Went on the 1/15/2011 NCL Epic cruise with my family - My parents who are in there 50s, younger sister and her friend (15) and my husband and I in our late 20s. We got 2 inside staterooms. Extremely disappointed with this cruise line overall. Though the entertainment was good, everything else of what makes cruising great was really bad.
Lets start with getting on board: Other cruise lines I've been welcomed on board by a happy and attentive ready to help you crew into a big beautiful room - on epic I walked into a small crowded room with a loud bad electric keyboard with not much crew enthusiasm. Um, what happened to the greeted on board with a glass of champagne which was the greeting I saw on a ncl video. Not to mention no instruction in site as to what to do- if i was a new cruiser I wouldn't have known that I couldn't go to the my state room and should proceed to the buffet that I didn't know where it was till my stateroom was available. Luggage took forever to arrive at our stateroom and someone else bag was marked for my stateroom that didn't below to us. We got on the boat about 2, ship left dock at 4, didn't get luggage til 6. Buffet food was good, lots of selection, but it didn't change throughout the week so I got tired of it. Also, was usually always busy and always a search to find a place to sit. Views were beautiful, staff was usually good. Semi-comical breakfast welcome every morning, which will certainly wake you up, 4-5 oriental women would count 1,2,3 then say in unison "welcome to garden enjoy your breakfast" every 30 seconds in broken English. First couple times- cute, after that annoying. A scavenger hunt to find what you want- the butter is not by the bread it's by the cereal that makes sense- right?
Stateroom design didn't bother me, but I can see how it might not be favored for a family or traveling with friends. The shower and toilet being in separate frosted glass dome/cube with a curtain to be able to pull across the middle of the room if you wish is not really private and would make it difficult for a family to get ready all at once. For instance, my dad had to leave the room when my sister and her friend got ready. The sink was on the counter top in the room. The main problem with my stateroom was noise. My original cabin had a crew door behind it- 7am-9am it was slammed nonstop- didn't sleep in much but we tried sticking this out. Then our head board started to creak loudly every time the ship rocked - this was less tolerable. The finally straw that made us complain- club bliss was down a level from us and apparently who ever spent 2 billion to build the ship didn't spend any of it on sound insulation. Noise was also a problem in other venues- in the epic theater the magician/comedian even was making jokes at NCLs expense about the lack of sound proofing when you could hear the club music most of his show. Guest services was very good about taking care of our room complaint. They moved us to another room that did not have the slamming crew door and the creaking headboard. But then we got to experience both in our state room at 5 am when coming into a port and while in a restaurant one night the lovey vibrations and noise when they turned on the side thrusters to dock. The whole boat vibrated so bad it vibrated a wine glass right off our stateroom counter and shattered on the floor. Overall the ship is not laid out well, and it's difficult to find your stateroom. Though I did like the touch screen panels that you can use located throughout the ship that will show you how to get to where you need to go from where you are and the daily activities going on. My parents and my husband and I's experience withe the room staff was different. For my husband and I our room was always cleaned well, the toilet had a slight smell- might be the vacuum septic system they use, but room staff wasn't as friendly as other cruise lines I've been on. Never introduced himself or talked to us much at all. My parents room staff on the other hand was very attentive and friendly tired to go the extra mile to be accommodating.
While on the subject of noise- don't go on this cruise if your looking for quite and relaxing. Could not find one inside public place that was quite except on port days when hardly anyone was on the ship, and one place they did have was top deck was to windy to enjoy. I did think the furniture in all public places were very comfortable, but I think NCL should work on competing noise areas. For instance when you were watching a movie on the big screen the overhead speakers still had the radio going. When you were on the outside deck the radio speakers competed with the live music. NCL pick what noise you are going to have where at certain times so we can enjoy the movie or live music instead of trying to hear it over the radio.
