. After all the paperwork was completed he told us he would be getting us our cabin key cards/cruise cards. Then after conferring with someone else he told us that someone was going to get our cards and would be back shortly. When, after several minutes, our cards did not arrive, the agent checked with a supervisor (I think) and we were told our cards would be waiting for was upstairs. We proceeded to the top of the escalator, only to find the area congested with others looking for their key cards. There were two Norwegian representatives there asking for our cabin numbers and writing the information down on a scrap of paper. They told us we would have our cards in a few minutes, and they kept insisting that everyone "sit down". My wife and I sat for about 20 minutes and watched in amazement as some people came up the escalator with their cards already in hand; and others were given their cards after only a few of arriving upstairs. I finally lost patience and approached the woman who initially asked for my cabin number. When I enquired how much longer we'd have to wait, she asked if I had giver her my paperwork. I said " no you asked for my cabin number not any papers". She replied "paperwork is always better". (Why didn't she ask for them initially?). After finally receiving our key cards we were directed to the first waiting area (which was full). From there we were directed to a second waiting area (which was full). Then we were sent to a third area and directed where to sit. After about 35 minutes people were allow to board in groups. Again we watched in amazement as some just strolled into the waiting room and were allowed to board; and others who sat long after we did were also allowed to board before our group. Now remember we were initially among the first people in line at the port and we finally got on the ship about 1:30 pm. I have to say that getting on the EPIC was very poorly organized, and frustrating.
We were given no personal direction after boarding: but I must admit there were constant announcements being made about where to go to eat, where to store carry-on luggage and when our cabins would be ready.
We stored our bags at Headliners and headed for lunch at O'sheehan's.
At 2pm we retrieved our carry-on bags and were allowed to proceed to our cabins as promised. Our checked baggage arrived at our cabin prior to 4 pm.
The boat is very clean and modern, and the decor is visually pleasing throughout the public areas.
We had no real problems with the layout or with navigating about the ship. We did at times have a difficult time finding deck chairs around the main pool area on days at sea. I suggest finding a spot early (before 9:30 am) on those days. The two main fresh water pools are much too small, and really are designed for just standing in to cool off. At times there were so many people in the pools it was kinda funny...watching them squeezed in like sardines. The water slides were fun. The green slide is the best of the three in my opinion. The lines were never more than 5-10 minutes at peak times for the green and purple slides. However the EPIC plunge line was 30-40 minutes on days at sea. We tried to find chairs at the adult-only Spice H2O area a couple times; but could never find two together. We did enjoy the whirlpool there one evening overlooking the stern.
The rock climbing was fun for both of us and never seemed to have much of a wait. I tried the rappelling a couple of times and had a good time.
Decks 5-6-7 are the main public areas with the shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. The casino on Deck 6 is very large. We did not have a problem with cigarette smoke in this area...and we are both avid non-smokers. We did find the area around the EPIC Theater, Spiegal Tent and Headliners very congested at times when people were either waiting to enter or were leaving shows. The Epic Theater is a nice venue with good sight lines and comfy spacious seating. The Spiegal Tent is a small area and although we had great seats for the Murder Mystery lunch; I could see others in the rear having difficulty viewing the performance.
I must say that I did find the passageways very narrow on the stateroom decks. It was often difficult to pass through these areas, especially when the housekeeping carts were in the hallways.
If your stateroom is mid-ship you will have alot of walking to the elevators/stairways which are found in only the front and rear of the ship. Mid-ship elevators would have been nice but the walking never really bothered us (and was good exercise after all those meals!). Also we didn't have any problems with elevator waiting times as others have mentioned. At the most we waited 1-2 minutes...except upon disembarkation (which is understandable).
The gym was wonderful. The best I have seen. The view of the ocean was great while working out. There was never a problem finding a treadmill or any other type of cardio equipment...even at peak times. All equipment is clean and up to date.
The spa was excellent. We went for a spa tour on the first afternoon and purchased a couples pass for $200. We would definitely suggest this but remember to go early since the only sell 60 passes. The steam rooms and saunas (with large windows that overlook the ocean) were great. The private balcony with loungers was also nice and very peaceful as compared to the hectic areas on the main pool deck. The best part of the spa was the large hydrotherapy pool which we often used a few times per day.
