My husband and I just returned yesterday from our 7 day Eastern Carribean on the EPIC. This is my second cruise, the first one was a 12 day Mediterranean on Princess and was awesome.
I read dozens of reviews prior to our trip to try to get a feel for the ship and pick up some tips. To save you some reading I will start with some tips:
1. When you board the ship and are waiting for your room to come available (usually at 2pm) go to Taste Restaurant (deck 5) for lunch. The buffet is insane on embarkation day, Taste is comfortable and has decent food. The staff in Taste are terrific and friendly.
2. If you like coffee and need or just appreciate a good cup or two a day bring some of your own. The little coffee makers in the rooms make 4 cups, so bring 4 cup filter packs or your own filter and coffee. The coffee on the ship (even the espresso) is terrible.
3. On "Sea Days" go up on deck at 6 or 7am and "save" your lounge chairs. This was not allowed on Princess (which is the right way to do it) but on Epic it is allowed and if you do not you will be completely beat out of a place to sit. I did not do this (as I felt guilty doing it) and ended up very disappointed and not getting to sit in the sun.
4. If you enjoying gambling, smoking, and partying this cruise is for you. They also have tons of things for younger kids to do. Being forced to walk through the casino to get anywhere on the ship and through all of the smoke was brutal for us (but may not be for others).
Getting on and off the ship was very easy. NCL scores high points in this area.
The rooms (we had a deluxe balcony) are small but very functional and worked fine for us. We did not mind bumping into each other. The "IKEA closet toilet stall" was a bit weird but no big deal. The sink was fine and not the big problem some have complained about.
The big sell...the first two days they absolutely jump all over you to buy drinks, book "cover charge" restaurants etc. Then by day 4 you can't get their attention to get a second drink!
Customer Service - We found the vast majority of the staff to be less than pleasant and helpful. Several times when I asked someone who or where to get help with something, they simply shrugged their shoulders and didn't even try to find me help.
Taste (deck 5 - free) - very well run, great service and basic but good food
Cagney's - (cover charge) - great food and great service
Teppenyaki - (cover charge) - good food, fun atmosphere, staff try hard to give you a good experience
Noodle Bar - (a la carte) - good food, chefs are fun to watch but smoke and noise from casino is gross and annoying
Wasabi (a la carte) - good food and pleasant staff
La Cucina (cover charge) - some food was good, some was not, service was okay
Moderno - (cover charge) - food was good, service was not. Maitre D was rude, server was rude, a very nice bus boy ended up helping clear our table and get our dessert as our waitress had disappeared!
Buffet - edible, decent food, but you have to put up with be elbowed by all of the buffet hounds who think all the food is going to disappear if they don't get in line ahead of you.
Blue Man Group was a lot of fun and highly recommended
Legends in Concert was very good and recommended
Cirque de Soleil - we cancelled our reservation because several people told my husband it was terrible. We would have tried it out, but apparently you cannot leave once you are in the theatre and it is 2 hours long.
The pools are tiny, I have never seen any so small, but I guess for cooling off they worked fine. We did not use the water slides but I heard people saying they were great.
Internet is very expensive and is torture. In the internet cafe it works very slow and logs out regularly. In your room if you bring a laptop it is even worse.
The fitness centre is excellent, but there was so much motion on our cruise that it was tough to work-out.
I stand behind my comment that if you are a smoker, enjoy gambling and partying it is a great ship. We would not cruise on it again, not likely NCL as their customer service is lacking and that is usually a top down approach. We had a good time overall but that was mostly because we were together, away from home and did not have our Blackberry's!!
Our trip may also have been tainted by the fact that it rained on the day in St. Thomas and our stop in Nassau was cancelled due to wind. That meant no shopping, no dolphin encounter etc. Not their fault, but very disappointing.
Not a bad ship, but definitely for those who like a party atmosphere.