We booked the Courtyard Villa for our 44th Anniversary. We have followed every Cruise Critic review on EPIC since it initially sailed. Tips given were very useful. We did back to back cruises with the Western and then Eastern itinerary.
Embarkation was so smooth. Courtyard guests had their own checkin area and were escorted right to the EPIC lounge to meet Concierge and given tour by butler.
The courtyard villa was a spacious 2 bedroom unit on the 17th floor. We had our own Concierge (Florentina and Andreea) who were spectacular. Anything you wanted was taken care of by them. Had our own butler who was OK at best. The courtyard villas have their own dining room which is always quiet and good food with the very best service one can have. Aurora and Jennifer and the entire dining room serving staff were ultra friendly and provided the very best service. Christopher our room attendant was great - providing superior service and taking care of all our needs. The Villas area also has their own pool, hot tubs, and sunbathing area.
Entertainment: We saw the three main shows - Blue Man, Legends and Circus. Blue Man was OK but not really our bag. Legends had Rod Stewart, Brittney Spears and Michael Jackson - the talent was great but we are not Brittney or Michael fans so this venue did not work for us. Circus was very good and the food was just fine. The Concierge escorted us to all shows and we got into the seating before anyone else and got choice of seats. Our absolute favorite entertainment was "Howl at the Moon". We went the first night on ship and went every night they were scheduled the whole two weeks. Can't say enough good things about Drew, Colleen, Jeff and Richard who always gave a spectacular show. Also enjoyed Bernie Martini and Dymitri at their piano venues.
Food. The EPIC club was always good. We also ate at Cagneys, Italian and Le Bistro and all were good. After each shore excursion, we ate at O'Sheenans and that provided a change of pace and food and service were always good.
The first week of our cruise there were 3,600 passengers and the 2nd week over 4,100 and you could feel the difference. A Lot more crowded and congested. Those cruising Christmas week with a total of 5,000 plus, make sure you make all your reservations for shows and dinners on-line and early!
Some Negatives. We were unable to leave Cozumel on-time the end of first week because of high winds. We finally departed 13 hours late and had 50 MPH winds and 20-25 foot seas back to Miami. The 17th floor was not the place to be as we felt every rock and roll of the ship. The 2nd week (Eastern) was also quite bumpy and again the 17th floor was not the place to be. Also our room was right under the Freestyle Sundeck. If you tried to get any quiet time in your room during the day, you heard every foot step and every chair move above you. You also heard the cleaning crew during the night. During the high winds, the courtyard sundeck was unusable. Twice they had to pull all the chairs off the deck to secure them and also block the entry doors including the doors into the EPIC dining room. The courtyard villas had their own exercise room but much preferred the exercise area on deck 14 for the views of the sea and also the TVs did not work in the courtyard exercise area. Also the Epic dining room maintained the same menu for the entire time - this gets quite old looking at the same 7 main choices.
We had very poor weather in St Thomas and the Captain delayed our entry to port by half hour due to the winds. St Thomas had rain, wind and fog. Finally we did not go into Nassau due to the winds. NCL loved it as it gave an extra sea day for shopping and gambling.
For back to back cruises, you must exit the ship for about an hour before re boarding. Also if doing back to back, you don't need to do the life saving drill the 2nd week.
All in all we had nice time but expected more. It is Las Vegas on the seas and we are not Las Vegas people. We had the EPIC booked for trans-Atlantic and cancelled that trip immediately upon our return. Once was more than enough.