I just returned from a week on the Epic and found it to be a wonderful ship and a wonderful cruise. I traveled with my mother and it was our third cruise together and the second on a NCL ship. Before I left, I read many of the reviews on this site and it was pretty obvious that I was either going to love or hate it, as there seems to be very little in between when it comes to the Epic. Well, I loved it.
To start with, we used NCL for the hotel in Miami the night before (we were traveling from the Northwest, so we had to arrive on Friday) as well as the transfers from the hotel to the ship and from the ship to the airport. We were booked into the Hotel Sofitel and found it to be quite nice. The transfer process was very smooth and convenient.
Once we arrived at the cruise terminal, everything was very quick and efficient and we were on board the ship in approximately 20-30 minutes. It was much quicker than any other cruise I had been on.
Once on the ship, we walked around a bit to get a lay of the land and then stopped by the sushi bar for lunch. The sushi is ala carte, but very reasonably priced as two of ate lunch for less than $10 total. We then headed for the deck and soaked up some sun until our room was ready at a little after 2:00pm.
I know there has been a lot of discussion about the rooms, but it worked well for us. We had a regular balcony stateroom on the Deck 10. I loved the separate shower and toilet areas. Privacy was not an issue for us and the separate areas allowed both of us to get ready for dinner or start the day at the same time. The sink did splash a bit, but nothing that was difficult to deal with. The beds were comfortable, but I can see how they would be more difficult for a taller person (I'm 5'5 and my feet did hang off the end occasionally, although I don't mind that). I loved all of the storage space and while the narrow walk area between the beds and the counter does create some issues, we found them easily resolved and more than a fair trade for the other things we liked about the cabin. The only issue we had at all was with the lighting which is not great. And the switches took some getting used to as well. But, all in all, I thought the New Wave stateroom was great.
We ate at several of the specialty restaurants and enjoyed them all. Cagney's was particularly good as was Moderno (the Brazilian restaurant). Moderno has a fantastic salad bar and I would recommend taking a big appetite with you as they serve a lot of food. Shanghai's and La Cucina were also excellent meals.
We also did the Cirque Dreams and Dinner. The first thing people need to know is that even if you have purchased your tickets, it is first come, first seated. So, if you arrive at 8:40 (5 minutes before the start) you will be lucky to find seats together. We had paid for the premium seating but the only seats together were in the second level. We took the discount and sat upstairs and it was fine. The couple in front of us who arrived at the same time were not happy and left. It was a little frustrating that you could be left without seats you paid for (or at least without them together), but it was also my fault for not reading the information provided and realizing we needed to be there sooner. The staff was very friendly and apologetic and it really wasn't a big deal to me. But, I know others have different takes on that type of thing so I wanted to provide that information.
The dinner itself was okay, but was probably the worst food we had all week. There are no choices, everybody gets the same thing. But, the entertainment was great and that's what the whole thing was really about anyway. Also, the show will be cancelled if the seas are too rough. I think they cancelled two or three shows the week we sailed.
For other entertainment we saw the Blue Man Group which was very fun and the Legends in Concert which was also entertaining. Both are included in the cruise and we enjoyed them.
We did excursions on St. Maartens, St. Thomas, and Nassau, all through NCL and they were each well done and very enjoyable.
The casino is huge which is nice because it was easier to find an open seat at a table or slot machine. The staff was extremely nice and made an effort to learn and remember our names.
We spent two of the sea days at the H2O Spice deck at the aft part of the ship. It's an adults only section and was very popular. Finding lounge chairs if you arrived after 10:00am was difficult, but getting a spot at a table was not. They have a large number of bar staff constantly circulating and there is food at the bar for lunch and snacks. There is also a big screen TV which shows scenic pictures most of the time and football games on Sunday. The music was a nice mix of adult contemporary tunes that both I and my 60 year old mother enjoyed. The pool is small, but more than sufficient for a quick dip to cool down. We had a lot of wind both days (all week really), but the decks provide some protection and it wasn't that bad even on the windiest day. We didn't spend any time at the main pool or slides, but I heard others say the slides were really fun. We also met some people who did the rock climbing and rappelling and said both were great.
To sum up, it was really a great experience. Our steward was wonderful and knew or names from the first time she saw us and always greeted us with a smile and asked if we needed anything. O'Sheehans is a great addition with lots of seating, games, and 24 hour food service. The Garden Cafe is a good buffet option and even at the busiest time we never had trouble finding a seat. The shopping was good and we're not even big shoppers. We found the ship very easy to get around with so many things centrally located and the colors (orange for port, blue for starboard) making it even easier to find our way around.
Disembarkation was also really easy. There was an option of just walking off with your luggage, but because we had an NCL transfer to the airport, we got tags and put our bags out the night before. Because our flight was early afternoon, we were part of the first group off. It was very smooth and we were off and through customs in less than 15 minutes. The transfer was fairly quick and we were at the airport by 9:15am. If I had it to do over, I probably would just do a cab. Not because the transfer was bad in any way, but just because it was so efficient that we were at the airport quite early for our flight. I would have rather had another hour or two of sleep and a last jaunt around the ship.
We definitely look forward to another cruise on the Epic in the future.