Based on all the hype I was expecting a great experience while on the EPIC. This is what I received:
The housekeeping staff did not honor the "Do not Disturb" sign on more than one occasion, even after I explicitly asking them to honor it. The answer was always "OK" but because they had so little understanding of the English language, as soon as anyone uses a word they are unfamiliar with, they just nod in agreement and smile although they have no idea what anyone is saying. When an attempt was made to escalate the complaint to the housekeeping supervisor for the floor, I was told he "isn't there". When I persisted to speak to someone at a supervisory level all I got was run in a circle for 20 minutes. When I saw all that was being done was an exercise designed to simply wear me out, I then said I was undeterred and still wanted to speak to someone in authority. They found me a supervisor, but not the one that was appropriate under the circumstances. The ship's Security Officer came and advised me that if I didn't stop complaining I would be "turned over to the Coast Guard at the next port and fined". They took a customer service problem and failed to address it. Then when I wouldn't accept that as the outcome, they then turned it into a "security" issue. They never did address my problem but they did manage to get me to stop complaining. Moral of the story, if you are having a service related problem on this ship, bring someone with you when you go to complain so you have a witness or simply wait until you are off the ship and write a review warning other passengers as I am doing here.
As noted in several other reviews things you normally take for granted as being free on a cruise ship, based on the currently existing industry standard, are not free on this ship or when they are free they build in so much inconvenience that you are discouraged from using them (eg having to "pre-register" to attend a "free" show-see below) or they limit access to it so you are more likely to use an alternative that is not free (eg non-self service dining with extremely limited menu options-see below).
All the ships that I have been on have entertainment which consists primarily of some headliner shows where you show up shortly before show time, select a seat and enjoy the show. On this ship, its not that simple because you have to pre-register. The worst part is no one tells you that pre-registration is required until you get to the show and by then it is too late to pre-register. You then have to wait until the next day (because the desk where you pre-register is closed by the time the evening shows start) and then the next day you must go stand in line during the designated times (a two hour period in the morning and another two or three hour period in the afternoon) in order to pre-register. Nowhere is it explained why someone can not "pre-register" for the shows at the customer service desk (which is open 24 hours) or at the "shore excursion" desk (which is open all day long during the day). The "pre-registration" desk is the size of a mall kiosk (sp?) and normally has between two and four workers when it is open (there are over 4000 passengers on the ship so do the math when figuring out how long you will be waiting). The customer service and shore excursion desks are similar to what you see in an airport, where there are many people behind a long counter about twenty feet long, always with at least five workers at each one. After you stand in line to register for the shows at the "pre-registration" desk, you will stand in line again when it is time to see the show since there is no assigned seating (nowhere it is explained why pre-registration is required since it is all based on general admission anyhow).
This "pre-registration" process, in my opinion, is designed to cause so much confusion and inconvenience for people that they are less likely to go see the shows. The cruise line should be required to advise people UPFRONT of this "pre-registration" requirement in their advertising of this ship since this practice of requiring "pre-registration" is outside the current industry standard. If it is a day the ship is in port, someone may not want to cut into the middle of their day to go back on the ship to stand in line to "pre-register" for show attendance and if not, they have a right to know that they will have to make a choice, spend the full day off the ship at whatever port the ship are at, or, spend part of that time on the ship in order to complete the "pre-registration" process.
The other area briefly mentioned above deals with places to eat on the ship. Most ships have some main dining rooms, at least one main buffet and a few specialty restaurants which cost extra. The idea is that the specialty restaurants are not designed to be where you go to eat most nights but are instead to be used occasionally depending on the circumstances. On this ship, only one free restaurant offers waiter/waitress service for breakfast and it is normally only open for a few hours in the morning and some days not at all for breakfast (Taste). Accordingly, passengers are left with the buffet. For lunch, same thing, the only free restaurant offering waiter/waitress service (Taste) is open for a few hours and on some days this restaurant is not open at all for lunch with the alternative being buffet service*. Please note that the breakfast and lunch menus in Taste normally have about six main dishes to pick from. For dinner, two free restaurants offer waitress/waiter service (Taste and Manhattan), once again, based on a menu containing about six main selections to pick from. There are also about a half a dozen pay restaurants open for dinner (*There is also a Pub with three booths and about six tables that is open 24 hours which has about six bar food type selections(eg burger, buffalo wings, etc.) to pick from, however with a ship containing over 4000 passengers these three booths and six tables do not put much of a dent in the demand for alternative dining selections). In my opinion, anyone who wants any type of varied selection is going to wind up eating most of their dinners in one of the specialty restaurants and the limited "free" alternatives to the Specialty restaurants for anyone seeking variety should be disclosed in the ship's advertising but it is not.
The room was very nice but there were a few concerns. Having my personal effects rearranged by the housekeeping staff just so it would appear they did something, rather than leaving my personal effects where I left them (and consistent with both the "do not disturb" sign and my explicit instructions), and can find them, would have been much preferred. I found the shower stall to be very small. The folding "iced" shower stall door contains a vertical gap in the middle (by design) of about 1/4 of an inch when it is fully closed, which guarantees that water will go outside the shower stall and onto the floor. For the life of me, I can't imagine how no one noticed this as it appears to be an obvious design flaw, sort of like designing a cup with a built in hole in the bottom of it. The TV was nice but, as mentioned in other reviews, it had nothing watchable on it due to the extremely limited channel selection (this is a good example of how the cruise line spent a lot of money on a nice TV, but is then unwilling to spend a few extra dollars to buy the rights to anything worth watching). Although the advertisements state there is a "window" facing the hallway, this is very misleading since someone can not see in or out of this "window". This window is covered by two panels that are not designed to open, sort of like two closed shutters. Functionally, it is the same as if someone simply drew a picture of a window on the wall and then advertised that there is a window in the room. Because space is so limited, the only place to put a suitcase is under the bed, which means you will need to lug that suitcase out from under the bed every time you need something from it, which will be quite often since there really is very little space to unpack most things. A few more things worthy of mention: if you are any taller than 5 feet 7 inches tall, you should expect to be sleeping with your feet hanging over the edge of the bed and, as noted in other reviews, if you want to watch a movie on the TV in your room, expect to pay about $10.00 per movie. I found the bed to be very uncomfortable based on the quality of the mattress. As time goes by, and that bed is used by more passengers, I would bet that the quality of that mattress will deteriorate considerable further very quickly.
There is a large screen in the Atrium that is almost the size of a drive in movie screen (if not larger). As mentioned in other reviews they can put this screen to good use by showing many movies. However, instead most of the movies shown are animated kids movies and they only show, on average, one a day. The cruise line's limited use of this large screen for movie viewing purposes reminds me of a person who goes out and buys a $10,000 plasma TV, then when he wants to watch a movie, he will only select from the $1.00 bargain box rental counter.
Overall this is a very impressive looking ship. The quality of the food is not as good as Royal Caribbean but better than Carnival (then again dog food might also be better than Carnival food). The folks who run this ship spent a lot of money on it. However, the way they handle customer complaints, the severely limited menu selections at the full service restaurants, the limited availability of free full service restaurants, the severely limited entertainment selections on both the Atrium's big screen and the in room televisions and the way the cruise line intentionally inconveniences passengers for no good reason when it comes to gaining access to the shows collectively prohibit me from giving this ship anything but a poor rating. This ship (and the way it is managed) remind me of a kid who gets all dressed up in a nice suit, then as soon he opens his mouth, and curse words and slang come out, your impression of him immediately changes. This is what happened with me on this ship. My first impression, and the one I now after, bear no resemblance to one another.