We took a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on the Epic during the February school break. Although we didn't have kids with us we take that week because it coincides with my husband's birthday. We almost always take our vacation that week. I read the reviews about the Epic and was concerned about a number of things that turned out not to be issues for concern.
The Cabin---was lovely. Large. TONS of storage space. I really liked the bathroom/shower set up. The shower was really big with space to hang a wet swimsuit or towel. The sink in the cabin was fine. Not huge but fine. This way my husband could shave while I showered and we didn't get in each other's way. We had really noisy neighbors but didn't realize until we went out on the balcony. We didn't hear them at all inside the cabin. My only complaint about the cabin was that there was only one inconveniently located outlet charge my various things (laptop, phone, ipod, and to plug in my hot rollers).
The Food--Was AMAZING! Not at all like your regular cruise food. We loved the Manhattan Room and Taste (the regular restaurants) and the buffet was very versatile. We eat mostly vegetarian (some fish) and we had lots of choices every day. La Bistro was wonderful--wonderful service, wonderful food, as was the steak house--we never eat at the steak house onboard but this ship had Kosher chicken. YAY. The food was like regular good restaurant food. We are now spoiled. AND we never had to wait on line, we never had trouble getting a reservation anywhere we wanted to eat. The only meal I didn't love was at the Italian restaurant onboard. It was like your regular cruise fare... Not so great.
The Entertainment-- So terrific. Blue Man Group and Second City were THE BEST! I didn't love the Cirque dinner theater but we had nasty neighbors so I think that jaded my experience (they talked and made a lot of noise unrelated to the show). The best part of our cruise was Slam Allen and his band at Fat Cats. We saw them every night and never got bored. We also enjoyed listening to Kurt--the guitar guy at the Martini bar. But Slam is our new best friend.
Extra stuff--My husband borrowed a Gibson guitar and pod for the week and got to play guitar in the cabin. What a HUGE treat for him! THAT'S the way he wants to spend his vacation! We also got to go bowling and though we are terrible bowlers it was so much fun! No wait for a lane either (we went to the one by the Bliss lounge--a little out of the way so no wait). We also were concerned about finding a good place to sit on deck--which is always a problem on cruise ships so we thought we would never find somewhere to sit on this HUGE ship, but we never had a problem. There are also lots of quiet places on the sun deck so we didn't have to listen to the loud reggae music unless we wanted to.
The only negative of this big ship for me is that you really have to go searching to see the ocean. Everything is built to the interior so if you don't like ships, you don't have to know you are one one. But we like ships so we missed that. I also didn't love having to walk through the casino to get from place to place.
Excursions--Loved the Chochoben ruins in Costa Maya. The guide was a former teacher and we learned so much Mexican history! I also enjoyed the cooking program in Cozumel....although it was more of a food assembly program than an actual cooking class. But lunch was wonderful, drinks were included, and the director of the program (so sorry I forgot his name!) was lots of fun.
It is true that they charge extra for many things that are included on other ships---the special coffee, sushi in the afternoons, if you want to use the spa pool, and there are lots of specialty restaurants that are extra... BUT you really don't have to do any of those things and you will still have a wonderful time! The great shows and food are all included.
This was probably the best cruise I was ever on.... Loved the ship, the food, the atmosphere, the excursions, the ship staff.