We are back to reality after returning from our 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Epic. Lets be honest.. after reading many poor reviews of this ship, I was a tad nervous. However... we had an amazing time and she is a beautiful ship. I hope this review can help you out.
To give you some context, I am in my mid 30's and this is my 7th cruise. I've sailed NCL once before as well as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Sunquest. I went with my husband and my brother in law. We booked directly with NCL about a month and a half ago.
Embarkation had a small hiccup as the cruise before us was delayed overnight in Cozumel because of high winds and therefore it did not return to Miami on time. NCL was incredible. They called us the night before to advise us of this delay and that we would be leaving between 6-8pm rather than the original sailing time of 4pm. Since we were flying in, we had no choice and arrived at the same time we had planned to be there. Upon our arrival to the embark at 10:30 am, we were promptly able to check in and boarded a complimentary shuttle to Bayside Marketplace. The buses left ever 30mins with the last returning one being at 2:30pm. We were onboard the ship by 3pm. This was the easiest embarkation we've had in all the cruises I've done to date.
Once aboard the ship, of course we did a tour to see it all! Definitely head to the spa to take a look at everything- its very impressive! Although we don't have children, we went to the kids area and were very impressed with everything in there. We made a reso at the Ice Bar, checked out the menus and got into our room by about 3:15pm to check it out. I was initially shocked as our balcony room was partially enclosed and although we booked directly with NCL, they never mentioned this big fact. The balcony has a cut out window (basically an oversized porthole with no glass) and the rest was steel. There was no way to see the ocean unless you basically stood right at the window. Being 5"4, when I sat down... I could only see clouds. By about Day 2... I came to terms with this and realize how big our balcony was (about twice the size of reg balcony's). On a plus side, our balcony was covered so when it rained, it was perfect to be able to sit out and be covered, A maintenance man came into our room to fix something and we asked him if he could open the small balcony insert between our cabin and my brother in law next door-- he did this and it was a great. I think this cabin would be great for families with small children- the balcony was huge and a great place for kids to spread out some toys, and crawl or walk around. 3 of us were able to sit out with our feet up... and lots of room to spare.
I eat Gluten Free and have nothing but wonderful things to say about everyone on board. First off-- everyone I spoke with knew what this meant and all went out of there way to help me out. Calib in the Manhattan Room (Maitre D') and the Maitre D' in O'Sheenan's were outstanding. Both were gracious, and so willing to make things easy. My second time to O'Sheenans, I sat down and the Matire D' came over and told me he already sent in my order as he remembered I loved the tuna melt! Calib, organized my meals in Cagneys and made sure I had whatever I wanted for breakfast. I ate incredibly and never once felt sick. I would cruise NCL again solely based on the accommodation for my gluten free diet- they were wonderful. Although... they do need some gluten free beer on board! =) For those of you that are gluten free-- you will understand the importance of this statement-- the bread is great!
For the rest of the review, I am going to divide it by pros and cons rather than repeating what other posters have already said.
-great hairdyer in the room-- definitely can leave yours at home
-so much to do! Every night felt like a different night out- we were never bored and can understand why some ppl to 2 cruises back to back!
-decor throughout the ship is chic, modern and you forget you are on a ship.
-we never felt like there was over 4000 people on the ship. Thee was so much to do and so many dining options that we never felt like we were once of 4000 people. Very impressive.
-water pressure in the shower is wonderful, spacious shower you can actually bend down to pick up something you drop!
-Cagneys was AMAZING! Well worth the $25 surcharge!
-we tried the Sushi and you have to try the Godzilla Roll- best ever! I am still craving it. We also tried the Noodle bar- also fantastic!
-Photos were great- you just insert your room card and you get to see all your pics instantly- SOOO much better than scanning thousands of pictures to try and find yourself and desperately trying to remember what you wore the night the picture was taken!
-Second City was so much fun- we went to 4 shows (all different) and had a blast
-Howl at the Moon was great-- so talented and a really fun night
-Legends was outstanding-- the Micheal Jackson was out of this world. Only negative about this show is when it was over!
