Yes, 1000 kids on the Thanksgiving Norwegian "not so" Epic cruise!!! The ship capacity is only 4500 keep in mind.
OVERVIEW: This is the first time I've written a cruise review - my family and I felt given all the hype about the Epic, we should at the very least drop a short note. I'm a 35yr old male and have taken my parents (both 65) on a cruise annually since 2007. All cruises have been with Norwegian in the Caribbean or Europe; all on different ships. We've always had WONDERFUL experiences with the line...can't say enough.
EMBARKATION: We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to board the ship - we'd hired a car to take us to the port of Miami from the W Hotel and at the advice of the driver, we were picked up at 12:30pm...waited in no line and walked right on. We were surprised that there was no offering of a complimentary glass of champagne as with all other sailings on Norwegian. We made our way to the garden cafe for lunch, which was a standard staple. As we sailed off, we noticed a LOT of children on the pool deck...running all over the place. It was then that the cruise director (who left quite a bit to be desired) informed everyone that there were over 1000 kids on the boat!!!
STATEROOMS: Our rooms were ready in short order - spa deluxe balcony staterooms. Although they are designed very well, they are CLEARLY smaller than a standard Norwegian balcony room. I have no idea how you would fit three people in there comfortably. The shower, however, could easily fit three people in it...although the curvy room is aesthetically pleasing, it is very apparent that they skimped on size.
PUBLIC SPACES: There were some definite pluses and minuses to this ship...with a few notable things missing. Unlike other Norwegian ships, there were no fish on the carpets in the halls to indicate which direction you were walking (toward the front or rear of the ship). We also noticed the absence of a Spinnaker lounge (or central lounge). That seems to have been replaced with a large Irish pub...great atmosphere and jumbo-tron, horrible food. The ship is just mammoth...Bliss, Epic Theater, Ice Bar were all great. The addition of a barbershop was pretty cool. Fat Cats and Headliners (and all their offerings) were absolute home runs...and whatever you do, don't miss the Cirque du Soleil!!!
SPA/POOLS/SPICE H2O: Given that our rooms were in the spa area, we had access to all the hydrotherapy pools. This was sized larger than other Norwegian ships for sure...and we really enjoyed the addition of a few chaises on the outdoor spa patio! Having the spa at the rear of the boat was unique for us, but really just fine. The staff were great...but the up-sell on products after each service was particularly aggressive. Unfortunately, we only tried to visit the main pool areas twice and they were COMPLETELY overrun with kids. Which if you're traveling with minors, the pools, Nickelodeon partnership, kids activities, etc are all great. We spent the lion-share of our time in Spice H2O and enjoyed it. The staff was attentive and the jumbo-tron outside was perfect to watch football on.
RESTAURANTS: The Manhattan Room was a bit better than other "main dining rooms" we've experienced in the past. Le Bistro and Cagney's didn't disappoint. The sushi bar and teppanyaki (sp?) were also just fine. We skipped the Italian and currascuria but heard they were both good.
PORTS: This was meant to be a relaxing cruise for us, so we skipped Nassau and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the ship. St Maarten and St Thomas were fine.
ACTIVITIES: Blue Man fell flat...just a bit too slow in parts. We were excited to see Legends given some of the other reviews; Rod Stewart was awesome, but frankly Brittany Spears is just not a legend (and the woman that played her was about 20 yrs too old). Howling at the Moon was fantastic, Cirque - don't miss it! The late night Second City was just an absolute riot. We went to a few of their earlier show and the kid factor was way too high. You could tell the comedians weren't too keen on this. We were surprised that the ship staff didn't restrict kids from 1) participating in the dating game (15 yr old!), 2) participating in Second City, etc.
DISEMBARKATION: We opted for the "take your own luggage" option and it was great! We left the ship around 10am, no line in customs and were at the airport by 11:15am.
OVERALL: Impressive ship, definitely some high and low points, great experience for families and if you're a group of adults...you're going to be limited to just a few kid-free areas of the boat.