Western Caribbean 8-15January
We were traveling with my husband's family, so there were 6 adults and 3 kids. We were lucky enough to experience the Courtyard area of the Epic and let me tell you, IT IS AMAZING! I have never had the level of service we experienced in this area in my life! The rest of the ship was great as well, but this was 10 steps above anything I expected. This has turned out to be quite long, but if you have questions please don't hesitate. :)
I was in one of the 2-bedroom's with my husband and 2 1/2 year old son, my brother and sister-in-law with their 2 kids (just under 3 and just turned 6 year old) were in one and my in-laws were in the other. It is a big financial jump from a balcony to a 2-bedroom, but there was not a second that we were not thankful for the space and the doors that come along with it. My son sleeps more like a newborn than a 2 year old in that he averaged 15-16 hours each day while on the cruise, so it was wonderful to have him in a separate room with a door so we weren't just sitting on the bed in the dark during naptime or out on the balcony for hours at a time. It was also great for bedtime as well, that he had his own area and we didn't have to worry about watching movies, family members coming in and out of the room, lights, etc. As for my brother and sister-in-law and their 2 kids, it worked just as well, but mainly for nighttime. The bed is big and comfortable enough for both of them (if you laid them with their heads along the mirror wall and not the other walls like they set it up for one adult). Having the bathroom in the room was helpful for us as well, so the kids could get up if needed without needing to come in the parents room. There are 2 outlets in the room for electronics (night-light, etc) as well as one in the bathroom. There is tons of storage in the second bedroom, although not a lot of floor space (but it was not needed). There is a flat screen as well, but I don't think we ever turned it on. There are two reading lights by the bed, which the kids LOVED for some reason. As for the master bedroom, it was perfect. There was TONS of storage, in fact we didn't use half of it. The closet was so big that we had all of our shoes on the floor of it and still had one of the "coffee tables" in there (since we moved them out to have a little extra room for the kids to play). Tons of drawers in the room and bathroom as well as space in the cabinet under the TV. Bedside tables on each side of the bed along with the reading lights again (as well as lamps for more light if needed). Now to the AMAZING bathroom. There are two sinks and plenty of counter space. The tub is an ok size, although we only used it for our sons bath time, but the best part is the window just behind it so you can look out over the water! The shower is the MOST AMAZING THING IN THE WORLD. It has a floor to ceiling window that looks out over the water (or port of course) and is just out of this world. It is roomy and has great water pressure as well as a handheld you can use and power jets you can switch to. I took more showers on this cruise simply because it was so amazing and relaxing. The glass is mirrored, so we didn't feel the need to lower the shade while in port, but my sister-in-law did and it is simple enough to do. We did lower them each night to add to the sun blocking the curtain did between the bathroom and bedroom. I cannot say enough about this shower, I would book this room just for that! The WC is small, but enough space to do your business. One thing that is a great perk of this area are the cordless phones in the room, they work all around the ship! You can call other staterooms including your own if someone is hanging back. It is helpful when you are traveling with a group of folks, we didn't need our walkie-talkies because of these great phones (they are the same phones you would get if you checked your younger kids into the kids club).
I had seen the pictures online, but it really is amazing and a "ship within a ship" like it has been stated here and elsewhere. From the pool area, to the Epic club restaurant, to the gym, etc you really don't have to leave if you don't wish to do so. Your concierge is located right there for your convenience and you can use them as much or as little as you wish. The gym is small, but has just about every machine you could need (although go check out the larger one as the machines there overlook the water) and it overlooks the pool area. The Epic Club restaurant is wonderful and the staff there is top notch, they seem to have taken the best of the best and placed them here. The menu is fixed with a couple of specials each day, we ate there several times and each time was great. All of the staff were great to us, but were AMAZING with our kids (I think I might just say amazing 100 times during this review). They asked their names and knew them come the next day for the duration, talked to them on their level and included them in the dinner. It is amazing to see just how wonderful they were with them. We did not use the pool area much, since half of our trip it was quite windy and cold, but it is a great area and was not too crowded even on the 2 warm days. The pool is small, but so are the main pools, however it never had too many people in it and everyone was respectful of space, noise, etc. The two hot tubs were busier, but there was always a seat and a lot of the time you would have it to yourself (or with your family).