-the crew! Everyone we passed in the hall or met at various venues on the ship was friendly and happy. We often had managers pop by our tables to ask how things were and had some great conversations with the crew. It seems like everyone is happy to be there.
-the storage in the room was impressive. We've never had a cabin with so much storage and a place literally for everything. So great!
-interactive map outside the elevators. I think I knew my way better around this ship than on the ones 1/2 the size I've been on before.
-Ice Bar was great. We lasted the 40mins. Bring socks, don't wear shorts and bring a camera for sure. We saw a few people, literally walk in a walk out within less than 2 minutes. Stick near the door and you might luck out and get the early leavers drink tickets- we got 2 while there!
-Paul Scally (cruise director) is a hoot and very good at his job. We were on NCL Spirit with him in Jan and were happy to learn he was on the Epic. He is a natural. We didn't see him as much on this ship though because there isn't a central venue like on smaller ships.
-the spa! I've never been on board before but did the "Perfect Day" package which was a 50minute massage and 25minute facial... and my massage room faced the ocean. Did it on my second day and it was divine.
-okay, I totally don't get the concept behind he separate toilet with the frosted glass. I love modern and chic but when you are in a tiny space with someone for a week.. do you really need the added feature of being able to see in! Yes, there is a curtain to pull but the fun starts when someone knocks on the door and your in real pickle! Don't know what NCL was thinking here. Thumbs down.
-Cirque food was terrible and there is no choice what so ever as its a fixed menu. Although i had accommodations made in advance because I am gluten free- this was by far my worst meal on the ship. I think I ate 2 shrimp and a piece of gf bread. The show itself-- the performers were outstanding but the dialogue is annoying to say the least.
-We were on board the ship for Remembrance Day and although Paul Scally came on the loudspeaker to ask for a moment of silence- it was not observed as the music was still booming! Would like to see some better recognition and perhaps reminder in advance of the moment of silence and having the music on deck stop.
-Movies are all Pay Per View and like $10 at that! Very minimal channels on the TV- we watched a lot of E! when we were in the room!
-I found the Air conditioning really high on the ship- one night I had 2 cardigans on because I was so cold!
-casino is REALLY smoking and way too big to hold your breath as you walk through.
-My biggest gripe... the mixed drinks. They come int he colorful souvenir glasses and run for about $8+. On the first day, I asked if it was the same price for a reg. glass and I was told yes by a server. One the last day, I learned in fact that is not true and they are $2 more a drink!!!
-the top deck is choppy and you can't walk around the whole deck.
Tips that might help you!
-If you have been on a previous NCL cruise you are a latitude member which mans you get 10% off any purchase that has the Epic logo- so mugs, clothes, magnets etc... this is in addition to sales they have. They will never ask you in your are a member-- you will have to ask for the discount which I found quite sketchy!
-When you want a pop- don't order it.. go to the arcade and you can get a bottle of cold pop for $2 which gives you much more than the small glass you get and you can drink what you want and put the rest in your room fridge. Want some ice- grab a cup, fill it with ice and you'll get 2 glasses at least.
-buy your NCL clothing items on the last day of the cruise when things were 50% off.
-careful with the quality of the NCL clothing. I bought a pair of sweatpants that were $24 (plus my 10% off, lol) and washed them in cold water and hung them to dry. They shrunk like an inch and now I had capris after 1 wear. ... this clearly speaks to the poor quality of them and I was really disappointed with this.
-there is shower gel and shampoo in the shower- its attached to a pump on the wall
-at the Atrium there is free coffee and tea available all the time. Tea drinkers-- there is an assortment of teas both herbal and caffeinated. It was lovely.
-there are hand sanitizer pumps in all the general areas. A lot of liquid comes out when you put your hand under it, so try not to walk and stick your hand under or it will end up on your shoe or the poor person standing behind you!
All in all- we had an outstanding time. I could go on and on with highlights but won't.
Remember, as you read the reviews remember while there are always areas of improvement our of over 4000 people on each cruise... only maybe 5 write about that trip. You'll have a great time!