Just came back from the February 12th sailing on the Epic. (Note: this was our 1st cruise on NCL Freestyle).
The ship was gorgeous, lay out was a little different than those of Carnival and Royal Carribean. Never had a problem making reservations or "dropping in" on a dining room without prior reservation. We did make reservations for Cirque, LaCucina, and Cagney's prior to the cruise; also reserved sitting for Blue Man Group, and Second City Players. We also frequented O'Sheehan's for lunch and late night wings. Buffet was always VERY good, breakfast,lunch, & dinner selections were always the same,but they did vary the Specialties area and at dinner the carved meat station did change daily. Don't miss the Crepe's station for dessert !
The only REAL Bad was the formal dining in the Manhattan Room. Service was great, but the food was far from acceptable...Campbell's has better French Onion Soup than they served, it was too salty and they served it with a wafer and a piece of cheese UNmelted on top of it. My wife and I had the NY Strip steak was paper thin, overcooked so we sent it back, it returned paper thin and very chewy. At that point, we left the steak uneaten...the Head Waiter came to our table and apologized for being UNable to bring us acceptable steaks ...he promised to make it up to us the next night (we never gave him the chance...did want the hassle, and there were so many other choices, we figured, why bother). If you're not too picky, the Manhattan Room ambience was nice, you can eat and they had a band playing various big band tunes for guests to dance to. (not our era)
The Taste was very good, LaCucina was EXCELLENT, and Cagney's food was EXCELLENT (we both ordered filet mignon which were cooked perfectly and were absolutely delicious). It seemed as though the too many tables were assigned to the waiters and assistant waiters, had l o n g delays between courses (the captain and a chef sat down in Cagney's close by, and I guarantee they did NOT get the same service as us and other passengers). On the positive side, if you have a show you're trying to make after dinner, mention it to the waiter at the time you order and they will expedite your dinner.
Party Party Party
The ship seemed to be "geared" toward HIGH energy entertainment which kept us occupied all night long ! The Blue Man Group were sensational (we saw them twice on board); Second City Players - were good, seemed a bit encumbered - found out later in the cruise one of their producers was onboard "watching everything done and said"; Cirque de Dream - very good - eat 1st prior or after the show - they serve the same to all guests; Slam'n Alan in the Fat Cats Jazz Club is an experience NOT to miss - he is very entertaining...he invites passengers who have playing or singing talent to join in their jam'n, also the Blue Men (very accomplished musicians on their own) also joined in - we closed them down every night! How'n at the Moon - dueling pianos was very good - didn't care for them "trolling the audience" for $$ tips to play your "special" songs. Paul Scaly the cruise director and his staff were terrific in getting all involved in the dance parties: don't miss the Carribean Night at Spice H20, and the White HOT Dance Party, also Bliss was alot of fun. The Tribute Players were also very good: Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, Motown Players.
During the Day: the Spice H20 was always packed - you need to get there before 0900 to reserve lounge chairs.
The Steam & Sauna were inside the Salon, they charge $100 per person for unlimited access ! I usually use it once for about 20 minutes, definitely, did not use on this cruise! The Fitness Center was real nice, set up well with adequate machines, ellipticals, tread mills, and free weights.
Didn't care for the casino stuck in the middle of the ship so you always had to walk thru the smoke fog to get to a club or dinner...wasn't terrible, but considering it is a NEW ship, they could've handled the smoke a little better.
NCL seems to be guiding passengers to either the buffets or the specialty (premium) restaurants...which is fine with me ! Drinks as you can imagine were very pricey...drink of the day was usually $10 each!
Clothing: You can be very comfortable with casual shirts & jeans maybe one pair of kahki pants...NO ties, eve dresses...and the limited space in the room and poor lighting means NO or limited makeup !
Bottom-line: Yes, I would consider going on the Epic again with friends or family