This is our first experience with this level of service and before leaving I read a lot about what to expect, how to use their services, etc. and still didn't really have an idea of what we were getting. Let me tell you, after this cruise, I not only wish my husband took care of us the way our butler (Randy) did but I have a new found respect for people that work on a cruise ship. There was really nothing that I can put my finger on, other than anything we asked for (which really wasn't much, we had no meals in our room or the like) he fulfilled promptly and ALWAYS with a smile. We got our afternoon snacks everyday and he even brought the two rooms that had kids in it cookies on some days (gummy bears and M&M's on the last sea day, which were eaten more by the adults if I am being totally honest) just because he thought they would like them. He walked us down to the concierge for our Cirque show (which wasn't needed, but was nice nonetheless), answered any questions we had, gave us information we didn't know we would need and was just a friendly person that always did everything with a smile. We tipped him accordingly and hope that every other suite did the same, because he doesn't make enough (I am guessing) for the service provided. As for the concierge, Florentina, she was always available (and if the phone wasn't picked up for some reason, she or her assistant always called right back within 2 minutes to see what we needed) and was able to help us with anything we asked of her. We had booked a lot of our entertainment and dining prior to the cruise, but did make several changes and none were a problem. We had a large group for some of the dinners and for some reason when you book online you can't do a reservation for more than 6 people, but she was able to fix with no issues. She always had a smile and was VERY efficient. She walked us down to most shows and we got whatever seats we wanted (literally, for BMG we got to pick any seat in the house as we went in with the few other groups from the Courtyard area). We tipped her accordingly as well, also hoping everyone else did the same.
Felix gets his own paragraph because he was that good. I don't think we got anything extra because we were in the villa; he was just VERY good at his job. This seems like another area where they take the best of the best and put them in the Courtyard area. We never had to worry about our room being untidy or unmade (or turned down at night). We didn't need them to make up the room in the morning to just turn around and turn it down at night, but this is what happens in any room on a ship. It always worked around our schedule (since our son seemed to want to sleep until 9a every morning) and went to bed each night around 8:30p. We almost never saw them cleaning but always came back to a glorious room. When we did see him in the hall, he would know who we were and was always very pleasant to us and our son (and the rest of our family). He kept our ice stocked all day and everything was cleared if needed (although I am not sure if this was Felix or Randy, either way superb). After the first day, he noticed how we had our sons bed set up and he made sure to make it up the same way (along with tucking his bear's under the covers for him, which I thought was just the sweetest thing) each day following. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Felix, he is great at his job and if it is his ambition to obtain another position on the Epic, he would get my vote! We tipped him above the DSC (Daily Service Charge) and again hoped that all other rooms he serviced did the same. Our last talk revealed that he was on until May, so I hope guests are generous to someone who not only does an amazing job in their position, but does it was such a great attitude and a seemingly perma smile. Thanks Felix!
We all really liked everything we got to experience on the Epic. We had all seen BMG and Cirque in Orlando, but it is amazing to see that caliber of entertainment on a ship. Cirque is just out of this world when you consider that they are doing all of that on the water. We had a pretty rocking night trying to book it out of Cozumel to stay ahead of a low pressure system (that also caused us to have 3 ports days in a row as they were trying to give us the best weather possible), and this was the night my brother and sister-in-law saw the show and it was just as flawless as when we saw it on a calm night (unbelievable). I believe, after readying almost all of the reviews on CC prior to leaving, I had low expectations of Cirque as people said the meal was bad, there was a lot of filler in the show, etc. I guess it was a good thing folks were so needlessly critical, because I found it to be MUCH better than I was expecting. I never felt like I was just "waiting for it to get back to the show" when they were doing their bits between the main acts. I thought it was great. BMG was similar to what we had seen, but I could see them more than once and enjoy/appreciate it (and you can't beat it for free!). The four other adults went to Murder Mystery while we had the kiddies and they said the lunch was ok and the show was good, not great. The four "younger adults" went to see Jeff Hobson who was HILARIOUS! His magic was good as well (that watch thing is amazing), but he had us laughing throughout. It does have serious sexual/homosexual innuendos, however if you are not a raging homophobe or can take a joke, you will have a great time (we saw small kids in there, even at the late show, but everything would have gone over their heads). We didn't seem to have time, with all of the kids, to make it to anything else...which is a shame.
