We booked this cruise in August 2009 and were anxiously anticipating the arrival of the Epic. This is my DH and my 6th cruise (3rd with NCL) and our kids 3rd cruise. We have 2 DD 11 and 13 and a DS 15.
We booked an Aft Penthouse with adjoining balcony. The cabins were 11322 and 11320.
The process was simple as we had priority because of the penthouse. We were checked in and on the ship within 20 minutes. We were escorted directly to the Epic Club and given a tour of the Courtyard. We left and headed to the buffet.
We loved the look and feel of the area. It was definitely the best laid out buffet area I have ever seen. The food was also very good.
The penthouse is very small compared to other ships of the same category. We knew that heading in and weren't surprised. The bed was round, large and extremely comfortable. I slept like a baby every night. The bathroom was well laid out and I loved the large shower and tub. The only issue we had with the cabin was the door to the toilet. It did not shut tight and was a slider. During a rough sea night it slammed open and shut continuously and made it hard to fall asleep.
The balcony cabin (BA) was extremely small and terribly laid out. We had the bed close to the door and it left very little space to maneuver around. If we didn't have the adjoining penthouse it would have been horrible to try and get dressed with 3 people in the cabin. Enough has been said about the bathroom design and I agree 100% with those who didn't like it. It was just plan stupid. The storage and furnishings were nice but the room reeked of cigarette smoke. I still can't believe that they let people smoke in the cabins in a new ship especially when there is a balcony to smoke on. It was just plain gross and smoke generally does not bother me at all.
LeBistro was excellent just like on other ships. We had one of our best meals here. Definitely worth the up charge of $20.
My DH and I ate breakfast at the Epic Club every morning while not in port. Service and food was excellent. The only bad meal we had here was lunch one day.
O'Sheehan's was excellent for a quick bite and we really enjoyed the wings, spinach dip and the strawberry pound cake was my favourite dessert! Service was fast except for one time when they were a little busier.
Teppanyaki was an amazing experience with excellent food. The chef did an excellent job and it was my DDs birthday so she got a cake and they sang to her. Definitely worth the up charge.
Taste was my favourite venue for dinner. We ate here twice and the steak was amazing.
Manhattan Room was the only dinner we did not enjoy. We ate here on Christmas Eve and the service was slow and the food was mediocre at best. I was hoping they would serve some sort of Christmas dinner but there wasn't anything close to that on the menu. Would definitely not have gone there again and would stick with Taste.
The Blue Man Group was fine for the kids but my DH and I were bored within the first 30 minutes. My DS liked it so much he went back another night. This was not for me.
Legends was good and Michael Jackson stole the show. Definitely enjoyed seeing this.
Cirque was probably the best entertainment on board. The food was excellent and the show was a lot of fun to watch and very entertaining.
Second City was ok. Basically I find that all of their shows are very similar and kind of boring.
Howl at the Moon was fine but something that is good once and not over and over again.
Slime Time Live was a lot of fun for the whole family. We only saw it once so I'm not sure if it changes but it was a great time.
Overall the entertainment was good but once you've seen it you don't need to see it again.
Pools and Outside Activities
The pool is very small and the lounge chairs get in the way of walking around. We did enjoy the slides.
The rock climbing wall was fun and my DD enjoyed the web and the trampoline. There weren't too many long lines for the activities.
We took the kids to the Nickelodeon craft but when we got there all it consisted of was colouring. That's not our idea of a craft and so we coloured but didn't have a lot of fun.
We tried to do a game show one night in Bliss but were told that there were already too many teams so we couldn't play. That was extremely frustrating as we were there at least 30 minutes early and had met some fellow cruisers to play with.
I like trivia but it was fairly non-existent on the cruise.
We did watch a couple of movies in the atrium. At night it was fine but during the day it is hard to hear as O'Sheehan's is right above and there are people bowling and playing air hockey. The popcorn was a nice touch though.
We love the White Hot Party and attended but were very disappointed. On the Spirit they did awesome pictures and the dancers on the ship put on a great show. This was no where to be found on the Epic. It was held in Spice H2O which is outside and it was very windy. They only played Techno music which even annoyed my 13 year old daughter. I love dance music but the techno crap was too much for me.
We love the game Quest that is on other NCL ships. It is hilarious and if you have played it you know what I'm talking about. There was no Quest on the ship most likely because there is no nightclub to play it in. Read on and you'll find out how I feel about the lack of this type of venue.
The Ice Bar was an interesting experience. Since we are Canadian, the -10 Celsius temperature was not too hard to handle. My DS and DH wore shorts and flip flops and my DD took her coat off while inside. Overall it was an experience that we are glad we did not miss. The $100 price tag was a little hefty but we were very happy to have had the experience.
Kids Clubs 10-12 and Entourage 13+
My DDs enjoyed the kids club and spent most nights there. My DS went to Entourage once and didn't care for it so he never went back. Overall, I would say that for the younger kids NCL still offers a great place for them to hangout and have fun and meet new friends.
Cruise Critic Meet and Greet
This happened on the second day of the cruise and it was so nice to meet everyone that we had been chatting with. We also did a gift exchange and my kids participated as well. The ships staff came and met with us and it was a lot of fun.
The overall design of the ship is something that I do not like. The only nightclubs are Bliss Lounge and Spice H2O. Bliss is very small and Spice is outside. If there is rain, anything in Spice is cancelled and it was very windy out there anyway and not a lot of fun to do anything at. Maybe it was fine during the day but not at night in my opinion.
The ship is hard to navigate as there aren't any midship elevators. You have to walk through the casino or other indoor venues. Overall I did not like this. There are barely any windows so you feel as though you are in a hotel rather than on a ship.
The lack of an outdoor deck to walk around was sadly missed. We did venture out there once but it smelled like grease and popcorn and there was no view at all. When we were docked in Nassau we were right beside the Carnival Dream and I was envious of the open deck for walking that even included hot tubs! The Epic looked absolutely ridiculous next to this ship! I have never been on a Carnival cruise but may have to try one after seeing the design of that ship.
The best part of this cruise was definitely the food. I can't think of a cruise where the food was better.
The design of the ship was not to our liking. I would much rather be on a ship with more access to the outside. We had our first inside room ever on the Caribbean Princess in May and preferred that cruise over this one as the exterior space was well laid out and more abundant.
For us, the only thing Epic about the Epic is the length of the ship and the casino. Everything else was small (cabins, theatre, nightclubs, pools etc.)
We definitely had a good time but the experience did not even come close to our family Christmas cruise on the Dawn in 2006. I feel as though the renderings of the ship got me over excited and maybe my expectations were too high. Either way, it was a good vacation away from the cold and snow at home and we really can't complain but rather just say that it could have been better.
Note on Ports
This was the Eastern Caribbean Cruise. In St. Maarten we booked Bernard's Tours from his website. We paid $35 pp and were with the tour from 9 am until 330 pm. We saw the whole island and had an amazing time. I would definitely recommend this tour to all. You also get rum punch, pop and bottled water all day long.
In St. Thomas we took the St. John's Champagne Catamaran tour through the ship. We didn't make it to St. John as we were told the waves were too high but I think I have since read that others made it there. We went to Christmas Cove instead and the kids had fun snorkeling but I think the $79 price tag was a bit high.
In Nassau only my DD and I got off the ship. That was a big mistake since there were at least 5 other ships in port. I can only imagine that would be around 20000 people! It was awfully busy. My DH, DD and DS stayed on the ship and had an excellent time swimming and doing other activities on the ship.