My husband and I and children, ages 6 and 9, sailed Epic during President's Day week in a 2 bedroom courtyard villa. My husband's parents were in a Spa Suite. This was our ninth cruise overall and sixth time on NCL. We like NCL because of their 2 bedroom suites and villas and because of casual, freestyle dining. It is the best fit for our family. We were all excited to sail the new, innovative Epic.
Accommodations/Courtyard: Having sailed in NCL 2 bedroom suites and villas before, we knew what to expect. The villa was laid out exactly like on other ships though the furnishings/decor were a bit more sleek and modern. The second bedroom also had more storage space than on other ships. I always love the ocean view shower. Our cabin was 16027. It was located above the Garden Cafe. I am a light sleeper and could sometimes hear carts rolling by in the cafe below. I had never considered noise from the deck below when booking a room, usually just above. I might consider booking deck 17 in the future for this reason. On a positive note, I heard absolutely no ship creaking ever in the room or on this ship. The courtyard area is MUCH bigger than on the Jewel class ships. The feeling of being in a villa on Epic was far less intimate. However, having a fully staffed concierge desk right in the courtyard made things much more efficient. No heading to guest services when your key card stops working- just go to the concierge desk. We actually never used the courtyard pool once. Our kids were really into the water slides and I like looking our onto the ocean, not an interior courtyard while at sea, so we stuck to the main pool deck. Honestly, having sailed in both AB suites and courtyard villas more than once, I don't much need the villa. They only time we really took any advantage of the courtyard area was on a cold weather itinerary (Alaska). Aside from that, the regular suite perks (Butler, Concierge, Cagney's/Epic Club) are enough for us. That said, we did enjoy the Epic Club restaurant for some breakfasts and lunches, especially on crowded sea days. My husband and I tried to use the small fitness center in the courtyard area a couple mornings, but it was always full. The courtyard pool area seemed pretty full on sea days also. Such is sailing during a peak school vacation week.
The ship: This is a GREAT ship for families. So much for the kids to do! The water slides were a huge hit with the kids (and adults). We all loved the Epic Plunge!!! My kids also enjoyed the rappelling wall, rock wall, Epic Bounce, Spider Web and Kids Club. We never did get a chance to bowl. It was always full or closed when we tried. I doubt my kids will ever find a ship they like better than Epic.
As mentioned before, this was a busy week with kids and families on school break. There were over 1000 kids onboard. Yes, it seemed crowded, especially on sea days. Chair hogs were in full force. After spending the first few days wandering around aimlessly looking for a chair, I adopted an "if you can't beat'em, join 'em" policy and began staking out a chair before breakfast on sea days. Even then I had some difficulty. NCL really needs to monitor this situation or it will never improve. I did enjoy watching the kids on the slides, seeing the ocean pass by, and sipping a cocktail once I could find a chair.
Much has been written about the casino layout and smoke. I could not agree more with the complaints. I hated the layout of the casino and having to walk through the smoky casino to get anywhere on deck 5. I began avoiding this deck altogether.
There is a distinct lack of quiet spaces on Epic. No card room, game room, library or movie theatre. This was not a huge issue for us but just something I noticed. There is also no proper, scenic promenade to walk around. This is something I did miss and had enjoyed on Dawn and Pearl.
There are no midship elevators/stairs on Epic. This really bothered me at first, but I got used to it.
The fitness center is really big but it was still hard to get a machine on sea day mornings. It was a pretty standard cruise gym.
I usually get at least one or two spa treatments but never got around to it this cruise. Next time for sure. The spa looked large and nice.
Dining: Freestyle dining is one of the things we love about NCL. We do not like traditional cruise dining: sitting with strangers, dressing up for dinner, or going to the same place every night. We never ate a single meal in the main dining rooms. We stuck to the buffet or Epic Club for breakfast and lunch and enjoyed both places. NCL's buffet has excellent variety. I especially enjoyed the salad bar and Indian selections as well as the many, many flavors of ice cream offered. We dined in specialty restaurants for dinner. Our worst meals were at Shanghai (too bad- we have always liked the Chinese place on other NCL ships) and O'Sheehans (bad fast food that was actually very slow). Our very best meal was at Moderno, not only for the meat selection, but terrific salad bar and sides. We also had a very nice meal at La Cucina. The ricotta cheesecake was terrific. Le Bistro was disappointing because our waitress rushed us through our supposed to be romantic meal in under an hour. (She came to take our order 4 times in the first 5 minutes we were there.) Our meal at Le Bistro was quicker than at O'Sheehans! No exaggeration. Also, the Cirque show was going on right above us and we could hear performers pounding on the floor for the first half hour of our meal. Cagney's was good though not as good as on other ships. We never went hungry and always had plenty of food options.
Entertainment: We are generally speaking not into cruise entertainment. We almost never go to the shows on the ships. But, since Epic's entertainment was so different, we gave it a try. Blue Man Group was a HUGE hit. My kids, especially my 6 year old, absolutely loved it. I think my son will be talking about it for the rest of his life. It was wild and fun. But to my fellow migraine sufferers: Be warned it is LOUD and there are many flashing strobe lights, especially at the end of the show. I closed my eyes for the last 5-10 minutes of the show. All of our ears were ringing when we left.
We also went to the Cirque Dreams and Dinner show. This is NOT Cirque de Soleil but a different company. The food was pretty good, but my husband and I absolutely hated the show. Lots of bad jokes and bad singing and just a little bit of acrobatics. It is a little raunchy and not very kid friendly at all. I would not go back to this. Spent the whole time looking at my watch waiting for it to end.
My 6 year old was very excited about the Nickelodeon aspect of the cruise. He was glad to meet Spongebob and see the Slime Time Live Show. My daughter was excited to get called up on stage for this.
The concierge escorted us to all the shows and hour prior to get the best seats. But that meant waiting in the theater for an hour. If you are not picky about seats, this really is not necessary. I saw people enter all the shows 10 minutes prior with no trouble. It was fun for the kids to be up front form Blue Man and Slime Time though.
Ports: At Costa Maya we went to Pez Quadro Beach Club on our own. I had booked this in advance via their website. It was a really nice place and a relaxing day. I even got a beachside massage- 40 minutes for $20! I would definitely go back. Cab fare is also only $2 per person each way.
In Roatan we booked the South Beach Experience via NCL. It was a lovely resort with a nice lagoon. Another relaxing day, though next time I might try something else. It was a 40 minute drive each way. A decent lunch was included.
In Cozumel we went to Paradise Beach on our own and spent the morning there. My daughter LOVED the slides and trampolines as I knew she would. Great place for kids. This day there were 5 ships in port, two of which were Epic and Oasis. Needless to say, it got PACKED before noon, so we left at lunchtime and enjoyed the ship for the afternoon.
Service: Overall, the service was excellent. The butler and concierge were very efficient. Dining service was generally excellent with the minor exceptions I already mentioned. The staff was warm and friendly. Housekeeping was terrific.
In conclusion, we found Epic to be a great ship for families and would definitely consider sailing again.