We had a balcony stateroom mid-ship Deck 9. The balconies are plenty large but unfortunately look down onto the top of the life boats. This is the first ship we have been on that have life boats hanging off the side of the ship; not recessed into the deck like other boats. I would definitely not advise getting a balcony cabin on Deck 8 since the life boats are directly below them. I might also suggests that Norwegian put larger tables on the balconies. We had a hard time eating on ours together since the table is only large enough to hold 1 plate.
We had no issue with the size or design of the cabin. Yes there is only room for one person to pass at the end of the bed; but really who cares....have a little patience.
Our cabin had the bed by the balcony which we liked. The bed was comfortable; but due to the rounded design I (5'8") found it too small. My feet hung over the end even when we pulled the bed a few inches away from the wall.
The flat screen TV was nice. However; there really needs to be a better channel selection. I know some reviewers have criticized people who have previously mentioned this, and say no one should be in their cabin watching TV on a cruise. I say if you want to spend some quiet time watching TV...who cares! I like to watch TV before going to sleep and in the morning when I wake up...shoot me.
We liked the separate shower and toilet set-up. The shower is a good size. The adjustable shower head has good water pressure, and can be hand held if desired. The toilet area is small but adequate. The toilet is loud when flushed; but really not much different than I have experienced on other ships.
The thin opaque walls of the shower and toilet stalls weren't a problem for us; but might be an issue for some (especially travelers who aren't couples).
The much discussed sink was not an issue for us. The water did not splash out when the faucet was turned on fully (maybe ours had been replaced). The bowl of the sink is not very deep; but was large enough to wash a t-shirt with no problem. Might I add that when water did splash on the vanity or on the floor from the shower (that has apparently caused others so much distress), I discovered the technology of wiping the areas with a towel seemed to solve the problem...imagine that!
My only suggestion regarding the cabin would be to have better lighting over the vanity area for shaving.
We thoroughly enjoyed most every meal on the EPIC. Free drinks include juices and milk (at breakfast), and iced tea. Tap water is excellent on the ship so no need to purchase bottled water (which is offered by servers before every meal). We brought our own soda aboard and did not purchase any other drinks...also managed to bring those aboard too...if you know what I mean!
Buffet: Ate all breakfasts, a few lunches and one supper there. Great variety and food was fresh. Menus did not change much day to day. Sometimes took awhile to find a seat.
Manhattan Room: Ate supper there on the first night. Menu is identical to Taste each day. One side of the menu changes daily; while the other side remains the same throughout the cruise. Room much nicer than Taste. Live music was nice.
Taste: Ate one supper there. Seated quickly; but service a little slow. I had French onion soup and salad that night, and my wife had scallops which she liked.
O'sheehan's: Ate there twice. Menu always the same; but variety was good. Chicken wings, fish & chips and meatloaf were all very good. My wife found the chicken pot pie very watery but still good.
La Cucina (surcharge): Room very nice. Had a window seat over the bow. Service was very slow here. I ordered two entries which was good because I did not like the chicken parmesan. However; the penne and meatballs was very tasty. My wife had seafood linguine which she enjoyed.
Cagney's Steakhouse (surcharge): Again the room is very nice with dark wood and a classy ambiance. Service was very good. We started our meal with the salad bar which is shared with Moderno. The selection was excellent. Oddly we had to ask our server about the salad bar because it was not listed on the menu and she did not mention the option to us. We both had two shrimp cocktails as an appetizer. The shrimp were huge and delicious. I also tried the crab cakes which were okay. My wife had prime rib for her entree. She said it was very good but was surprised that it did not come with au jus. I had the t-bone steak which was also good...it came maybe a little more cooked than the medium rare that I had ordered.
Le Bisto (surcharge): In our opinion this was the nicest dining room on the EPIC. We both loved the escargot as an appetizer (I had three servings!). I had the beef tenderloin as an entree and must say this was probably the most delicious piece of meat I have ever had! My wife had the coq au vin in brandy sauce which she didn't seem to care for. I tried it and thought it was very good.
