Having never cruised I did not know what to expect during embarkation. My folks who have cruised, assured me that Norwegian did an amazing job getting us onto the ship with almost no wait. We did get there early, about 12pm...and spent no more than 15 minutes from leaving our luggage to entering the ship. Since I will probably forget, disembarking was just as easy. I rely on my parents for this...but they said it was the easiest they have ever dealt with. So 1 point for NCL.
I was nervous about being in a "small" space with 4000 other people...but to be honest, other than the Garden Cafe the first day, and last day, it never felt crowded. Since this was the only real food available at boarding and de-boarding, it makes sense it was busy. Yes, you will read many reviews about the venues being small...but if you make your reservations early you will have no problem finding a seat. We saw BMG, Second City, Legends, and Howl at the Moon. The first 3 were great...Howl at the Moon left much to be desired. I have been to other "Howls" and these guys seemed to know very few songs. Otherwise, the entertainment was spectacular. I ever went to the 11pm (adults only) Second City - no reservation or anything, and had no problem getting a seat.
Back to the food...we ate at Moderno, Wasabi, Teppenyaki, Cagney's, and Le Bistro for the pay restaurants...and the free rooms many times as well. I have to say, the food was fantastic at all places. The breakfast at garden cafe was great for free food, and Wasabi had some of the best sushi I have ever eaten. Moderno was a great experience, but I ate way too much, our chef at Teppenyaki (Tom Cruise) was great fun, and the duck at Le Bistro was cooked perfectly. I cannot complain about any of the food on board. If you want to spend extra money I recommend Wasabi and Teppenyaki first...but the free places were good as well.
For the clubs/bars I liked many of them. Now, this was school vacation week and there were more than 1200 kids on board. Which, when combined with their parents, meant more than half the ship went to bed early. This left me to roam the ship and find, surprisingly, nearly empty bars after midnight. A little disappointing. Bliss was really the only place that was frequently full. And what a place Bliss is. It, without doubt, will be your favorite place to have a drink, relax, or go dance on their floor. In addition (and this was my favorite part about it) it is where the crew members like to go to unwind at the end of the night. Hanging out with the crew really made the trip more enjoyable. They all work so hard during the day, and are a ton of fun to get to know at night. I highly recommend taking this opportunity to get to know them a bit at Bliss at night. Overall the crew is amazing and hard working, but at night they become really...just another guest and like to unwind like the rest of us. I hope anyone who sails on Epic spends some time getting to know the crew when they can, I can't state that enough. The other club that was ok at night was SpiceH20. It is an adults only club, and the crew does a good job keeping it that way. This is where they host most of their big events...and white party was a huge hit. The smaller events, like the dating game (which I participated in and had a ton of fun), or The Weakest Link, will take place at Bliss. Shakers, the Martini bar, had a lot of good martinis and is a nice relaxed environment. Those were my 3 fav places on the boat at night. Again, to each their own, but as a 25 yr old single guy traveling, basically, alone, these were the places to hang out and meet people.
Ok...studio rooms. As expected, I was one of only two under the age of 40. Every day we would meet in the studio lounge for our happy hour and chat about the ship, get to know some people, plan events together. Now, I did not attend any events with the other studio mates except the other younger guy there because I was with my folks during the day...but I believe many of the other solo cruisers took great advantage of the meetups. Megan, the studio coordinator, did a great job getting people together, and I think all the solo cruisers, if they wanted to, had groups to hang out with. I saw smiles all around. If you are nervous about cruising solo...don't be! If you go to the happy hour I guarantee you will meet people with which to have some fun. The rooms are small, yes, but more than large enough and tons of storage space. The way I look at it, if you think the room is too small...you are spending TOO MUCH TIME in there during your trip. The bed is extremely comfortable, the mood lighting is...nice...and I even had room to do some basic working out in the room if I didn't want to go to the weight room one day. The shower is small. I knocked the shampoo off every day. Its the only flaw in the room!
Now I have raved about the ship but there are some negatives. The pools are extreeeeemely small. I hate using extra letters, but they are ridiculous. The ship is not made for swimming. There were a lot of kids my week, but even so they were too small for using. A poor design by NCL. There are far too few lounges outside...but I hear this is a problem on any cruise. I was only once able to lounge outside with my parents...normally had to do it alone. The ship is huge, you will do a LOT of walking...expect that, it is not a flaw in the ship and I can't understand complaining about it. The elevators will be very very very very slow...especially after events get out. Use the stairs. Walking through the casino on deck 6 is a little frustrating, but the smoke is not nearly as bad as I have read in reviews. Once you are through you don't notice it at all. If you really hate it...use deck 7 to walk around and avoid the casino all together. Truth is that NCL does nickel-and-dime you for a lot of things. Drinks are pretty expensive but if you set a budget you will be fine. I ended up going 6 dollars over my alcohol budget. I won't complain about that!
For excursions...Chacchoben Mayan Ruins was amazing, and Daniel, our guide, was a direct Mayan descendant and made the trip absolutely fantastic. Roatan had a nice beach but our tour guide was useless. Cozumel Mexican cooking class wasn't exactly my thing (my parents chose that one) but Luis the chef was a lot of fun...and there was an open bar. I recommend only Chacchoben of the excursions we did.
Overall then (I know this is long)...would I sail Epic again. 100% absolutely. And I would go in a studio room. The staff is amazing, I made some crew friends that I plan to keep in touch with in the future. I think it is impossible to NOT have fun on the Epic. There is so much to do...if you aren't enjoying it you just aren't trying. Congratulations NCL. The Epic is huge...but it never feels cramped. They have done a great job with it. I hope this eases the qualms of anyone who is planning to travel on the Epic. I can't wait to go again.