I decided to book the Epic primarily due to the availability of the solo cabin at a solo price without a single supplement (I know that prices have since gone up and that is a shame). I was able to do the b2b for the same price I paid in April on board the Spirit for 7 days. What a wonderful experience! I flew to Ft Lauderdale the day before and took SAS transport to the ship. While the van was 1/2 late and we stopped at 4 other hotels along the way we got there in plenty of time. Embarkation was a breeze- as Gold Latitudes member it was even easier. No lines at all and I was able to sit in Taste for lunch by 12:30. Had lovely lunch by the window and began to meet fellow travelers...many of whom I saw again throughout the two weeks. This first week there were about 3800 passengers- not many kids. The second week was noticeably more crowded with 4400 passengers and a lot of kids. By 2pm I was ensconced in my studio cabin. I loved the design of it right away but I couldn't figure out how to keep the lights on! Every 15 seconds or so it would go pitch dark! Turns out that you have to put your key card in the slot by the door and leave it there until you want lights out (very European...and energy efficient. The bed was incredibly comfortable made up of two twins together with a king mattress. Lots of fluffy pillows, enough storage for one person for 2 weeks- small sink area that was functional, large flat screen TV best viewed while leaning against pillows on the padded wall opposite. Shower was fine (PUSH in on the door to shut it)-efficient toilet area- no hair dryer (ask for one). Loved the studio corridor with blue lighting on the floor- loved the Living Room with our 5:30 solo traveler meeting (and 2 for 1 drinks every night)loved Meg, our Solo Traveler cruise staff person who brought us together, told us about upcoming islands and ship entertainment..and who took us all out to eat and drink one night each week. This was a wonderful way to meet other solos- many of whom shared dinner/entertainment with each other. So often when I've traveled alone I didn't meet other solos- and I don't always feel like hanging out with couples so this was special.
Food- very good to excellent- ate in Manhattan Room and Taste several times- food was overall very good but being a New Englander I did not care for the lobster and seafood extravaganza night- (lobster definitely not Maine lobster!) loved the mexican quesadilla appetizer (always on menu)- ate at the Buffet several times and food was surprisingly good especially the pasta station where the chef prepares your sauce and the crepe station. Good eggs benedict in the morning as well. Le Bistro- excellent food, service and ambiance; Cagneys' - filet mignon was excellent. I'm not a big meat eater so I didn't go to Moderno as I've been to these Brazilian steakhouses before and was overloaded on meat- others however loved it. La Cucina- Big disappointment- hated the pomodoro sauce (nasty fishy taste) the pork saltimbocca was bland- they no longer mix the balsamic v and o oil together- the tiramisu was boring; Shanghai- quite tasty; Noodle Bar -very good; Cirque dinner- the steak was good the rest was average. O'Sheehans' -excellent meat loaf, burgers, corned beef, hash and eggs, fish and chips- great spot to eat anytime.
Entertainment- omg- the BEST at sea! Blue Man Group was better on the ship than the show I saw in Boston; Cirque Dreams was Cirque de Soleil meets Moulin Rouge- fast, over the top, bawdy, funny, awe inspiring, erotic, beautiful. I had premium seats ( well worth it if close to the stage)- stood in line 45 minutes and would recommend that if you want the best seats;Howl at the Moon- fantastic! went 5 times and closed it 4!- the entertainers change every 4 weeks- this was Eddie from NY, Vince from Milwaukee and Rome from LA the first week and TC replacing Rome the second (first week was better with Rome but I still loved it the second week); Fat Cats- Roadside Louis and the Dusters- thoroughly enjoyable blues bar with the most uncomfortable chairs!; Second City- the adult show (11pm) was great, the early shows had kids up on stage and frankly, they are boring to watch. Didn't see the magician or Legends as the Michael Jackson guy was ill;enjoyed the Atrium duo before dinner.Ship n Males- fun, good looking young guys taking their clothes off- what's not to like? Dancing with the Epic stars was fun to watch and watching the Patriots beat the Jets and the Bears on the huge Atrium screen was great fun! My only issue was that if you wanted to book a show you had to go to the Box Office, wait in line and they were only open for 2 hours in the am and 2 in the afternoon. They never answered their phone and you'd have to get back early from a shore excursion if you wanted to book for that night. You were not able to cancel or re-book on the interactive TV so it wasn't terribly customer friendly.
Pool- don't use them- but there were enough lounge chairs there. People seemed to love the water slides and the rock climbing wall. I went up to the Freestyle and Quiet Zone to read and sunbathe- deck 18)
Staff- Paul Scalley(who I've sailed with before) was Cruise Director- I like him overall (still miss Colin from years ago though, anyone know where he went??) Cruise staff generally fun and energetic; cabin steward was wonderful and so helpful; shore excursion staff in general were very nice; guest services mostly were nice and helpful; bar staff attentive but not intrusive ( a nice change)
Decor- LOVED the design of the ship- NEVER felt crowded after the first day; I had easy time learning where everything was (although I heard some ...mostly older (ie: 70+) complain that the ship was too big and they didn't know where they were. Lots of nooks and crannies. My only two complaints- wish there was a walk around deck (although you can find a spot on deck 7 where you can actually see the ocean...not many people ever there so it was nice and quiet- same side as shuffleboard)...and no dedicated library. I missed the quietness of a library- I did manage to get to deck 18 but in inclement weather it is hard to find a quiet spot to read without hearing music or other people talking.
Cruise Critic party- ALL the senior officers were there including the Captain-I felt like CC members were taken seriously (I remember trying to book a CC party years ago and having difficulty even getting someone to respond to me- times have changed) We had a lot of people there and the officers appeared to talk with everyone and they left a card with all their phone numbers on it. Nice touch!
Shore excursions- booked last minute and had a ball on the Macarena Party bus in St Martin..(being alone I booked only the ship excursions as I felt safer as a female traveling alone but wouldn't hesitate to book from CC member recommendations if traveling with another); St thomas- catamaran sail and snorkel- great trip; Nassau- stayed on ship; Roatan- monkey reserve and beach..enjoyed the monkeys but didn't like to see the recalcitrant and very young ones tied- also HATED how dogs are treated onthe island...am contacting Rescue Leagues this week to see if we can do something about it (dogs have to forage for their food and when there are too many the govt lets people round them up and shoot them as a method of controlling the population..yech!!); Cozumel- really fun time at the mexican cuisine cooking class! Costa Maya- stayed on ship.
Would definitely book Epic again- maybe the transatlantic next October! Happy to answer any questions you might have.