Room Service: Tried it one night at about 12:15 am. Took about 40 minutes to arrive and food was just so so...but served it's purpose. Other nights we just took buffet items back to our room for late night snacks which was better.
As has been mentioned in previous reviews, the entertainment was second to none. This was definitely the best entertainment we have experienced on any cruise. I had pre-booked most of our shows online 45 days prior to sailing.
Blue Man Group was great. We lined up about 35 minutes in advance and were found seats in the 6th row mid-theater. This show was basically the same as we had seen in Las Vegas...but we still really enjoyed it.
Legends In Concert was also very entertaining. Again we had seats in the middle of the theater about 5th row. The impersonators were all good; but Michael Jackson was by far the best.
Second City Improve was just alright. They worked with suggestion given to them by the crowd. Can't say we really laughed to much. We did the 11 pm adult show. Again we lined up about 30 minutes before the show and found great seats near the stage.
The Murder Mystery Lunch (done by the Second City troupe) was very good. Meal choices were chicken and beef (I think). I asked if anything else was available and was offered salmon or mushroom ravioli. I opted for the ravioli which was excellent. I'm glad the server advised me to order two because the portion was quite small. My wife had the chicken which we both found very bland.
The dueling pianos (Howl at the moon) was the best entertainment in our opinion. We attended three different nights. Paul, Scott and Eric were all very talented and funny. They got funnier as the night went on, especially after 11 pm (adults only) and after they had a few drinks in them. Paul in particular was hilarious.
The comic magician David Williamson was also good. His magic was very good and he was pretty funny. Unfortunately I think most of the crowd did not seem to feel the same way. There was little laughter when he made a joke and he had to keep eliciting applause after he preformed a magic trick.
We went to Fat Cats to see the jazz band one evening and they were good. Oddly the venue was only a quarter full when we were there at about 11:30 pm.
Other musicians throughout the the public areas and lounges were also very good.
CREW and SERVICE:
We found virtually all crew members aboard the boat to be very friendly and pleasant. The only exception I found would have been the security staff. They were not friendly, nor did they smile. At times I found they were quite rude and impatient with people on the gangways when leaving or entering the ship at the ports of call.
Our cabin steward was very friendly and knew our names every time we met him. He always kept our room clean (except one night when we found the trash from our garbage can sitting on vanity beside the sink?). I did mention to him several times that I liked my ice bucket to be full at all times. He kept telling us that the bucket would be filled only in the morning and in the evening at turn-down (which was not enough for me). Usually he only filled the bucket half full when he did do it; and I was often forced to go to the buffet or a bar to get ice. On my last couple of cruises with Princess, my ice bucket was always full as I requested...in fact on one cruise they gave me two ice buckets to meet my request.
We'd previously been to all three ports a couple times before; so did not purchase any excursions. We went to Orient Beach in St. Maarten and Meagan's Bay in St. Thomas. Both are excellent beaches. I would suggest not booking an excursion to these areas from the cruise line because of the price. You can easily take a taxi to both beaches for a fraction of the price. In St. Maarten the taxi ride gets cheaper with the more passengers aboard. We paid $6 each to Orient Beach with 9 passengers; and $8 back to the ship with 5. The price to Meagan's Bay was $7 each (each way) I think, and it costs $4 each to enter the beach.
In Nassau we just wandered around the shops and had lunch at Senor Frog's on the water near the pier. I would highly recommend Senor Frog's. The place was lively and fun...and the food was excellent and priced right.
We choose the Easy Walk Off option (carrying all our luggage). Other than having to wait for the elevator for about 10-15 minutes, we were off the boat, through Customs and back to MIA in less than 40 minutes.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise aboard the EPIC, and would highly recommend this ship to anyone. The ship is clean and spacious. The food and dining options are excellent. The entertainment is exceptional.
- bring your own soda pop onboard (and other beverages if you dare) to save money
- bring a few plastic hangers to hang wet clothes on the line in the shower
- bring a small power bar if you have alot of items to plug in (there are only 2 outlets)
- bring a small amount of laundry soap to wash small items (there are no self serve washers/dryers)
- bring a couple of large insulated cups to hold your own beverages
- bring warm clothes (sweaters ect.) since the public areas and entertainment venues can be quite chilly