OK, I believe some people need to lighten up. My DW and I have been on 26 cruises and we have yet to find the "perfect" cruise but I will have to say that our recent cruise (February 5 - 12, Western Caribbean) on the Norwegian Epic was one of our top five.
After reading some of the reviews here about the Epic, I was wondering, like many of you must be, if I had made a mistake. Our last cruise with Norwegian was back in 2000 before "free style" cruising. We were not sure we would like free style but can say now that we are sorry we didn't try it sooner. The freedom of eating wherever and whenever we wanted to was fantastic. And the choices on the Epic were outstanding but I am getting ahead of myself.
The Norwegian Epic is a beautiful ship and huge but not intimidating. There are plenty of maps, signs and interactive screens throughout the ship that will help you find anything you are looking for. We never felt we were on a "big" ship. Although you may have to wait occasionally for an elevator (right after shows, coming back from shore, etc.), we seldom had to wait for more than a minute. My DW and I were able to use any of the facilities anytime we wanted with little or no line. The longest line I saw was for the inner tubes for the one waterside. The lines at the other two slides were never uncomfortably long even on sea days. On a couple of occasions, the line at the Manhattan Club were longer than we were willing to wait but were able to walk down to Taste and get right in. Since we slept in most days, we were not the first to get off the ship during port calls but when we were ready to get off, we were able to walk right off and when we came back to the ship we were able to walk right on. On sea days, finding lounge chairs was a challenge but after walking around the deck for a few minutes (never longer then 20 minutes) we were able to find good chairs. Of course, as usual, there are always people that reserve the chairs and you never see them in the chairs. Please, if you're not going to use them or are finished with them, give someone else a chance.
Lets discuss the cabins that some people seem to have a problem with. We were in a balcony room, mid ship (Cabin #8125). The actual layout of the bathroom area reminded me of several hotel bathrooms and modern home bathrooms in which the sink area, toilet and shower are separated. Both the shower and the toilet room have their own frosted glass doors. Its nice to be able to use the toilet facilities while the other person in the room is taking a shower. The shower is one of the largest I have seen on a cruise ship. No wet shower curtains sticking to you while you shower. No bumping into the walls with your knees or elbows. The water pressure, shower head and water temperature were fantastic. No complaints about the shower here. The toilet was loud as are all cruise ship toilets. Guess there's no way to get around that suction noise. We never experienced any sewer smell as has been reported in past reviews. The sink does take a little getting use to. The important thing to remember with it, is that you do not need full pressure to make it work. Too much pressure would occasionally allow water to escape the sink bowl but nothing ever disastrous. For my DW and I, the bathroom layout worked well.
Now the bed. Yes, my feet did hang over the edge when I fully stretched out (I'm 6 feet tall). Since I usually sleep in the fetal position, this was not a big concern of mine. Also, if I placed my head closer to the nicely padded headboard, my feet would stay within the confines of the bed. The bed was extremely comfortable and there were plenty of pillows available to make anyone happy.
The couch was also larger than most we have experienced on a cruise. And the storage, wow, the storage. If you fill up all the storage available in your cabin, then, you've brought way too many clothes. Even my DW, who is known to overpack, was unable to use all the storage. I believe even if there were more than two in the cabin, there would still be adequate storage.
The balcony was just above one of the lifeboats and did present a vision obstruction to the water below. Since most of the time we were sitting down in the deck chairs this did not pose much of a problem. But if you do not want to deal with the lifeboats you need to book a higher cabin or in the areas that do not have the lifeboats directly below them. We did not find it a problem but I can see why some people would.
Wow, I feel like I'm writing a book so I will try to be a little briefer with the remainder of this review.
Entertainment: Just incredible! The Blue Man Group, The Second City, Howling at the Moon, Fat Cats Blues Bar, Legends, and Cirque Dreams & Dinner are not to be missed. Note of caution......get to the Cirque Dreams & Dinner early....if you get stuck in one of the booths around the rear of the theater, your view will be obstructed for any portion of the show that is performed above the ceiling. Any of the other seats appear to be fine.
This was a Super Bowl Sunday cruise and, although you could not view the game in your stateroom, there were plenty of locations to see the game. The Atrium had the game displayed on a two story screen. What a way to watch the game! This screen is also used for movies that are shown throughout the cruise (with free popcorn!).
All the bands and venues for music allows everyone's taste in music to be satisfied. My DW and I danced nearly every night (one night we had a little to much to drink and the last night we skipped the dancing). We are in are late fifties/early sixties and found plenty of locations to have fun. The Sail Away Party, Welcome Aboard Party, the Fabulous ABBA Theme Night, the White Hot Party, Caribbean Theme Party, and Dancing with the Epic Stars were all venues we enjoyed and participated in.
The casino is smokey as some have noted but not any worse then other casinos we have been in. We were always able to find games to play without any major smoke problem. I am an ex-smoker and really have a problem with second hand smoke but I was still able to play the slots I wanted to play. There are plenty of penny and two cent slots to keep every slot enthusiast happy.
Food: We only went to one specialty restaurant because my DW is a firm believer in using the dining rooms and not paying extra. We went to the Italian restaurant and it was outstanding. The tiramisu is to die for.
Both the Manhattan Club and Taste were good restaurants with good food. Yes, I have had better but I have also had worse. We enjoyed every meal we had there and found ourselves extremely full when we left the restaurants.
The Garden Cafe buffet was a very nice place to eat. You are greeted by a very enthusiastic group of ladies as you enter. The omelet stations are plentiful and I never experience much of wait each morning. Lunch menu provided a great selection especially when it came to ice cream.....wow, 8 different varieties to chose from everyday. I love my ice cream!
Don't miss O'Sheehan's. We waited to the fifth day to try this eatery and were we sorry.
It reminds me of Johnny Rockets without the added cost. What we tried off the menu was extremely tasty and the atmosphere was like that of a pub. Very relaxing and fun.
Embarkation: We got to the pier at 1:30 p.m. and basically walked right on board after completing the necessary paperwork. I would say it took no longer than 20 minutes from the time we reached the pier until the time we were onboard. One thing to note, the cabins are not available until 2:00 p.m. so the less you carry onboard the better. I believe I read somewhere that there was a place to stow your luggage until your room is available but with only a ten minute wait we didn't look for it or use it.
Disembarkation: Longer than embarkation because of customs but not extraordinarily so. These were the longest lines we experienced but they moved quickly. There were always plenty of NCL staff members around to guide you through the process.
As stated earlier, this was not a perfect cruise but it was a great cruise. Your cruise is what you make of it. If you dwell on the negative, you will have a miserable time but if you focus on the good, the NCL Epic will provide you with a fantastic time. I found every staff member we dealt with very courteous and professional. The management will provide you their direct telephone number on the ship so you can contact them directly if you have any problems. I have never experienced that on any ship before. As a result of a couple minor problems we had, I can tell you that the numbers work and they move quickly to resolve any problem.....even the minor ones. And speaking of the staff, the Cruise Director Paul Scally and his people were absolutely incredible. They know how to throw a party and get people to participate. The amount of energy they each displayed was remarkable. They were all like Eveready Bunnies.....they kept going and going and going. If you booked the NCL Epic be thankful. You can make it a cruise of a lifetime.....its all up to you.