Now for my 2 biggest complaints about this cruise experience- being nickled and dimed to death and food. There are extra charges for pop (6.25 per day +18% gratuity automatically added). Then when you try to get the pop the bar servers obviously don't want to get it for you and you can forget refills. I'm wondering if they don't get the gratuity that is added to your charge from the reactions I got from crew- because they are not shy to ask you if you want alcohol every couple mins. A $12 per person per day gratutiy is also added to you charge card at the end of your cruise- instead of like on other cruise lines I've been on were you have a say on how much staff gets tipped. Then there's the annoying loud speaker announcements from early morning that wake you (if you weren't already woken up by something else) til late at night on how you can spend, spend, spend. There's Bingo (extra) There's announcements about "sales" on merchandise so often I thought I was in a shopping mall instead of on a cruise along with flyers they hand out in our stateroom and any time you pass through the shopping area, and promotions to attend seminars on how to spend more money at ports, they especially pushed jewelry saying what great deals you could get in ports- ya they were rip offs. I did attend the watch sale they were having only to be pissed off by a crew member to leave without a watch. They had watches on sale for 19.95 starting at 11am on tues. My husband and I got there at 10:30. Some watches were out on top of the case that you could view and some were in the glass cases. Ask one crew member to see a watch- she gets it out and shows it to us happily, we thought it was junk and she put it back. See another one were interested in - ask a different crew member and he says at 11 and walks away from us. This irritates me so I motion to have him come back over and I tell him the other crew member just let us look at one in the case and you have other's out on top why can't I see this one, his responds was point the crew member out that showed you the watch they will be unemployed.....we walked away. Other extra charges: exercise classes, bowling, coffee bar, some daily activities offered, arcade games (this is norm) some entertainment options, and most restaurants. Which brings us to food- overall BAD! Your free of extra charges options: the garden buffet which I commented on above, Taste and Manhattan Room- which need to grow taste buds - very bland - and had the same menu as each other every night, and o'sheenan which offered 24/7 dining. Taste and Manhattan not good service and not good food, never got refills on drinks. O'sheenan good service overall, some food options were good, though if you did want a refill you had to go to the bar to get it the wait staff never brought refills. Now for the most irritating extra charge for me. On Disney cruise line they had 1 extra charge restaurant which was the awesome palo's- which was $10 extra a person and you got a 2 hour 8 course gourmet meal. NCL you had 11 extra charge restaurants- none of which we got a meal that could touch Disney's no extra charge meals and we paid more for them. We went to cagneys twice (extra $25 a person) which was good but not fabulous- it was your standard 3 course meal you can get at any American steakhouse. One night had excellent waiter, actually got refills on pop, other not so great. But let's think about this. My husband and I can go to outback - get about the same quality 3 course steak dinner for less than $50, and ncl charges you that on top of what you already paid for your cruise fare. Oh and if you want to make your dinner surf and turf that will be a extra $10 on top of the $25. Moderno (extra) was ok, I did like the experience. Brazilian type- they brought you 10 different kinds of meat that they cut off the skewer. I only liked 2 of the 10 but the salad bar was good and had very good cheeses on it. But lets see ncl fails again to go above and beyond for me. Tried for 3 afternoons, 3 different restaurants to have someone get me some of that cheese from the cooler to have with a bottle of wine my husband and I bought before the restaurants were open and no one would oblige. Went to guest services - same answer - they would not get me cheese before the restaurants were open- how hard is it to go get cheese out of a cooler! Something I would have been happy to tip for. La cucina (extra) the Italian restaurant was terrible- bland. Setting was cute. Then the worse meal I had on the ship was in the spiegel tent for cirq dreams and dinner. Show was good- individual acts great, filler entertainment between acts not so great but not bad. Though I don't think appropriate for younger children, though advertised as family. Quite a few off color jokes, and plenty of eye candy. Food- couldn't eat most of it. Went to the buffet after. And couldn't even get water refilled here.
Entertainment/activities to do on board overall was good. Slimetime Live was fun. My husband got picked to participate. Blue man group - got to be into it to like it but it was good for what it was. Legends in concert- show overall was great. Entertainers we had were rod stewart- good, britany- bad, a back up dance was a better britany, and michael jackson- the best loved it. Dueling piano bar called howl at the moon horrible- very disappointing- like everything else on the ship pay if you want your song requested played otherwise forget it. Nothing like the youtube video I watched. I left when they started playing beer songs- they didn't sing well at all. Second city comedy good but nothing special. Special guest magician/comedian we had on our cruise - the best show on the boat- very funny. Karaoke- horrible song list. Wine tasting I went to (extra $15 per person) was good and worth the money. Massage I had though expensive was excellent. Piano players at different times throughout the ship were good- though I could have enjoyed more if they turned off the radio when they were playing.
Shore excursions I felt were over priced. 3 family members did the dolphin experience at Atlantis in nassau and were very happy with it, but it better be amazing for $230 a person. My family got off in St. Maarten and found a local tour for $25 a person as opposed to the $95 a per person NCL wanted for something very similar and they had a great time.
Maybe my problem is that for the money I paid to get on the cruise I expected to enjoy my cruise for the money I already spent instead of having to pay a epic amount more to enjoy my epic vacation. Though I didn't mind some extra charges- cirque dreams though the food was bad the show was worth it, and the wine tasting, most were a total epic disappointment.