This is my fourth cruise with NCL, and my ninth cruise overall. I am a fan for Freestyle cruising, and will sail with NCL again. There are a lot of very bad reviews for the Epic. The ship is not perfect, but it's not as bad as some would have you believe.
Embarkation/Disembarkation - This was the best on any ship, any cruise line. I never had to wait to get on or off the ship. This includes all the ports.
Cabins - I was in a balcony cabin on the 10th deck with my wife. I usually choose inside cabins, but I wanted to experience the new shape. My first impression is that the cabin is too narrow. An additional six inches would have made a world of difference. While I applaud the effort to try something new, I wish they did not try to squeeze as many cabins per deck as possible. The splashing sink has been fixed, but the basin seems just a bit too small. The split configuration was not a problem. We have stayed at resorts with this same set up before. If privacy is needed, the other person can go to the balcony, or take a stroll around the ship. On a positive note, there is more storage than you will use.
Dining - With only a few exceptions, we ate all meals at Taste. While nothing impressed me a fantastic, nothing was bad. My wife and I enjoyed all the meals I had. We ate at Moderno once, and loved it. I am a fan of this type of restaurant, and Moderno to not disappoint. Be sure to bring you appetite. We ate one night at O'Sheehan's. We ate here the last night of the cruise. Some other guest had been kind enough to give me their cold, and the chicken pot pie was just what I needed. We ate one night in the buffet. We also ate most lunches in the buffet. In my opinion, NCL's buffet is the best of any cruise line I have been on. For a ship with 4000 passengers, it never seemed overly crowded.
Deck plans - I did not like that the elevators/stairs were only forward and aft. A central stair would have been nice. I also did not like that I was forced to walk through the casino, or go to the opposite end of the ship to avoid it. The pool deck was not as bad as I had read, but there could be bottle necks by the pools when a game contest was happening. Overall my feeling is that the ship designers never actually spent time vacationing on a ship. I'm not sure if this statement makes sense, but the ship just did not flow well.
Staff - This is where NCL shines. The staff is always friendly and helpful. I was never hassled to buy drinks. I never waited long when I ordered a drink from one of the roaming servers. The dining room staff always did a great job, and did their best to accommodate us. It's a tough job working on a cruise ship. These are good people just trying to do their job. Treat them with respect and courtesy, and they will do the same.
Entertainment - Another area where NCL shines. We only saw the Blue Man Group, but it was great. I had no trouble make reservations the night before the show. Don't believe the reviewers that say you have to book this before you sail. You can if want, but it's not necessary.
I hope this helps others planning to sail on the Epic. It's not a bad ship, but it could have been so much more. Do not be scared by the extreme negative reviews. Read them for the entertainment, but take them with a grain of salt.