We did a back-to-back Western and Eastern Caribbean cruise, 14 days, on the NCL Epic. Our cabin was deck 9 Aft Balcony. We have been cruising for 15 years, and are looking for a quiet, relaxing getaway, with good sit-down food and casino offerings. We have little interest in rock climbing, water slides, entertainment, or ports of call (been there, done that). In general we like the NCL free-style experience, having sailed on the Majesty, Pearl, Spirit and Sun. After 2 years of seeing the Epic billed as the "Future of Cruising", we came aboard expecting an outstanding experience.
The above hopefully puts this review in context - cruise lines can not be all things to all people. I am sure many passengers will love the Epic. But not us.
When we opened the door to our cabin for the first time, we were stunned. The room was so narrow the beds almost reached from wall to wall. The shower and toilet were in separate tubes enclosed by sliding glass doors, but otherwise not separated from the room. Entry into these tubes was narrow, requiring a spinning maneuver. You could sit on the bed to use the sink - any splashing at the sink got water on the bed and floor carpet. It was the worst room design we have ever encountered.
When the ship came into port, usually at 6am, there would be several 10-15 minute periods of intense vibration. No way to sleep through those. We finally figured out this was caused by the main engines being used to spin the ship around so it could back into the dock. But what were the ship designers thinking, an earthquake like experience would add to our enjoyment?
Public decks were 5, 6 and 7, not considering the pool and buffet on 15. With 4000 passengers, our experience was not relaxing, as the public areas did not seem to be any larger than on ships with 2500 passengers. About half of deck 6 housed the casino, which had two 3' wide walkways with tables and machines in the middle. Kids were running through the casino, and my wife got elbowed in the head several times while gambling. Walking through the casino was like playing football, bouncing off other passengers. Not a relaxing experience. Why did they not design Deck 6 like Deck 7, which had one WIDE walkway, and rooms clearly separated from the people passing through.
We have come to expect lunch and dinner provided by waiters. The Epic had only one sit-down choice for lunch, Taste, and we were astounded to find it had exactly the same lunch menu for all 14 days. If the goal of NCL is to encourage passengers to eat at the buffet, they succeeded. In general the wait staff appeared under-trained and unfriendly - we prefer the staff to show some personality. We were astonished when Taste ran out of French salad dressing - how can that happen?
We continue to bemoan the gradual increase in things you have to pay for. Out of the 12+ restaurants, only 4 were free. Pizza delivery to the room was $5, movies in the room were $10. We went to the Cirque Dreams show, and paid $30 each for premium seats, because a meal was bundled into the show. If you go to this, choose the $20 standard seating, as they had a better view. And be prepared to find something to eat afterwards, the meal did not justify the admission fee. All of the above would have been free 3 or 4 years ago.
Yes, there were many positives, the Blue Man group struck our fancy, and after 14 days we learned which food items were good where and when. But all of the negatives, mostly in ship design, made us vow to never sail on the Epic again. If it had been possible, we would have canceled the second week of the cruise.