We were a party of seven adults, with no children. All but one of us had cruised mutliple times - WIth Holland America, Carnival, Costa, Princess and Celebrity.
Let's start off with the good news about this ship, of which there is plenty. The enormouse size of this vessel allows for a huge number of different dining, entertainment, and simple relaxation options, and the ship itself is very nicely appointed, and being brand new, we found everything to be clean and in perfect working order. The decor is for the most part very smart, although there is an abundance of imitation dark wood panelling in the elevator lobbys and stairwells which looks out of place with the contemporary design everywhere else. There are a large number of bars, restaurants and lounges to choose from, spanning the full spectrum from formal to casual, with everything in between. Each has a distinct atmosphere and design aesthetic that is well thought out. The quality of the construction and materials is very high - for example we noted that real brick had been used on the walls and columns in the Italian restaurant "La Cucina". The level of service we experienced aboard was second to none. Every crew member was helpful and courteous, and our room steward was superb.
He always found the right time to make up the cabin so we were never inconvenienced. When making restaurant and activity reservations, or when ordering room service, the wait time was invariably very short and the staff were efficient and helpful. Room service always arrived within a few minutes of the promised time, although the selection of foods and beverages available was somewhat limited.
The quality of food was consistently excellent, and could not be faulted. There is no premium to eat in the two main dining rooms or at the buffet (Garden Cafe) and the quality and variety were such that it was hard to justify the additional cost of going elsewhere, although we did sample two others, "Moderno Churrascariax" and "La Cucina". Both of these were nice from the perspective of variety, although the food in the main dining rooms was of comparable quality in our minds.
Unfortunately NCL's Epic is compromised SIGNIFICANTLY by poorly designed staterooms. With each new generation of cruise ships, we have come to expect a little more space, and a little more luxury, but NCL has reversed this trend by attempting to squeeze the maximum number of staterooms into the available space, and the result is a significant backward step in comfort and lifestyle. Instead of a dedicated bathroom in the stateroom, the toilet, shower and sink are essentially situated in the room with you. This is constant challenge throughout the cruise, particularly at night when operations must be conducted in total darkness if you wish to avoid waking your partner. The frosted glass doors of the shower and toilet offer little privacy, although we didn't experience the reported "splashing" problems from our sink basin. The bathroom arrangements and much hyped curved walls have been incorporated not for the benefit of the passenger, but instead purely as a space saving measure. By adopting this arrangement, NCL is able to make the stateroom narrower than on other ships. As a result, there's absolutely no passing space in the stateroom, necessitating advanced arrangements with your partner if you intend to move from one end to the other. Storage space too is limited to the extreme, and finding the obscure little spaces that are provided is a challenge that will keep you occupied for the entire cruise. Here's a tip - look underneath the couch, and also behind its backrests!
Congestion issues exist not only in the staterooms, but in many public areas of the ship, where deliberate restrictions have been artificially created in order to "encourage" passengers to pass through the casino as much as possible as they move throughout the ship. When you wish to go to a particular deck, and you find the button for that deck simply doesn't exist in the elevator, or if it does exist, it's "blocked", this feels nothing short of insulting, and is very much in line with mindset found in Las Vagas casinos. This might be acceptable in Vegas where at least there's no charge for entering the casino, but on a cruise ship where one has already paid to be aboard, it's reasonable to expect that attempts to squeeze more money from the client would at least be a little more subtle. The casino itself is vast in size - occupying a significant portion of deck 6.
The decision to eliminate the central bank of elevators found in most large cruise ships is nothing short of bizarre, and does result in a great deal of additional walking to one end of the ship or the other if you wish to go up or down more than a handful of decks. Elevator congestion is a constant problem, and this was particularly the case during embarkation where we waited approximately 45 minutes in a crush of other passengers before we were able to get into an elevator that wasn't already full.
Epic has a lot going for it, but unfortunately more going against it. The cabin arrangements are unacceptable and no amount of entertainment or dining frills can make up for this.