Just returned from the December 11th Norwegian Epic Cruise to the Western Caribbean.
Embarkation: We arrived at 12:00 noon and were onboard in minutes. Very fast and organized. I haven't sailed out of Miami in a few years and was surprised to see that there was no security into the pier area at all. We just drove up to the drop off area no questions asked. When you arrive at the pier in FLL you must show your cruise ticket to a security guard at a gate. This is no fault of NCL I'm just sayin.
Cabin: We were in a category BG on deck 8. The cabin is a little on the small side but very nicely appointed and decorated with dark wood tones and neutral colors. Plenty of storage space. The bathroom situation takes a little getting used to. My husband couldn't get away this time so I took my girlfriend instead. We had no problem with the privacy issue but I can see how some people would. I think you need to be with someone you are very close with to be comfortable. The curtain helps but without going into detail there are noises that come out of the bathroom that could be a little embarrassing, LOL. I was concerned that the room would get steamed up when someone was in the shower but this is not a problem at all. The shower stall and the toilet stall are both very well ventilated and the doors go all the way up to the ceiling. The sink is a little too small. Unless you wear a Speedo there is no way you can rinse out a ladies bathing suit or article of clothing in that sink. It has to be done in the shower. Not a big deal. Our balcony was very deep but it had no roof. It extends further out then the cabins on other decks so people on decks above you can look down into our balcony. Not a problem for us but I can see that it might be for some people. This looked to be the case only on deck 8. Also, we looked down onto the lifeboats. Again, this is only an issue on deck 8.
The TV selection has a lot to be desired. Not enough things to watch. I don't think NCL should charge $9.95 to watch a movie. The cabin was very quiet. We heard nothing from the surrounding cabins, no drawers or closets slamming, no flushing or hallway noise.
Food: We ate lunch at Taste shortly after embarkation. The service was very slow but this was probably because it was embarkation day. I ordered the Cobb Salad which was not good. My friend ordered the Grilled Chicken sandwich which she claimed was the best she has had.
Le Bistro was excellent, we loved it on the Gem as well.
Moderno was also excellent. This was my first experience with a Brazilian dinner and I loved it. Well worth the cost. I understand that a similar meal in the city would cost $60.00 per person. This is truly a carnivore's dream. Every meat they brought out was
better than the next. Not a good idea for vegetarians. My diet was shot to hell that night, not to mention the rest of the week!
La Cucina was very good as well. Well worth the $10.00.
O'Sheehans is a good mix of Pub foods and classic favorites. We ate dinner there once and had no complaints.
We had dinner in the Manhattan room twice and enjoyed it both times. I ordered the New York Strip Steak and have to say it was the best I've ever had in a ships dining room. It was prepared exactly as ordered, juicy and very very tender. I was pleasantly surprised.
The Garden Cafe is very well designed. I never waited in a line. The food was always good. I can't imagine anyone having trouble finding something they like to eat on this ship. There was food everywhere anytime day or night.
Entertainment: Blue Man Group was the BEST. I've never seen it before and loved it. We made our reservations before we sailed and had no trouble finding a good seat. You need to get there at least 20 minutes before show time or you might get a seat on the side instead of in the middle which is not really a problem because there are great sight lines in the Epic Theater. The folks who wait in the standby line will most likely only have single seating options the same goes for Legends in Concert which we also enjoyed. The man who played Michael Jackson was eerie. When he came on stage we had goosebumps. He looked and sounded exactly like Michael (maybe a little heavier). If Michael Jackson ever worked on a cruise ship I bet he would have put on a few pounds also. Our show had Rod Stewart, Brittany Spears and Michael Jackson. The show will change periodically. People have different tastes as far as entertainers go. Some people liked it some didn't.
I did not like the Cirque Dreams show at all. It was not at all what I expected. For me it was very boring. I didn't have any problems with the food even though it is a fixed menu and would be a problem with a lot of people. We did not pay for premium seating but had no problem with our upstairs seating. I am barely 5' tall and was able to see everything that was going on below me on the floor.
One of the highlights was "Dancing with the Epic Stars" This was in the Manhattan Room on day 6. It's been a long time since I've laughed that hard.
Casino: The largest I've ever seen at sea. It was a little smoky in certain areas but not nearly as bad as I have read about. I noticed the air purifiers that they put around the casino floor which seemed to help the problem.
Fitness Center: Very large with plenty of machines of all types. I never had a problem getting what I wanted.
Ship: The ship in my opinion is beautiful. It is not tacky at all. Very conservative and classy. (Except for a few of the crushed velvet chairs that NCL seems to like). It is very well designed and easy to find your way around. A lot of nooks and crannies to read and enjoy quiet time just looking out onto the big blue sea. Plenty of deck chairs. I do not sit in the sun and had no problem finding a deck chair in the shade. The ship is spotlessly clean. You always see someone polishing or cleaning or vacuuming somewhere. I was impressed considering the size of the ship and the amount of people it holds.
With the exception of paying for movies in your cabin I don't agree with some things I have read about NCL nickel and diming you to death. There are many dining venues that don't cost a thing. Things onboard don't seem to cost any more than any other cruise line. I don't drink except for an occasional BBC (Banana, Bailey's & cream) so I can't speak for the liquor prices.
Service was great. From the officers to the staff to the crew. You couldn't pass any of these people without them telling you "Hello" or "Have a nice day". On our last day as we were disembarking the ship we passed a maintenance person who was down on the floor repairing a carpet. He stopped what he was doing, looked up and said "Have a safe journey home". My girlfriend and I just looked at each other. We couldn't believe our ears. Usually on the last day passengers become invisible.
We visited Costa Maya, Cozumel and Roatan. This was my first time in Roatan. We docked downtown. The town is nothing to write home about but they built a very nice shopping area adjacent to the pier. Crafty items and of course a Diamonds International. We took a "Best of Roatan" tour which was a very nice 31/2 hour tour of the island. It included a short boat ride to see some boat wrecks and some photo stops. Another stop included some native dancers and lessons on how they get startch out of a plant to use in their cooking and baking. The islanders sell some cookies and baked goods. The caramel cookies were unbelievable. The island is very green and lush. If you like adventure this tour is not for you. It was in a mini van with other people from the ship but it gave you a pretty good look at Roatan.
I've been to Costa Maya and Cozumel many times before. There is a very nice beach adjacent to the pier in Costa Maya. The shopping in Costa Maya is nice. The prices are probably less than in Cozumel on certain things. We grabbed a taxi in Cozumel and went to the beach. We usually go to Paradise beach but this time we took our drivers suggestion and went to Sancho's Beach which was not as nice but they are in the process of adding on to it. It looks like it will be nice when completed.. They are both about a 20 minute drive. Certainly if you've never been to Cozumel before you need to do the ruins.
Disembarkation was a breeze. You get to choose what time you want to get off of the ship which is great.
I loved the Epic and would sail on her again in a heartbeat. I also feel the same way about the Gem.
I forgot to mention the childrens program. We did not have any children onboard but they have a great kids program from what I saw. Nickelodeon is onboard with Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob, etc. The kids seemed to be having a blast.