My 6 year old nephew LOVED the waterslides, but what kid that has gone on the Epic doesn't. The little ones didn't try so I can't say what it would be like for smaller kids. My brother-in-law didn't like that the water was freezing most of the time, but my nephew could have been turning blue and wouldn't have noticed. The little ones did love the splash area, it was cool too, but manageable. We didn't get in the main pools, only the Courtyard pool. It is slippery on the main pool deck, but they are constantly squeegee-ing everywhere. The rock wall was good according to my brother-in-law, nothing spectacular. We never made it to the sports area. Bingo was fun, although we didn't win. Some sessions were busier than others; prizes were directly correlated to how many people were playing. We didn't catch any of the movies in the Atrium, but felt they could have shown more. We did some of the "Nick at Sea" activities, but felt there could have been more and could have provided more information (like which characters where going to be at the meet and greet since they are not all there). Casino was big, but smaller than people were making it out to be on CC. It was smoky, but not unbearable. We actually won about $500 in slots and craps over the duration of the cruise. Dealers were friendly and would work with those that needed a bit of help (here and there). Bowling was fun, if for no other reason than to see a bowling ball go three different directions on one roll. The kids LOVED it. It is cheap at $5 a game, and they did not charge for our 2 year old the time we went.
Epic Club restaurant is great and very convenient if staying in the villas. The menu is fixed with a couple of specials each day, we ate there several times and each time was great. We never ate outside there because half of our cruise was really windy and cold, but they have a similar menu as inside. They have a small buffet (breakfast only) at the Epic Club if you just want something quick as well. Between all of us, we ate at Moderno (great, meat was good and salad bar was not as big as those on land but very tasty and not your typical salad bar), O'Sheehan's (I have NEVER seen a quicker kitchen than this place, all of the food came out SO quick. It was all fresh and good. Set menu, but still several options for all kinds of appetites. The brownie and ice-cream was AWESOME, Noodle Bar (light dinner this night before a show, it was good...we had dim sum and everything we got was great), Wasabi (they said it was all good quality and reasonably priced, a la carte), Teppanyaki (it was good and show was like others we have seen with a few bits that were new. There is no fire allowed in case you have little ones that are afraid...we had one terrified waiting for it and one dying for it, Le Bistro (VERY GOOD, it was our favorite), Cagney's (they said the steaks were perfect and the rest was great too), Taste (they said this was good, same daily specials as the Epic Club), Shanghai's (they said it wasn't bad, but not great either...would have skipped), Room Service (quick and decent, although my "grilled cheese" was just two pieces of toast with unmelted cheese, at least it was comical) and of course Epic Club (great, each time as I already stated). Service was great everywhere we went. Teppanyaki servers made origami for all the kids during dinner. The buffet was good, a lot of options, but with so many other great places to eat, it was mainly used for breakfast for all of us and lunch and dinner for the kids before we went out. The pistachio cake in the Atrium cafe is WONDERFUL. One thing that was great was they would bring kids food anywhere you were, if they didn't like what was being offered where you were eating. It was helpful when going somewhere like Moderno.
This is one of the first things that made us look more closely at the Epic, since we didn't know if our 2 year old would be potty trained in time for the cruise and they were one of the only ones that would take 2 year olds and ones in diapers. Turns out they were both potty trained, but it didn't matter because they spent a collective hour in the kids club. They wanted to be with the 6 year old but he was in another age group and there is very limited times of free play before 10p. The 6 year old (my nephew) loved it, but there wasn't enough time for him to really get to go a lot. What we did see, it looks very nice and the folks working there seem very nice and try to get the kids that are a little hesitant to come in and give it a try. It would be nice to have more time for free play, but I understand they have their system and it can't work for everyone, although there seemed to be several families in the same predicament as us when we were down there. Oh well.
I cannot add anything new to what has already been covered in previous reviews, other than to say those who said Maya Chan in Costa Maya, Bodden Tours in Roatan and Nachi Cocom in Cozumel (even though we chose not to partake since we didn't want to take the kids out to the beach in the rain and wind, we did get to see it and it looked amazing) were correct in suggesting them and they were all great. The service at Maya Chan was VERY good and having a private driver with our own van all day through Bodden on Roatan was great (our son LOVED the monkey stop).
I will finish saying that our concierge gave us a key to a balcony room when we asked to see one. We saw what we think was a standard balcony room and I have to say IT IS SMALL! If it were just my husband and I, it would have been doable (even ok) but with us traveling with our never-ending napping/sleeping 2 year old I would say it would have been almost miserable. We would still have been on vacation, but having to sit on the balcony or in a dark room for 5 hours a day (between naptime and the few hours between him going to sleep and us hitting the hay), it would have felt like a prison. Not sure we can ever go back now, we have been spoiled by the BEST OF THE BEST! :)
All in all, our trip was fantastic and I would love to answer ANY questions you might have about the Epic. I read these forums for months before we left so I know what it is like to try to hunt down an answer. Please feel free to ask anything. Thanks for reading!! :)