The ship was late in returning to Miami because of Hurricane Tomas, so the embarkation process was both delayed and somewhat confused. But, once aboard, we found our cabin easily. We were dismayed to find that all the negative observations we'd read earlier were more than justified. Whoever designed and approved this cabin should be made to spend a week in one. It was pretty, but cramped. A sofa, which could accommodate a third person, faced a blank wall, rather than the flat screen television. The toilet might as well have been in the center of the cabin, and the shower, out in the hallway. Kiss privacy goodbye. The balcony was spacious enough, though the two chairs were less than comfortable. The temperature controls worked very well. Simply on the basis of the cabin, I would never, under any circumstance, book another cruise on the Epic. And there are plenty of other reasons, as well.
We enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the Taste restaurant (one of the two main dining rooms). Later in the cruise, we would have dinner in the Manhattan Room, the other main room, where the ambiance was marred by a band who apparently were playing several different musical selections at once, in keys chosen at random. The food in both dining rooms was fine, certainly not distinguished, but well prepared and well served.
We ate many meals in the Garden Cafe. Breakfasts offered a wide but unchanging selection, including made to order omelets and eggs. Lunches, too, included a wide variety of hot and cold foods, usually quite good. But, oh, the noise! Add to the huge number of people, all chattering away, the relentless and inescapable "music" played at high volume over the p a system. It was of the "hey, baby, doncha wanna do me, hey, baby, hey, yeah" variety. I thought if I heard Enrique Iglesias wail "baby I LIIIIKE it!" one more time I would do serious damage to myself or others. Come to think of it, there was virtually no place on the ship that offered a quiet spot to think, read, or relax. The so-called "library" on the ship was, in fact, a single shelf of books in random order, in the Bliss Ultra lounge, locked up for all but a few hours apparently kept jealously secret.
We patronized a few of the upcharge restaurants. La Cucina: worst chicken parmesan I've ever had. Cagney's: upcharge for the restaurant, further upcharge for adding lobster; cold filet, 1/2 cold lobster tail; not even close to the food and service in other Cagney's on other NCL ships. Noodle bar: reasonable a la carte prices, excellent food prepared while you watch. Teppanyaki: delicious, fun, highly recommended. Room Service, by the way, offered FREE pizza, but only if you paid a $5 delivery fee; there was no provision for one to drop by and pick it up, gratis.
The Blue Man Group was quite the best entertainment I've ever enjoyed aboard a ship. Legends in Concert was okay, if you like competent imitations--I mean "tributes"--to performers of somewhat iffy talent even in person. Britney Spears? Deliver me.
The in-cabin television offerings left much to be desired. Aside from the predictable ship information and shopping channels, one could choose MSNBC, ESPN, Fox News (fair and balanced!), or three-count them, three--Nickelodeon channels. In the evenings, one of those latter three offered reruns of old television programs such as "Law and Order," "New Adventures of Old Christine," "Big Bang Theory," and, oddly enough, the long-ago-cancelled "Whose Line Is It Anyway." These reruns were often repeated, to the point that I sometimes found myself speaking the dialogue along with the players. Do you want a movie? Prepare to pony up $9.95. Not even a freebie of "It Happened One Night," or "All About Eve." You could, of course, go see something really current like "Mamma Mia" (?!) on the big screen in the Atrium, or maybe "Beyonce's Concert Tour," but I'd already had enough Beyonce on the loudspeakers in the Garden Cafe.
And, Oh, the art auctions! I never cease to wonder how, years after their deaths, Picasso and Rembrandt continue to churn out masterpieces. And surely there are enough Peter Max's in the world so that every single human being planet should have at least two. It saddened me to watch folks fork over good money for bad art. Years from now hundreds will be disappointed as they drag this stuff to Antiques Roadshow only to learn that they've acquired schlock. Shame on NCL.
Not much to be said for the ports of call. St. Thomas and St. Maarten are wall to wall diamond stores (are diamonds really scarce and precious?). We missed Nassau because of high winds--the compensatory "extra activities" we were promised never materialized.
Conclusion: never again. I haven't given up on NCL, on which I've enjoyed many cruises, but I'll not sail on the Epic again.