HOTEL INFORMATION: Pre-cruise I stayed at the Viceroy in downtown Miami which is my favorite hotel. Can anyone say "the best kept secret" close to the port?
TRAVEL TO AND FROM PORT: I flew into Fort Lauderdale and used GO Transportation share a ride for 26 dollars per person to the Viceroy. At debarkation, I used NCL transfer bus for 25 dollars back to FLL. Getting to the ship I called some friends who live in Orlando, and they drove down to give me a ride to the ship. They are really good friends!
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION: Arrived around 12:30 and was onboard by 1pm. Left the ship at 10:00pm (debarkation was a bit late due to layover in Cozumel) and was on the transfer bus by 10:25. The Epic has two entry points at the terminal...check your ticket to see if you embark at terminal B or terminal C. I was fortunate to have many options to debark: Yellow tags due to my afternoon flight time, priority walk-off due to my platinum latitudes status, and the secret way out. I just walked off the regular way with everyone else when I was ready to go. It was easy.
SHIP INFORMATION: How much time do you have? I found the ship is beautiful. One really needs to take time to walk about and appreciate the dEcor. I explored every area except the kids, suites, forward ship upper public decks, art, and spa locations. The inside public rooms on decks 5, 6, and 7 are beautiful and never felt crowded to me. I found each lounge and restaurant unique and tastefully decorated. The casino is a gambler's paradise. The Bliss Lounge is very cool and I loved the entrance, the dance floor, and the dance cages! Spice H20 is perfect for dancing under the stars to cool music in the Caribbean although I never hung out there during the daytime. My balcony was at the stern and I had a better view. I enjoyed the main pools, the water slides, and the spritzers. There are many pictures on the internet of the public areas. Cruise critic KitsVA on the NCL boards has excellent links to beautiful photos.
STATEROOM: My cabin was 8213 on the stern. The balcony was big and it became my living room for the week. I found a lounger to compliment the two chairs and the small table that were already out there. I hung a curtain to cover the slit in the balcony divider and lined up the big plastic water bottles for my private H20 bar while enjoying the glorious sunshine that beamed down many times upon me when I wanted to be alone. I slept more on the balcony than I did in the cabin. Of course my mantra for the week was dance all night and sleep in the sun all day so it worked out very well since I did not like my bed. I appreciated the times I could be in the bathroom and catch a sunset at the same time or answer the door while still in the shower. The cabin had a lot of storage space yet when I visited other balcony cabins I saw even more. Do your research and choose wisely depending on the number of passengers staying in the cabin.
DINING: I like everything I eat. Since almost one month has passed since sailing, I most remember enjoying Cagney's jumbo shrimp and large serving of crab legs, Le Bistro's lobster dish and the chocolate fondue with vanilla ice cream, Taste's skirt steak, the Garden Cafe's watermelon, O'Sheehan's omelets and chocolate brownie dessert (hey, it was 4am and the two went well together at the time), the sushi, a spicy fruity concoction from Moderno's wild and crazy salad bar, the chocolate croissants and the best orange juice on the ship at Spice H20, the lobster at Manhattan Room (you want to talk about the best ever on a cruise ship?), and wherever I saw it...the bread pudding! I never knew I loved bread pudding.
PORT/SHORE EXCURSIONS: In Costa Maya I walked off and got an inexpensive beach massage behind the stores and bars and returned to the ship. If you think the Epic pools are too small, then you will enjoy the large pool area right in the port of Costa Maya. In Roatan, I met local friends and spent the day with them and returned to the ship. You really need to go beyond the port to experience the beauty of the island. In Cozumel, I stayed on the ship and watched the sun go from the left side of my balcony to the right side of my balcony. Having been to Cozumel many times, I can not think of any excursion to stay away from. I have enjoyed snorkeling and beaching it in the past.
ACTIVITIES: What most cruise ships have in one afternoon, the Epic has in one hour. Plenty of options abound for all age groups. For example, during the 10am hour one could attend a shore excursion presentation, a liquor raffle, a ping pong tournament, casino game lessons, body sculpting boot camp, an art history class, and piano melodies in the atrium. During the 1pm hour one could attend family lego building, a wine tasting, slime time live, karaoke power hour, Halloween poolside fun, a slot tournament, or champagne art auction. During the 5 O'clock hour one could attend a Fab Abs class, kettle bell boot camp, music with Apollo Duo, Cirque Dreams and Dinner, solo traveler's gathering, listen to the Manhattan Showband while dining, and meet and greet Nickelodeon. In my opinion, there were so many that each age group could find something to be happy with. The most fun for me activity was the Euro bungee because I could do backward flips way up in the air.
ENTERTAINMENT: The other reviews are not kidding when they write that the Epic has the best entertainment on the seven seas! You probably know by now the headliner entertainment Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams, Fat Cats, Howl at The Moon, Legends, and Nickelodeon At Sea. The Epic still has the other venues available onboard that are found on their other ships such as Dancing With The Stars, Quest, Second City, Comedy, Magic, Pub Crawls and Tastings, Newlywed Game, Trivia, Karaoke, Bowling, Wii on the big screen, Guest Djs, Dance lessons, and so much more. Try to get a link to some Epic Freestyle Dailies that cruise critics have posted on the NCL board. I booked in advance online and found it very easy to do. Once onboard, I also found it very easy to switch if something else came up. The show reservations area is open a few times each day.
SERVICE: I highly commend the employees working on the Epic. I found the "At Your Service" theme prevalent throughout the week. A Maitre D' at 3am to seat you in O'Sheehan's and to check in on you. A greeter at the guest services desk line (it was short) to guide you and to direct you to the appropriate person who could help. The publication of top officers contact numbers while on the ship. Wait staff at the buffet helping the elderly get their food. My steward even helped me figure out what shoes looked best with my outfits.
SUMMARY: The Epic is a beautiful monster and I had the most fun on my first ever Halloween sailing. I was surprised to love the venues I did not think I would like such as Cirque Dreams, Fat Cats, the Ice Bar, and Cagney's. I was not surprised to love the venues I knew I would enjoy such as the outdoor dance parties held nightly at Spice H20, the Halloween party, Manhattan Restaurant, and even later dancing inside Bliss Nightclub, and lounging solo on my stern balcony. Although I gave my stateroom a low rating, I very easily could stay in the same cabin in the future if I was by myself. I would have no issue staying in a studio or a suite or an inside next time either. I am glad to have gone solo for the first time onboard because I really got to see and do a lot on my own. Even so, there is still so much I have not yet explored on her!