After 2 cruises to Alaska we were ready for a different climate and what better way to be introduced to the Caribbean than on the EPIC!!! It was great! We arrived a day early in Miami and stayed at the Intercontinental (thanks fellow CC members for the LMT tips). We had a bay view room on the 16th floor and were able to watch our ship come in and prepare to sail away with us in just a few hours. Saturday morning we walked over a few blocks to the drug store to pick up some items we needed for the trip, enjoyed sitting by the bay watching the gulls while the ship was being readied for our trip. We checked out of the hotel about noon and after a very short ride across the bridge we were in line at the pier. There was a little bit of a line waiting but it moved along very well. We were onboard within 30 minutes. Probably the easiest embarkation we have had. After the usual 'welcome aboard' photo and a greeting by a member of the cruise staff (who remembered us from a prior cruise...really??) we headed to Taste to sit down for lunch. Then it was time to do some exploring. We walked around a little to kind of get our bearings and then headed up to the Spa to check on the couples Spa Pass. After our tour of the spa and info from prior reviews, we decided to opt for some pampering instead of the Spa Pass. Yeah, we spent more than the $199 for the week, but we were on vacation and can't think of a better way to relax than having a massage while sailing on a cruise ship. Our rooms were ready by 2:00 so we went to 'check it out'. Previously we had mini-suites and this room layout is about the same but not quite as much "wiggle" room. We had a balcony so there are no complaints. There was plenty of closet/storage space. The bathroom set up was not a problem at all for us. The curtain that closes that area off at night helped darken the room; in addition to the magnets on the drape at the balcony. The only issue we had at night was the little blue light from the reading lights by the bed. But, just put a towel, rag or a band-aid over it and sleep on. Muster drill was at 3:30...easy, easy. Show up with your key card and NO life vest, out of there in 10-15 minutes. After the drill our luggage was at the room, so unpacked and went out to make pictures as we sailed away. We are really, really on vacation now!!!
Most of our meals we ate at the buffet. This is such a large area we never had a problem with a place to sit and did not have to wait in long lines to be served. The longest wait was during breakfast at the omelet stations, but it moved pretty fast. Always plenty of variety and everything we had was very good!!! We did eat at Manhatten one night and the food there was good as well. Did not use room service or eat at any of the Specialty Restaurants.
Entertainment: We saw Blue Man Group on Monday night. Was a great show and well worth the 'trip'. On Thursday night we saw Legends In Concert...Rod Stewart, Brittney Spears & Michael Jackson. This is not really our style of music, but it was a great show and we enjoyed all three performers AND the band. The same band plays for all three and they do a fantastic job!!! We did drop in to Fat Cats for a few tunes on night and the band playing was good. There is a lot of different venues with bands and during the day they are playing around the pool. We are not 'party animals' so we did not hang out in a lot of these areas.
Ports: St. Marteen
As stated earlier this was our first trip to the Caribbean. We are not really beach goers so we took a tour to see some of the island, some of the beaches and return for a little shopping before getting back on ship. Our first stop on the tour was at Sunset Bar/Beach to watch the planes come in overhead. Due to the season there was only one large aircraft that flew over and a couple of smaller ones. We were watching as clouds moved in and could tell the rain was coming, so we headed back to the bus to keep from getting soaked. We made another stop (can't remember the name now) to do a little shopping and look around town for a bit. Then it was on to Orient Beach. The water was so pretty and we enjoyed hanging out there for a couple of hours with a quite a diverse group of people. When we got back to the pier it was already beginning to get dark so we just headed on back to the ship to get ready for dinner. Our driver and guide were both very nice and knowledgeable about the island and gave us a good tour.
Now this is what I had always envisioned the Caribbean waters looking like. We walked a couple of blocks from the pier and took a sky ride up the mountain. What a view!! It was beautiful seeing the ships docked in the beautiful green/blue water. There was a bird show in progress when we arrived at the top and you could get your picture made with the birds after the show. We stayed up there a couple of hours or so just admiring the view 'from the top'. When we were ready to ride back to town, the 'sky ride' was broken so we had to take a taxi down. We did do some shopping here before heading back to the ship. A great day!!
Our schedule was to arrive in Nassau about 9:00 a.m. Due to some mechanical difficulty we did not dock til close to noon. I had printed a walking tour of Nassau we were prepared to take until we were met by a gentleman offering us a tour of the city with a stop at Atlantis. My husband and I decided this might be a little better 'deal' than walking around town in the heat of the day, so we decided to go for it. Maybe we were not totally scammed, but we could have taken a taxi to Atlantis a lot cheaper than this "tour" and probably with a little more air conditioning than this ride allowed. He drove us through different neighborhoods in town before we finally arrived at Atlantis. There is only so much you can see without paying extra money, but we are still glad we got to go. When we got back to town, we walked around a little and then found something cold to drink to cool us off before heading back to the ship. Our balcony gave us some excellent views of Atlantis at sunset and also of the lighthouse at the end of the point. Overall, another good day.
We arrived back in port at Miami about 5:30 Saturday morning. Since we had put our luggage out the night before, we got up and pretty much took our time getting off the ship. Had one last breakfast at the buffet and were pulled kicking and screaming off the ship about 10:00. Picked up our luggage, walked through customs and were on our way to one last overnight in Miami before heading home. Let me add here, we were at our hotel, Hampton Inn by the airport (if I can say the name) before 10:30. The lady at the desk let us check in our room when we arrived and we were so grateful. Was able to get a couple of hours sleep and felt like a perfect ending to an absolutely perfect week!!
I apologize for this being so long but I really don't know any other way to say it. This may have been our first trip to the Caribbean, but I have a feeling it will not be our last. And I'm absolutely certain NCL will take us there again!!