I had read the mixed reviews on the NCL Epic and had mixed experiences on our other 3 NCL cruises so was prepared for anything. We were amazed every day at how much we loved the ship, the food, her crew, the pool and slides, the entertainment and all of the little extras we experienced during our vacation.
The Epic is awe inspiring as you view her from the port of Miami. Once aboard we were a bit overwhelmed wondering if we would ever figure out the layout of the ship or if we would be lost over the course of our entire vacation. She is actually very easy to figure out and we quickly became pros as finding our way around.
We had inside cabins and were quite comfortable. The layout with the separate shower and bathroom near the cabin door and each with its frosted glass sliding doors is a bit odd but didn't pose any real issues. The sink in the vanity of the actual bedroom area is also a bit odd but again, didn't pose any issues. The bed was extremely comfortable and we did not find it to be short in any way. My Husband is 6'4" and had no issue with the length of the bed. We slept soundly every night.
The main dining rooms were beautiful and served wonderful food. We did not have one thing we didn't love. The staff are wonderful! Everyone greets you with a smile and work to accommodate every request. We tried some of the specialty restaurants. They are the same as on other NCL ships so the experience was pretty much the same. The food is good but not always worth the up-charge because the main dining rooms serve such wonderful menus.
We ate in the Garden Cafe every morning and really enjoyed the food and the variety. We never had an issue getting a table - as we had on smaller ships. The staff was extremely friendly and helped us find tables. They cleaned tables so quickly - there were never tables sitting with dirty dishes on them.
I can't comment enough on the friendliness of the entire staff on-board this ship! No matter what their position on the ship (from engineers to sports crew and bus boys and bartenders - everyone had smiles on their faces, greeted us every time and worked to fulfill any need) We had not had this same experience with NCL on past sailings so were extremely impressed with the new training that must be going on.
There is so much to do on this ship that we were always busy! The Blue Man Group show is amazing! We had seen it in Boston last year and the show was just as phenomenal on this ship. We even got to meet the blue men after the show. We all went into the Ice Bar - even my 9 year old Daughter. This was a really fun experience for everyone! It is cold, but really, really incredible. The glasses are made of ice as are the seating and sculptures. Definitely a must do! The Nickelodeon slime show for kids was really fun. Our Daughter thoroughly enjoyed it! We paid to see the Cirque Dreams show against other recommendations from reviews. Sadly, this was the only disappointment on the trip. The show was slow moving (as far as excitement/circus acts), the aerial act was cancelled and even though we paid for premium seating, we couldn't see most of the show. The food was cold and not very flavorful and small portions. This was the least appetizing food on the entire trip and we paid an extra $30 for it. I cannot recommend this show.
One strange thing I will mention about this huge ship is the small, hidden running track. On my cruises I love to run out on deck - especially when there is a beautiful island to look at. This running track is hidden behind lifeboats and runs along the back of some of the kitchens. You run one way then turn around a tight turn and run parallel along the track you just ran down back to where you started. While you are running you smell onions from the kitchen and get blasted by heat turbines in an area with no air circulation. Very strange!!!!
The slides on the ship are awesome! My Daughter did the slides dozens of times each day and never tired of them. We all especially loved the Epic Plunge that goes into the bowl. Fantastic! Again, the crew who work the slides are phenomenal! They get to know the kids' names and joke with them and watch out for them. I cannot say enough about the staff.
One comment I will make about something that was a disappointment is that the photo crew and their policies are frustrating. My Daughter went over to the "dolphin" who was waving to her to come over as we were ported in Honduras. As I pulled my camera out to take a photo the ship's photographer positioned her body between me and my Daughter and told me no personal cameras. When I said that the policy was ridiculous she got in my face and said "why?" the entire time blocking me from my Daughter. In addition, photos are $19.00 per photo - no matter what size you purchase. An absolute rip off!!!! My advice is to take all of your own photos - save yourself a boatload of money.
I had read comments about the elevators. I had no issue with where the elevators were located. They were extremely fast and the only time we had crowded elevators were during embarkation and after returning from a port.
Our cabin steward was an incredibly wonderful man! He knew us all by name and was so kind to my Mother and Daughter. My Mom likes to make her own coffee in the morning (there are no coffee makers in the cabins unless you are in a suite). Our room steward found her a coffee pot - this made her so happy! Mohammed also made sure to make a towel animal every night for our Daughter. He even let her help make them - which she absolutely loved! Mohammed was the kindness, most wonderful room steward I have ever had in over 20 years of sailing. He had a wonderful smile every time we saw him. He made our trip so special and made us feel at home.
In closing I want to say that the Epic is a beautiful ship with something for absolutely everyone. She has a crew that will make you smile and keep you happy and a ship with endless possibilities. Hats off to NCL for making this their best yet!